6.4 Children Living Away from Home (including Private Fostering and Children Living in Temporary Accommodation)


See also the Private Fostering Procedure in the Children's Services Manual.

1. Introduction

Children may live away from home in a number of settings including foster care, residential care, private fostering, armed forces bases, health settings, boarding schools (including residential special schools), prisons, young offender institutions, secure training centres, and secure units.

In all settings where children live away from home essential safeguards should be observed which should ensure that:

  • Children feel valued and respected and their self-esteem is promoted;
  • There should be an openness on the part of the institution or establishment to external scrutiny, including contact with families and the wider community;
  • Carers and other staff should be trained in all aspects of safeguarding children; should be alert to children's vulnerabilities and the risks of Significant Harm; and should be knowledgeable about how to implement Safeguarding Children procedures;
  • Children should have access to a trusted adult outside the institution or establishment; a family member, social worker, independent visitor or advocate. Children should be made aware of the help they can receive from independent advocacy services and services such as the National Youth Advocacy Service and ChildLine;
  • Staff recognise the importance of ascertaining the wishes and feelings of children and understand how children may communicate both verbally and non-verbally;
  • Clear procedures for referring safeguarding concerns about a child to the relevant local authority;
  • Complaints procedures should be clear, effective and accessible to children and young people including those with disabilities and those for whom English is not their preferred language. Complaints procedures should be responsive to informal and formal complaints, minor and major complaints;
  • Recruitment and selection procedures should be rigorous and create a high threshold of entry to deter abusers;
  • Procedures and support systems for dealing with expressions of concern by staff and carers about other staff or carers, should be clear and formally stated;
  • There is respect for diversity and sensitivity to race, culture, religion, gender, sexuality and disability;
  • There is effective supervision and support which extends to temporary staff and volunteers;
  • Contractor staff should be effectively checked and supervised when on site or in contact with children;
  • Staff and carers are alert to the risks to children in the external environment from people prepared to exploit the additional vulnerability of children living away from home.

Individual agencies that provide care for children living away from home should have clear and unambiguous procedures to respond to potential matters of concern about children's welfare in line with these procedures

2. Foster Care

Children's Social Care duty to undertake a Section 47 Enquiry, when there are concerns about Significant Harm to a child, applies on the same basis to children in foster care as it does to children who live with their own families. Enquiries should consider the safety of other children living in the household, including the foster carers' own children. Children's Social Care has the responsibility to convene a Strategy Discussion, which should include representatives from the responsible local authority that placed the child if this is not Knowsley. At the Strategy Discussion it should be decided which local authority should take responsibility for the next steps, which may include a Section 47 Enquiry.

3. Private Fostering

Once notified it is the duty of the local authority to satisfy itself that the welfare of children who are Privately Fostered within its area is being satisfactorily safeguarded and promoted. This duty is carried out by the Children's Social Care and the detailed procedures for how these responsibilities are fulfilled are set out in the Private Fostering Procedure in the Children's Social Care Procedures Manual.

Private fostering is the term used when one that is made privately, not involving the LA, for the care of a child under 16 (under 18 if disabled) by someone other than a parent or close relative is looking after a child under 16 (or 18 if disabled) for 28 days or more in their own home.

  • Private Fostering may include:
  • Children sent from abroad to stay with another family member;
  • Teenagers who are staying with friends or other non-relatives;
  • Language students living with host families.

Private foster carers and those with Parental Responsibility are required to notify Children's Social Care of their intention to privately foster or to have a child privately fostered.

All agencies have a responsibility to notify Children's Social Care of a private fostering arrangement where they are not satisfied that the local authority has been or will be notified of the arrangements.

4. Children of Families Living in Temporary Accommodation

Placement in temporary accommodation, often a distance from previous support networks or involving frequent moves, can lead to individuals and families falling through the net.

It is important that effective systems are in place to ensure that children from homeless families receive services from health and education, social care and welfare support services as well as any other specific services, because with frequent moves they may become disengaged from services. For example a child who is not registered with a school or a GP will miss out on basic services such as health screening, eye tests, immunisations and learning to read and write. Where a child who needs specific treatment misses appointments due to moves the problem may become an issue of Significant Harm.

Temporary accommodation, for example bed and breakfast accommodation or women's refuges, may be a location which is not secure and safe and where other adults are also resident who may pose a risk to the child.

All concerns of Significant Harm to a child should be referred to Children's Social Care Services in accordance with the Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH).

The local authorities' responsibilities for homeless families are set out in legislation, including the Children Act 1989 and the Homelessness Act 2002. Under Section 12 of the Homelessness Act, housing authorities are required to refer to adult social care services homeless persons with dependent children who are ineligible for homelessness assistance or are intentionally homeless, to social services, as long as the person consents. If homelessness persists, any child in the family could be in need. In such cases, if social services decide the child's needs would be best met by helping the family to obtain accommodation, they can ask the housing authority for reasonable advice and assistance in this and the housing authority must give reasonable advice and assistance.