Provision of Financial Assistance Including Section 17 Payments, Exceptional Payments to LAC and Casework Expenses
SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTERThis chapter sets out the Policy and Procedure to be followed by staff when determining if a family is eligible for Section 17 (S17) payments, and if so, the amount in vouchers or cash they can receive from the Service.
1. Types of Financial Assistance
Financial assistance for children in need can be provided under Section 17 or Section 18 of the Children Act 1989.
The categories of payment, which may be considered, are:
Subsistence crisis (one-off) payments:
These should be exceptional and used to overcome a crisis, following the best assessment that can be achieved in the circumstances
Equipment and clothing:
These are for such items as clothing, furniture, bedding or safety equipment, which will enable the child to continue to live safely at home. The Social Worker should provide payment to the supplier
Assistance may be given subject to conditions, including repayment in certain situations. However, in most situations, it will be inappropriate for the Department to seek to recover money provided under these circumstances.
for the parents/relatives to attend contact with children Looked After by the Local Authority.
Payment of day care charges:
for example; after school clubs, play schemes or childminders
payments for the child/young person's activity. All staff expenses from 27th July 2009 are to be claimed via E5A form.
Payments to support Looked After Children not covered by other polices and procedures:
for example, this may include one off payments to children placed at home under Placement with Parent Regulations to prevent the child coming into foster or residential care.
2. Other Types of Payments not covered by this Policy and Procedure
Payment for the care of Looked After Children residing with Local Authority Approved Foster Carers (including family/friend relative carers) see Fostering Allowances Procedure
Payments for the care of children residing in Residential Establishments, see Residential Service Procedures
Payments for Looked After Children aged 16 + and Care Leavers, see Guide to Financial Assistance for LAC aged 16 and over and Care Leavers
Payments to those holding a Child Arrangements Order, see Child Arrangements Order Allowances Procedure
Payment to those holding a Special Guardianship Order, see Special Guardianship Order Procedures
Payments to Adoptors, see Adoption Allowance Procedures - to follow
3. Criteria for Financial Assistance
The following criteria should be applied to all payments:
- The purpose of the payments must be to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child;
- A worker should be actively involved with the family at least for the duration of the payments;
- There are no other legitimate sources of finance, for example from the Benefits Agency or a Charity. If theft is alleged, a crime number should be provided;
- Wherever possible, payments will be paid to the supplier or provider of services, not the parents.
4. Approval of Financial Assistance
Payments can be authorised up to the financial limits agreed from time to time. This is currently £50 for Deputy Team Managers and £100 for Team Managers. Amounts over that are to be discussed with the Unit Manager or Divisional Manager. When deciding which level of delegated authority is required, cumulative costs over a financial year must be taken into account. Social work staff are not permitted to authorise payments of any amount.
Requests for approval up to £100 should be signed by the Social Worker's Team Manager and submitted to the appropriate Office Manager on Form E5A. Requests over £100 should be submitted to the Unit Manager.
5. Section 17 Payments
Section 17 of the Children Act is very clear as to the roles and responsibilities of Local Authorities to Children in Need. Section 17 (1) states:
'It shall be the general duty of each Local Authority to safeguard and promote the welfare of children within their area who are in need. So far as is consistent with that duty to promote the upbringing of such children by their families, by providing a range and level of services appropriate to those children's needs'.
Children in Need are defined under S17 (10) Children Act 1989 as follows:
- He/she is unlikely to achieve or maintain, or to have the opportunity of achieving or maintaining a reasonable standard of health or development without the provision for him of services by a Local Authority;
- His/her health or development is likely to be significantly impaired or further impaired without the provision of such services;
- He/she is disabled.
The following situations are examples where S17 payments could be considered:
- Families who have no recourse to public funds and where the assessment has determined the need for immediate financial aid;
- Children who have been abandoned by their main carer and a relative or friend needs short term assistance to provide for the child's needs. (Assessment under Private Fostering or Kinship Arrangements may need consideration in these circumstances);
- Young people whose living arrangements have broken down and where the provision of S17 payments prevents accommodation, Significant Harm and promotes their health and development;
- Children who are being cared for by family and friends, where it has been assessed that without financial support the family/friends would not be able to care for the children. This arrangement must be time limited;
- Parent who has fled domestic violence with the child(ren) and temporarily have no means of providing for the child's basic needs;
- Emergency situations creating a health and safety risk for the child e.g. absence of heating and light;
- Families who have received expected benefits payments and have no provisions for their children. In these circumstances allocated Social Worker/Community Care Officer will be expected to make checks with the Benefits Agency to confirm difficulties. Assistance in these circumstances would be in the form of vouchers, not cash;
- A family where the child is suffering or likely to suffer significant harm because the family is unable to provide them with essential items e.g. bedding, shoes, clothing etc.
The family/young person must be encouraged to seek assistance from established mechanisms such as crisis loans through the Benefits Agency or through seeking assistance from Charitable Trusts or Organisations. They will also be asked if they could ask family or friends for assistance.
The Local Authority should be the last resort after all other efforts to obtain financial assistance have failed. S17 Financial Assistance can only be provided by the Local Authority in exceptional circumstances. Section 17 payments are made to explicitly prevent a child or young person becoming Looked After.
6. Coding of Section 17 Payment Transactions
Section 17 Payment Transactions should be coded as shown in the table below:
7. Payments for Looked After Children
In certain circumstances it may be appropriate to make a payment to support the care of a Looked After Child which is outside of the procedures listed above. This could relate to children
- Subject to Care Orders placed at home under Placement with Parent Regulations.
8. Coding of Looked After Children Payments
Documents & fees
LAC cash assistance/goods
9. Coding of Other Expenses
Payments could be made to support direct work activities for a child/young person which are not related to contact with parents/extended family. A receipt is required for all payments. Claims for reimbursement for the worker involved in the activity should be claimed on the E5A form.
10. Audit Trail and Receipts
ALL monies should be signed for and receipts provided to the Office Manager for all expenditure together with a completed E5A. The Office Manager will not be able to reimburse any non-receipted expenditure.
11. Purchasing Controls
One of the uses of monies is in the purchase of items for service users, for example, child seats, pushchairs and furniture. It is important that we ensure that we are purchasing items at the best possible value for the Council and that items are sourced from approved suppliers. The best way to ensure that this happens is for there to be a consistent procurement path. ALL purchases should, therefore, be through the relevant Office Manager rather than being purchased by Social Workers on behalf of service users. The Office Manager will also take into account any EMAS implications when purchasing goods e.g. A-rated white goods.
In practice this may mean that items supplied are not the exact items specified by service users or Social Workers. However, Office Managers will ensure that they are of a comparable quality.
The following table shows the current maximum payments for the different areas of expenditure:
ANY ADDITIONAL EXPENDITURE IS AT THE DISCRETION OF THE UNIT MANAGER