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3.1.6 Financial Agreement in Children's Placements and the Role of the Access to Resources Panel

AMENDMENT

This chapter was extensively revised and updated in November 2014 and should be re-read in full.


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. The Decision to Look After a Child
  3. Access to Resources Panel
  4. Financial Monitoring of Placements
  5. Permanent Placements
  6. Court Care Plans

    Appendix 1: Access to Resources Panel Pro Forma


1. Introduction

All financial decision-making within the local authority must represent value for money. Whilst decisions about children's placements will not be led by finance alone, cost and value for money must be a significant factor when making decisions about how best to meet the identified needs of Looked After children to ensure accountability for public funds. Good parenting is associated with prudent accounting, which is related to the making of priorities and reviewing of decisions. Likewise, the process of agreeing Care Plans for individual children must be related to sound financial management which evidences that the local authority have sound priorities for all children and make robust financial decisions which demonstrate value for money without compromising the needs of individual children. 

The following protocol describes how the local authority will evidence best value in decision-making in children's placements. The protocol will run in parallel to the statutory process of reviewing Looked After children and decisions about financial arrangements need to be in place before each statutory Looked After Review.


2. The Decision to Look After a Child

All decisions to look after a child will be made by a Service Manager on recommendation from a manager - see Decision to Look After, Care and Placement Planning Procedure.

All private and voluntary placements will be authorised by the Assistant Director Children in Care, Permanency & Children's Resources.

Emergency private and voluntary placements can only be agreed for up to 7 days before they are presented to the Access to Resources Panel for agreement.

Planned placements must be presented to the Access to Resources Panel before agreement.

Process

  • ALL requests for services, both internal or in the private and voluntary sector, must come to the Access to Resources Team using the Placement Service Request Form (ICS Link to follow);
  • The Access to Resources Manager will ensure internal resources are fully considered to see if they can match the identified need;
  • If a resource or Service from the Private and Voluntary sector is required the relevant social worker and Manager will be informed and the process for funding approval agreed subject to this procedure (ref 3.1 and 2).


3. Access to Resources Panel

3.1 Meetings and Membership

The Access to Resources Panel meets weekly and is chaired by the Assistant Director Children in Care, Permanency & Children's Resources.

The Panel is attended by the Service Managers for Safeguarding, Children’s Resources and Looked After Children, the Access to Resources Team Manager and the Head of the Virtual School. Minutes will be sent to all attendees and must be placed on the child's file.

3.2 Remit of the Panel

The Panel deals with all private and voluntary placements of Children and Young People aged 0-24 in:

  • Local Independent Fostering Agencies;
  • Private Residential Children's homes;
  • Care leaving placements (costing more than £500 per week).

The Panel also considers requests for assessments which cannot be undertaken by in house resources. These can include:

  • Residential parenting assessments;
  • Community based assessments.

Any court directed assessments will be considered outside of panel and agreed by the Service Manager in consultation with the Assistant Director Children in Care, Permanency & Children's Resources.

Placements in London Borough of Hillingdon’s internal resources, including children’s homes, semi independent units, foster placements, (including short breaks and Staying Put) will be considered and approved by the Access to Resources Team and Service Manager, Children’s Resources.

Assessments by London Borough of Hillingdon's internal resources, including SGO, Connected persons, Parenting assessments, will be considered and approved by the Access to Resources Team and Service Manager, Children's Resources.

The Panel may refer cases to the Multi Agency Resource Panel where appropriate - see Multi Agency Panel for Children with Complex, Multiple and High Level Needs Procedure.

3.3 Conduct of Panel Business

The Panel is serviced by Access to Resources Panel administrator who ensures that minutes and agendas are circulated and managers advised when their attendance is needed.

Supervising managers and social workers are required to present cases and a proforma report must be completed in advance of their attendance (see Appendix 1: Access to Resources Panel Pro Forma).

The Panel does not replace the child's statutory Looked After Review and is not a care planning meeting. The focus is upon the financial aspects of the placement, ensuring that:

  • Services provided by the provider are meeting the needs of the child;
  • Services being funded are actually being provided; and
  • There are no other services that could meet the child's needs more cost effectively.

The Panel also clarifies and confirms:

  • The timescale for the required funding;
  • The review date for the funding agreement; and
  • The outcomes required of the placement.

3.4 Reviews of Funding

The maximum interval for children placed in residential units will be six months.


4. Financial Monitoring of Placements

At each statutory Looked After Review, the child's Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) will be required to check the level and quality of service provided by the provider. This does not interfere with the reviewing officer's independent role, and the usual process of reviewing the Care Plan will be adequate to complete this monitoring role.

The IRO will complete the monitoring form and return it to the Placements Team for further consideration.

On reviewing the monitoring form, the Placements Team may decide that a more in depth financial review of the placement is required and can present the case to the Access to Resources Panel.

The IRO will alert the Access to Resources team of any concerns and a decision may be taken that a more in depth financial review of the placement is required which can then be presented to the Access to Resources Panel.

In addition, the Placements Team will undertake regular monitoring of placements as an ongoing audit mechanism, ensuring that contracts are being met and that services purchased are provided. The Placements Team can refer concerns to the Access to Resources Panel where necessary.


5. Permanent Placements

At the child's second Looked After Review, a permanent Care Plan should be made for the child. The Permanency Team should be forwarded all Records of Discussion arising from the second review and the permanency policy must be followed - see Looked After Reviews Procedure.

Before agreeing funding for a long term private or voluntary provider, the Access to Resources Panel will need to be satisfied that all reasonable attempts at family finding have been exhausted, and that the Access to Resources Team have been consulted by the social worker about the viability of the long term placement.

Where a child is to be placed permanently in a private or voluntary resource, the Access to Resources Panel must agree the funding in advance of the decision being made.

Independent Reviewing Officers must ensure that the Access to Resources Panel has financially approved the placement before agreeing the Care Plan.

The Permanency Panel must ensure that the Access to Resources Panel has financially approved the placement before agreeing the Care Plan

The Access to Resources Panel will expect that the Access to Resources Team has been informed of all long term placements prior to the review by Panel so that the Team can negotiate long term rates with the provider.


6. Court Care Plans

Care Plans for Court must have the agreement of the Access to Resources Panel where a private and voluntary resource (including mother and baby unit) is being recommended. This should happen through the usual review process but the Team Manager may request urgent attendance at the Panel through the Access to Resources Team if necessary.


Appendix 1: Access to Resources Panel Pro Forma

Click here for Appendix 1: Access to Resources Panel Pro Forma.

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