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4.2.2 Child Arrangement Orders and Child Arrangement Allowances


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. What is a Child Arrangement Order?
  3. When is a Child Arrangement Order Appropriate?
  4. Payment of Child Arrangement Order Allowances
  5. Procedure for Approval of Allowances
  6. Duration of Allowance
  7. Review Procedures


1. Introduction

A key departmental objective is to reduce the need for Children's Services intervention in the lives of children and their families whenever this is consistent with their welfare.

The aim of a Child Arrangement Order is to achieve security through legal permanence for a child where it is not possible for them to be adopted or subject to a Special Guardianship Order and is an alternative to the child being Looked After by the local authority.

To support this objective, all Care Plans for children who are placed with relatives, who are approved foster carers, should always note why a Child Arrangement Order or SGO is not thought appropriate and this decision should be re-visited at each Looked After Review.


2. What is a Child Arrangement Order?

Child Arrangements Orders were introduced in April 2014 by the Children and Families Act 2014 (which amended section 8 Children Act 1989). They replace Contact Orders and Residence Orders.

A Child Arrangements Order means a court order regulating arrangements relating to any of the following:

  1. With whom a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact; and
  2. When a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact with any person.

The 'residence' aspects of a Child Arrangements Order (i.e. with whom a child is to live/when a child is to live with any person) can last until the child reaches 18 years unless discharged earlier by the Court or by the making of a Care Order.

The ‘contact’ aspects of a Child Arrangements Order (with whom and when a child is to spend time with or otherwise have contact with) cease to have effect when the child reaches 16 years, unless the court is satisfied that the circumstances of the case are exceptional.

A person named in the order as a person with whom the child is to live, will have Parental Responsibility for the child while the order remains in force. Where a person is named in the order as a person with whom the child is to spend time or otherwise have contact, but is not named in the order as a person with whom the child is to live, the court may provide in the order for that person to have Parental Responsibility for the child while the order remains in force.

Child Arrangements Orders are private law orders, and cannot be made in favour of a local authority. Where a child is the subject of a Care Order, there is a general duty on the local authority to promote contact between the child and the parents. A Contact Order can be made under section 34 of the Children Act 1989 requiring the local authority to allow the child to have contact with a named person.

A court which is considering making, varying or discharging a Child Arrangements Orders, including making any directions or conditions which may be attached to such an order, must have regard to the paramountcy principle, the ‘no order’ principle and the welfare checklist under the Children Act 1989. 

Interim Child Arrangements Orders can be made.

Where a child would otherwise have to be placed with strangers, a placement with family or friends/Connected Persons may be identified as a preferred option and the carers may be encouraged and supported to apply for a Child Arrangements Orders where this will be in the best interests of the child.

The holder of a Child Arrangements Order does not have the right to consent to the child's adoption nor to appoint a guardian; in addition, he/she may not change the child's name nor arrange for the child's emigration without the consent of all those with Parental Responsibility or the leave of the court.

The granting of this Order does not discharge the Parental Responsibility of the child's parents. The making of a Child Arrangement Order with regard to residence will however discharge a Care Order.

Local authorities have a discretionary power under the Children Act 1989 to make financial contributions towards the costs of the accommodation and maintenance of a child who is the subject of a Child Arrangement Order. Whilst support may continue for as long as the Child Arrangements Order remains in force, the aim will be to make arrangements which are self-sustaining in the long run.


3. When is a Child Arrangement Order Appropriate?

Hillingdon will support Child Arrangment Order applications if this is part of a Care Plan and fulfils the following criteria:

As was the case with Contact and Residence Orders, any person can apply for a Child Arrangements Order. The following can apply for a Child Arrangements Order without needing the leave of the court. In addition, any person who is not automatically entitled to apply for a Child Arrangements Order may seek leave of the court to do so:

  • Any parent (whether or not they have Parental Responsibility for the child), guardian or special guardian of the child;
  • Any person named, in a Child Arrangements Order that is in force with respect to the child, as a person with whom the child is to live;
  • Any party to a marriage (whether or not subsisting) in relation to whom the child is a child of the family - this allows step-parents (including those in a civil partnership) and former step-parents who fulfil this criteria to apply as of right;
  • Any person with whom the child has lived for a period of at least three years? this period need not be continuous but must not have begun more than five years before, or ended more than three months before, the making of the application; or
  • Any person:
    • Who has the consent of each of the persons in named in a Child Arrangements Order as a person with whom the child is to live;
    • In any case where there is an existing order for care in force, has the consent of each person in who favour the order was made;
    • In any case where the child is in the care of a local authority, who has the consent of that authority;
    • In whose favour a Child Arrangements Order has been made in relation to the ‘contact’ aspects and who has been awarded Parental Responsibility by the court (i.e. they would be able to apply for a Child Arrangements Order in relation to the ‘residence’ aspects);
    • In any other case, has the consent of everyone with parental responsibility for the child.
  • A local authority foster parent is entitled to apply for a child arrangements order relating to whom the child is to live, and/or when the child is to live any person, if the child has lived with him for a period of at least one year immediately preceding the application;
  • A relative of a child is entitled to apply for a child arrangements order relating to whom the child is to live, and/or when the child is to live any person, if the child has lived with the relative for a period of at least one year immediately preceding the application. (A relative is a child's grandparent, brother, sister, uncle or aunt (by full or half blood), or by marriage or civil partnership.)

A Child Arrangements Order specifying with whom the child is to live has the following advantages:

  1. It gives Parental Responsibility to the carer whilst maintaining the parents' Parental Responsibility;
  2. The child will no longer be Looked After and there need be no social work involvement, therefore, unless this is identified as necessary;
  3. There is no review process;
  4. The child will not be Looked After and so less stigma is attached to the placement.

A Child Arrangements Order has the following disadvantages:

  1. It is less secure than Adoption or Special Guardianship in that an application can be made to revoke the Order. However, the Court making the order can be asked to attach a condition refusing a parent's right to seek revocation without leave of the court;
  1. There is no formal continuing support to the family after the Order is made although in some instances, a Child Arrangements Order Allowance may be payable by the local authority;
  1. There is no professional reviewing of the arrangements after the Order unless a new application to court is made, for example by the parents for contact or revocation. (NB New applications to court may be expensive to defend, and the carers would have to bear the cost if not entitled to assistance with legal costs.)

Child Arrangement Orders should be considered in all cases when an arrangement either formal or informal has been agreed for the permanent placement of a child outside his or her birth family with extended family members where an Adoption Order or Special Guardianship Order is not appropriate.


4. Payment of Child Arrangement Order Allowances

Local authorities have discretionary powers to make financial contributions. There is no statutory guidance as to the amount. The carers are subject to a financial assessment and annual reviews.

Hillingdon may wish to support carers in applying for Child Arrangement Orders when it is consistent with the child's Care Plan. This can include giving financial assistance with costs of applying for the order and ensuring that the carers will not be financially disadvantaged by such an application. This decision should be made based on the circumstances of each case and should be agreed by the Service Manager, Resources.

Child Arrangement Order Allowances will take into account the payment that the carer is receiving prior to the application and the benefits that they will be entitled to once an order is made.

It is important that carers are aware of these requirements and are advised about the level of payments and their responsibilities to provide annual financial statements.

Kinship carers who are approved foster carers (where placements have been made under Regulation 38) will automatically receive from their date of approval the agreed rate as stated in the Foster Carers Allowance Scheme.

When kinship carers have not been approved as foster carers prior to the granting of the Child Arrangement Order but have received support under Section 17 as part of a Child in Need Plan, they may receive an allowance equivalent to the payments made under section 17 or at a rate not exceeding the published DWP income support rate.

Child Arrangement Order Allowance payments are fixed at the point of the agreement and not subject to any subsequent changes in the fostering rates.


5. Procedure for Approval of Allowances

The decision to recommend a Child Arrangement Order with an Allowance must be reflected in the Child in Need Plan/Care Plan.

The Service Manager, Resources will agree the Child Arrangement Order Allowances. The decision will be based on the report and recommendation of the social worker.

The social worker must complete:

  • An agreement to a Child Arrangement Order Allowance Form which will be accompanied by the recommendation (Care Plan/Child in Need Plan and/or full report);
  • A completed financial assessment. Social workers should ensure that all applicants complete a financial assessment;
  • Other supporting documentation including details of the ongoing needs of the child, any complex legal or contact arrangements etc.;
  • Details of the current payments, if any, made to the carers;
  • The carer's bank details.

Carers who receive a Child Arrangement Order Allowance are entitled to Child Benefit and may be entitled to other benefits e.g. tax credits, disabled living allowances, family premium child dependency addition (if receiving a state retirement pension) and child support from the parents.

In most cases, allowances will be agreed that are consistent to the rates paid to them as approved foster carers or as informal carers taking into account the needs of the child, any additional government benefits and contributions from birth parents. Payments will always be subject to a financial assessment and reviewed annually.

The Service Manager, Resources will write formally to the carers to inform them of the decision to grant a Child Arrangement Order Allowance and will administer the subsequent annual review.


6. Duration of Allowance

The allowance will continue until the child is 16 (18 in exceptional circumstances) unless terminated in the circumstances detailed below:

  • When the child ceases to have a home with the carers;
  • When the child ceases full time education and commences employment or qualifies for a place on a government training scheme;
  • When the child qualifies for income support or unemployment benefit in his or her own right;
  • When any period previously agreed between the local authority and the applicant expires;
  • If it appears to the local authority that the criteria cease to apply;
  • Where the financial circumstances of the carers change.


7. Review Procedures

Where the local authority decides to make a Child Arrangement Order Allowance, the social worker must inform the carer of:

  • The need to submit an annual statement to the Service Manager, Resources and the consequences of failing to do so including the repayment of allowances where the child moves out and the carer fails to inform the Department;
  • The need to notify the Service Manager Children's Resources of any change of circumstances of the child or applicant as it arises.

The annual statement should detail

  • The applicant's financial circumstances;
  • The financial needs and resources of the child;
  • Their address and whether the child still has a home with them.

On receipt of such a statement the Service Manager, Resources will determine whether or not to continue to pay the allowance or whether further investigations should be made to clarify any issues arising.

Failure to submit the statement within 28 days of the agreed date should result in the allowance being suspended until such statement is received. The allowance may be reinstated at the Service Manager's discretion.

End