Overnight Breaks for Parents of Children with Special Needs
The Law Governing Overnight Services:
When Devon Social Services arranges care for a child for a continuous period of more than 24 hours, then the child is 'accommodated' under Section 20 of the Children Act, 1989. The main features of this are as follows:
- The Act applies to children in family-based (foster care) or residential settings funded in full or in part by Social Services. It does not apply to children in hospitals or other settings that are fully NHS funded.
- The Act allows for a series of short term placements with the same carer to be covered by a single placement agreement for periods of up to 12 months at a time.
- The Act places a range of duties on Social Services to provide support to families. These duties include ensuring that children receive care that is of a good standard and appropriate to their needs. The Act does not take away any aspect of the parental responsibility for the child. The parent and Social Services work as partners in ensuring the child's welfare.
How we arrange Overnight Services:
For children receiving care for periods of less than 24 hours, who do not need to be accommodated under the Children Act:
- The general arrangements for their care will be set out in their care plan. The detailed arrangements covering issues like provision of all necessary information to carers, transport, health care needs and health and safety issues will be covered in an agreement between the family and the service provider.
For children receiving care for periods of 24 hours or longer, there will be some additional requirements:
- These include the signing of legal consent forms to cover issues like medical treatment and a formal pre-placement agreement which is drawn up following a pre-placement planning meeting. A single agreement can cover any number of planned short term placements over a 12 month period so long as no single placement lasts more than four weeks and the total duration of placements does not exceed 120 days in any period of 12 months.
The child will not normally be required to have a pre-placement medical unless all parties deem this appropriate. However, the parent(s) and Social Services have a joint responsibility to ensure that service providers are provided with all necessary medical information and treatments. If a placement is made in an emergency, then the placement agreement will be drawn up as soon as possible after the event.
How we ensure Good Standards of Care:
For children in family-based settings. Family-based carers have to be approved as foster carers by Social Services. There are formal regulations and national standards for foster care, and it is the duty of Social Services to ensure that these are followed. It may be that Social Services arranges for the approval of foster carers and other duties to be carried out by independent foster care agencies. Social Services can only do this if satisfied that the agency is capable and there are arrangements in place to ensure that the agency is able to carry out the particular duties.
For children in residential settings. Residential units run by Social Services or independent sector agencies are legally subject to independent registration and inspection. This includes an initial registration process based on nationally determined service standards, and subsequent inspections, announced and unannounced. More information on this can be obtained from the Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI) (formerly the National Care Standards Commission).
Where a child is provided with accommodation by any NHS Trust in a hospital or nursing home setting for a consecutive period of at least three months or with the intention of accommodating him for that period the Trust must notify social services who will take appropriate steps to secure the child's welfare.
For carers breaks services provided in the child's own home. Day or overnight Support Workers providing this service will be subject to an approval process that will include the full range of police and other statutory checks. The agencies providing this service will have their own information leaflets about this. Their procedures have to be agreed with, and monitored by, Social Services, but are not subject to statutory registration and inspection requirements.
Direct Payments is money given to you by Devon Social Services so that someone who has parental responsibility for a disabled child can arrange the support they need to bring up the child. This includes carers' breaks. See Direct Payments
Charging for Services
Devon County Council does not currently charge for carers' breaks services for the parents / carers of children with special needs. This may be subject to review in the future.
The above information is also available as a leaflet: Overnight breaks for carers (Ref. 283)