Decision to Look After and Care Planning


This procedure applies to all decisions to Look After children, it should be read in conjunction with the Care and Supervision Proceedings and the Public Law Outline.

See also Briefing Note Section 20 Children Act.


A child who is dealt with by a court by way of a Remand to Local Authority Accommodation or a Remand to Youth Detention Accommodation will be a Looked After Child. The care planning requirement will be amended in relation to such children - see Remands to Local Authority Accommodation or to Youth Detention Accommodation Procedure.


ADCS/Cafcass Practice Guidance for the Use of Section 20


Procedure where the Local Authority is Ceasing to Look After a Child


This chapter was amended in September 2019 to reflect Section 3 of the Care Planning and Care Leavers (Amendment) Regulations 2014. The Care Plan must identify whether there is reason to believe the child has been trafficked or is an unaccompanied asylum seeker (see Section 2.1, The Care Plan - Contents).

1. Decision to Look After Child

1.1 The Decision

A child may not come into care without the express permission of a Designated Manager (Decision to Look After).

Outside office hours, the Emergency Duty Service can make the decision to Look After a child.

Any decision to look after a child made outside office hours will be communicated by fax or e-mail to the relevant team by the beginning of the next working day.

1.2 Considerations Before a Decision to Look After is Made

The decision to look after a child will only be made where those making the decision are satisfied that:

  • Suitable appropriate alternatives have been fully considered;
  • Appropriate consideration has been given to the necessity of Accommodation, the purpose and nature of the proposed placement;
  • Whether the Accommodation provided should be via a Court Order or undertaken with Parental Consent using Section 20 (1989 Act). In considering this the local authority should:
    • Identify whether, under the particular circumstances, it needs to share Parental Responsibility with the parent/carer;
    • Whether the parent is able to provide fully informed consent to an agreement for the child to be accommodated;
  • Appropriate consultation has taken place;
  • Whether the parent is able to provide fully informed consent to an agreement for the child to be accommodated (see Section 20 Accommodation and Agreement Procedure, Obtaining Parental Consent);

Before a decision is made to look after a child, consideration should be given to making arrangements with other extended family members or friends who might be prepared to care for the child without the need for the child to come into care. In these circumstances, care must be taken where the local authority has been involved in the arrangements for the child to be cared for by relatives; the child may be viewed as within the definition of Looked After and a legal view may be helpful to clarify the status of the child and the placement.

Alternatively, the child may come within the definition of Privately Fostered after 27 days, in which case the Private Fostering Procedure will apply.

In any event, any such arrangements would have to be agreed with the parent or a person with Parental Responsibility, and the social worker must be satisfied that such an arrangement is sufficiently secure to meet the child's needs and is supported by a Child in Need Plan.

If no such arrangement can be identified or such an arrangement would not meet the child's needs, the child's social worker, with his or her team manager, should consider:

  • The child's immediate placement needs - including the child's views, the views of the parents, those with Parental Responsibility and any other person whose wishes and feelings the authority consider to be relevant - and whether a placement with a Connected Person may be possible;
  • The timescales for the child's placement;
  • A date for the child to return home or when the decision will be reviewed;
  • The actions of support and work to be included in the Care Plan to enable the necessary change for the child to return home wherever possible;
  • The obtaining of parental consent to look after the child and consent to medical care;
  • Any impact on educational arrangements;
  • The contact arrangements with birth parents, siblings, extended family and friends.

Where it is considered that Care Proceedings should be initiated to secure the child's placement, see also Care Proceedings Procedure.

N.B. Any decision that a child should be the subject of Care Proceedings should have regard to the requirements of the Public Law Outline, and in particular the Pre-Proceedings Checklist which is set out in Care and Supervision Proceedings and the Public Law Outline.

All decisions made should be recorded on the child's electronic record, including the reasons for reaching the decision (see also Section 20 Accommodation and Agreement Procedure, Recording Parental Consent).

Once a decision for a child to be Looked After is made a placement within a local resource (foster carers or children's home) should always be the first choice, however, in certain circumstances placements in resources which are not managed by Children' Social Care have to be sought and the authority for such placements is listed on the table below.

Planned Foster Placement with a Independent Fostering Agency External Placement Panel
Planned Placements in an external foster home External Placement Panel
Emergency External Placements Divisional Manager
Identification of Independent Children's Home Head of Residential Services
Placement in Secure Accommodation Head of Service

1.3 Actions Required After a Decision to Look After is Made

In relation to children where Care Proceedings are being considered to secure the child's placement, see also Care and Supervision Proceedings and the Public Law Outline.

In all cases, if it is agreed that the child should become Looked After, the child's social worker will draw up a draft Care Plan (see Section 2, The Care Plan) with clear timescales and a statement as to whether the child's needs would best be met in a family placement or residential care.

If a foster or residential placement is required, the relevant procedure to be followed, including the need to hold a Placement Planning Meeting, will be found in the Placements in Foster Care Procedure or the Placements in Residential Care Procedure.

A referral for a placement should be made to the Fostering Duty Officer and the Placement Referrals Duty Procedure should be followed which identifies placements and this must be followed before a placement is agreed. Placements in Kirklees Children's Homes have to be approved by the Manager of Residential Services.

Where a decision is made to pursue a Looked After placement with a Connected Person (or the child's placement with a Connected Person is judged to be a Looked After placement), an immediate assessment of the relative/friend must be undertaken. Where the placement is likely to be for longer than 16 weeks, the social worker must also make a referral to the Fostering Team to conduct an assessment of the relative/friend as a Family and Friends Foster Carer with a view to presentation to the Fostering Panel within 16 weeks. See Practice Guidance for Connected Persons Procedure.

For secure placements, see Placements in Secure Accommodation on Welfare Grounds Procedure.

In the case of siblings, wherever it is in the best interests of each individual child, they should be placed together. Where they cannot be placed together, they must be supported to understand why they cannot live together, and there should be robust plans for contact between them, so far as this is consistent with their welfare.

2. The Care Plan

2.1 The Care Plan - Contents

In all circumstances where a decision is made to look after a child, the child must have a Care Plan completed by the social worker and signed by the relevant team manager, the contents of which:

  • Describe the overall objectives and their reasons;
  • Identify and prioritise long term needs in key areas of the child's life;
  • Nominate the type of placement being sought;
  • Indicate how long the child is likely to need to be in care;
  • Describe the contingency plan;
  • Give the date of the child's first Looked After Review (within 20 working days).

Note: The Care Plan must identify if there is reason to believe that the child is a victim of trafficking, or is an unaccompanied asylum seeker and has applied for, or intends to apply for, asylum.

2.1.1 The Care Plan Where the Matter is Before the Court

  • In addition to the above, a Care Plan should reflect that the court is required under s. 8 Children and Social Work Act 2017 amends Section 31(3B) Children Act 1989 to consider the 'permanence provisions' of the Care Plan for the child: 
    1. The provisions setting out the long-term plan for the upbringing of the child - to live with a parent/family member/family friend; adoption; or other long-term care; and
    2. The plan's provisions in relation to any of the following:
      1. The impact on the child concerned of any harm that he or she suffered or was likely to suffer;
      2. The current and future needs of the child (including needs arising out of that impact);
      3. The way in which the long-term plan for the upbringing of the child would meet those current and future needs.

2.2 The Care Plan - Process

Where there is no recent Assessment in relation to the child, the Care Plan must provide for a Single Assessment to be completed.

The child's social worker is responsible for drawing up and updating the Care Plan in consultation with:

  1. The child;
  2. The child's parents;
  3. Anyone who is not a parent but has been caring for or looking after the child;
  4. Other members of the child's family network who are significant to the child;
  5. The child's school or the education service;
  6. The relevant Clinical Commissioning Group;
  7. The Youth Offending Service, if the child is known to them;
  8. Any other agency involved with the child's care.

The social worker should ensure that the child, those with Parental Responsibility and the carer understand the Care Plan and their role in contributing to its implementation.

The Care Plan is subject to scrutiny at each Looked After Review. One of the key functions of the Care Plan is to ensure that each child has a Permanence Plan by the time of the second Looked After Review.

See also Care Plan Guidance.

3. Information to be Included in the Care Plan 

The child's overarching Care Plan should include:

  • Placement Plan (setting out why the placement was chosen and how the placement will contribute to meeting the child's needs); 
  • Permanence Plan (long-term plans for the child's upbringing including timescales);
  • Health Plan;
  • Personal Education Plan.

In addition, it should include the arrangements made to meet the child's needs in relation to:

  • Emotional and behavioural development;
  • The child's identity in relation to religious persuasion, racial origin and cultural and linguistic background;
  • Family and social relationships: arrangements for contact with sibling(s) accommodated by the authority or another local authority; details of any Section 8 Order in relation to a Looked After child; details of any order in relation to contact with a child in care; arrangements for contact with parents/anyone with Parental Responsibility/any other Connected Person; arrangements for the appointment of an Independent Visitor for a Looked After child;
  • Social presentation;
  • Self-care skills.

It should include the name of the Independent Reviewing Officer.

It should include the wishes and feelings of the following about the arrangements and about any proposed changes to the Care Plan: the child; parents/person(s) with Parental Responsibility; any other person whose wishes and feelings the Authority considers relevant.

4. Timescales for Completion

A Care Plan must be prepared prior to a child's first placement, or, if it is not practicable to do so, within 10 working days of the child's first placement.

5. Approval of the Care Plan

Any final Care Plan taken before the Court within Care Proceedings must be endorsed and signed by a Designated Manager (Care Plan).

All other Care Plans must be endorsed and signed by the social worker's team manager.

6. Circulation of Care Plan

The Care Plan must be circulated to the following people:

  • The child;
  • The parent(s);
  • Providers/Carers - if no Care Plan has been drawn up prior to the child's placement, the social worker must ensure that the providers/carers understand the key objectives of the plan, and how the placement will help achieve these objectives;
  • The Fostering Service, where the child is in foster care. N.B. The Care Plan should be filed in the confidential section of the foster carer's file and returned to the child's social worker when the placement ends;
  • The child's Independent Reviewing Officer. (The interim Care Plan is sent to the IRO prior to the initial Looked After Review and the Final Care Plan sent either at the end of Care Proceedings or for 4 month review for Section 20 cases).

7. Other Required Plans, Documentation and Actions

7.1 Placement Plan (recorded on the Placement Information Record on ICS)

The child must have a Placement Plan at the time of the placement (this will include the parent's consent to the placement (if applicable) and the child's medical treatment). It should be completed as far as possible before the child is placed.

Copies of the Placement Plan must be provided to the child (if of sufficient age and understanding), the parents and must be handed to the residential staff/carers before the child is placed. Where a child is placed in an in-house foster placement, one copy should also be sent to the Fostering Team - to be kept in the confidential section of the foster carer's file and returned at the end of the placement.

At the time of the placement, the residential staff/carers should also be given any additional information about details of the child's day to day needs which are not covered by the Placement Plan but which are important to ensure that the staff/carers are in the best possible position to help the child settle in the new placement, for example any particular fears at night-time or the child's favourite toys.

7.2 Arrangement of first Looked After Review

The child's social worker must notify the Child Protection and Review Unit of the placement, so that the necessary arrangements for the allocation of an Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) and the child's first Looked After Review can be made. See the Looked After Review Procedure for the procedures relating to reviews, including the responsibility for invitations to reviews.

7.3 Health Care

Before or at the time of the placement, the social worker should request the parent to transfer the child's personal child health record. Where this is lost or not available, the social worker should ask for a replacement to be issued and ask the Designated Nurse for LAC to assist with providing any information to complete the record.

The social worker should also contact the Designated Nurse for LAC to arrange a Health Care Assessment before the first placement, or, if not reasonably practicable before the first review (unless one has been done with the previous 3 months) and the completion of a Health Care Plan in time for the child's first Looked After Review. See Health Care Assessments and Health Care Plans Procedure.

In addition, the social worker should inform the carer of any medication the child is taking, and ensure that a supply of medication is provided in a clearly labelled bottle with the child's name, required dosage and the time the medication is to be given - see Administration of Medication Procedure.

7.4 Personal Education Plan (PEP) 

The social worker should also liaise with the Designated Teacher so that a Personal Education Plan (PEP) can be initiated as part of the Care Plan before child becomes Looked After (or within 10 working days in the case of an emergency placement), and be available for the first statutory review meeting. See Education of Children in Care Procedure.

7.5 Provision of information

The child's social worker must provide the child and parents with written information about the placement.

The child and parents must also be provided with information about the complaints process and the availability of advocates - see Advocacy and Interpreting Services Procedure.

7.6 Changes in Legal Status

Any changes in a child's legal status as a result of court proceedings must be recorded on the child's electronic record.