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5.8 Children Living Away from Home


This chapter was updated in April 2018 to add several relevant links:

  • Section 2, Basic Safeguards:
    • Working Together to safeguard Children; and
    • ChildLine.
  • Section 5, Private Fostering:
    • Lincolnshire County Council Private Fostering (Information leaflet); and
    • Children Act 1989: private fostering’.
  • Section 6, Children in Hospital:
    • Statutory visits to children with special educational needs and disabilities or health conditions in long term residential settings, DfE/DHSC (2017); and
    • The National Service Framework for Children, Young People and Maternity Services (NSF), (2004) including Standard 6, DfES/DHSC, Children and Young People who are ill.
  • Section 7, Children in Custody:
    • National Standards for Youth Justice Services;
    • Action to be taken if there are concerns about the child’s safety or welfare in Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations - Volume 2: Care Planning, Placement and Case Review; and
    • R v Secretary of State for the Home Department, ex parte Howard League for Penal Reform (2002) EWHC 2497.


  1. Introduction
  2. Basic Safeguards
  3. Peer Abuse
  4. Foster Care
  5. Private Fostering
  6. Children in Hospital
  7. Children in Custody

1. Introduction

Revelations of the widespread abuse and neglect of Children Living Away from Home have done a lot to raise awareness of the particular vulnerability of children in residential settings. Many of these have focused on sexual abuse, but physical and emotional abuse and neglect - including peer abuse, bullying and substance misuse - are equally a threat in institutional settings. There should never be complacency that these are problems of the past - there is a need for continuing vigilance.

Concern for the safety of Children Living Away from Home has to be put in the context of attention to the overall developmental needs of such children, and a concern for the best possible outcomes for their health and development. Every setting in which children live away from home should provide the same basic safeguards against abuse, founded on an approach which promotes their general welfare and protects them from harm of all kinds, and treats them with dignity and respect. These values are reflected in regulations and the National Minimum Standards which contain specific requirements on safeguarding and child protection for each particular regulated setting where children live away from home.

2. Basic Safeguards

There are a number of essential safeguards which should be observed in all settings in which children live away from home, including foster care, residential care, Private Fostering, health settings, residential schools, prisons, Young Offenders Institutions and secure units. Where services are not directly provided, basic safeguards should be explicitly addressed in contracts with external providers. These safeguards include that:

  • Children feel valued and respected and their self-esteem is promoted;
  • There is an openness on the part of the institution to the external world and external scrutiny, including openness with families and the wider community. Staff and foster carers are trained in all aspects of safeguarding children; alert to children's vulnerabilities and risks of harm; and knowledgeable about how to implement safeguarding procedures;
  • Children who live away from home are listened to and their views and concerns responded to;
  • Children have ready access to a trusted adult outside the institution e.g. a family member, the child's social worker, independent visitor, and children's advocate. Children should be made aware of the help they could receive from independent advocacy services, external mentors, and ChildLine;
  • Staff recognise the importance of ascertaining the wishes and feelings of children and understand how individual children communicate by verbal or non-verbal means;
  • there are clear procedures for referring safeguarding concerns about a child to Lincolnshire Children's Social Care (see Referrals Procedure);
  • Complaints procedures are clear, effective, user friendly and are readily accessible to children and young people, including those with disabilities and for those where English is not a first language. Procedures should address informal and formal complaints. Systems that do not promote open communication about 'minor' complaints will not be responsive to major ones, and a pattern of 'minor' complaints may indicate more deeply seated problems in management and culture which need to be addressed. Records of complaints should be kept by providers of children's services, for example there should be a complaints register in every children's home which records all representations or complaints, the action taken to address them, and the outcomes. Children should be genuinely able to raise concerns and make suggestions for changes and improvements, which are taken seriously;
  • Bullying is effectively countered;
  • Recruitment and selection procedures are rigorous and create a high threshold of entry to deter abusers;
  • Clear procedures and support systems are in place for dealing with expressions of concern by staff and carers about other staff or carers. Organisations should have a code of conduct instructing staff on their duty to their employer and their professional obligation to raise legitimate concerns about the conduct of colleagues or managers. There should be a guarantee that procedures can be invoked in ways which do not prejudice the 'whistle blower's' own position and prospects;
  • 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;
  • 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.

See: Working Together to Safeguard Children.

3. Peer Abuse

Children, particularly those living away from home, are also vulnerable to physical, sexual and emotional bullying and abuse by their peers. Such abuse should always be taken as seriously as abuse perpetrated by an adult. It should be subject to the same safeguarding children procedures that apply in respect of any child who is suffering, or at risk of suffering significant harm from an adverse source. A significant proportion of sex offences are committed by teenagers and, on occasion, such offences are committed by younger children. Staff and carers of Children Living Away from Home need clear guidance and training to identify the difference between consenting and abusive, appropriate or exploitative peer relationships. Staff should not dismiss some abusive sexual behaviour as 'normal' between young people and should not develop high thresholds before taking action. See Abuse by Children and Young People Procedure.

4. Foster Care

Foster care is undertaken in the private domain of carers' own homes. This may make it more difficult to identify abusive situations and for children to find a voice outside the family. Social workers are required to see children in foster care on their own for a proportion of visits, and evidence of this should be recorded.

Foster carers should be provided with full information about the foster child and his/her family, including details of abuse or possible abuse, both in the interests of the child and of the foster family.

Foster carers should monitor the whereabouts of their foster children, their patterns of absence and contacts. Foster carers should notify the placing authority of an unauthorised absence by a child in accordance with the Joint Protocol for Children Looked After Who Go Missing, contained in the Social Care Practice Guidance.

Children's Social Care has a duty to conduct Section 47 Enquiries, 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 in their own families. Enquiries should consider the safety of any other children living in the household; including the foster carers' own children. In particular there will be a need at an early stage to consider whether the child, or other children in placement, should remain there pending further enquiries. Such decisions should be taken at Service Manager level or above. In any case, no further placements will be made while the matter is being investigated. Refer to management of allegations against staff, see Allegations Against Persons who Work with Children.

The LA in which the child is living has the responsibility to assemble a Strategy Discussion, which should include representatives from Children's Social care that placed the child. At the strategy discussion it should be decided which LA should take responsibility for the next steps, which may include a s47 enquiry ( see: Managing Individual Cases where there are concerns about a Child's Safety and Welfare Procedures: Introduction)

5. Private Fostering

Under section 67 of the Children Act 1989 a local authority is under a duty to satisfy itself that the welfare of children who are privately fostered within their area is being satisfactorily safeguarded and promoted and to secure that such advice is given to those caring for them as appears to the authority to be needed.

A private fostering arrangement is essentially one that is made privately (that is to say without the involvement of a local authority) for the care of a child under the age of 16 (under 18, if disabled) by someone other than a parent or close relative for 28 days or more by, someone other than:

  1. A parent of his;
  2. A person who is not a parent of his but who has parental responsibility for him; or
  3. A relative of his.

A child is not a privately fostered child if the person caring for and accommodating him:

  1. Has done so for a period of less than 28 days; and
  2. Does not intend to do so for any longer period.

A child is not a privately fostered child while:

  1. He is being looked after by a local authority;
  2. He is in the care of any person in premises in which any:
    1. Parent of his;
    2. Person who is not a parent of his but who has parental responsibility for him; or
    3. Person who is a relative of his and who has assumed responsibility for his care, is for the time being living.
  3. He is in accommodation provided by or on behalf of any voluntary organisation;
  4. In any school in which he is receiving full-time education and the school is a 52 week placement. (Note however: Children under 16 who spend more than 2 weeks in residence during holiday time in a school, become privately fostered children for the purposes of the legislation during that holiday period. See also Schedule 8 (para 9) Children Act 1989. The local authority may exempt any person from giving written notice either for a specified period or indefinitely. This exemption may be revoked in writing at any time);
  5. In any health service hospital;
  6. In any care home or independent hospital;
  7. In any home or institution not specified above but provided, equipped and maintained by the Secretary of State;
  8. In the care of any person in compliance with an order under section 63(1) of the Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000; or a supervision requirement within the meaning of Part II of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995;
  9. He is liable to be detained, or subject to guardianship, under the Mental Health Act 1983;
  10. He is placed in the care of a person who proposes to adopt him under arrangements made by an adoption agency or he is a protected child;
  11. A child who is a pupil at a school, and lives at the school during the holidays for more than two weeks, is under 16 and none of the above exemptions apply is regarded as a private foster child during that time.

Privately fostered children are a diverse, and sometimes vulnerable, group. Groups of privately fostered children include children sent from abroad to stay with another family, usually to improve their educational opportunities; asylum seeking and refugee children; teenagers who, having broken ties with their parents, are staying in short term arrangements with friends or other non-relatives; and language students living with host families.

Under the Children Act 1989, private foster carers and those with Parental Responsibility are required to notify the local authority of their intention to privately foster or to have a child privately fostered, or where a child is privately fostered in an emergency. Teachers, health and other professionals should notify the Children's Social care of a private fostering arrangement that comes to their attention, where they are not satisfied that they have been or will be notified of the arrangement.

It is the duty of Lincolnshire County Council Children's Social care to satisfy themselves that the welfare of children who are privately fostered within Lincolnshire is being satisfactorily safeguarded and promoted, and to ensure that such advice as appears to be required is given to private foster carers. In order to do so, they must visit privately fostered children at regular intervals. The minimum visiting requirements are set out in the regulations. The Children's Social Care Officer should visit a child alone unless the officer considers it inappropriate. Lincolnshire County Council Children's Social Care must also arrange for visits to be made to the privately fostered child, the private foster carer, or parent of the child when reasonably requested to do so. Children should be given contact details of the social worker who will be visiting them while they are being privately fostered.

Lincolnshire County Council Children's Social Care must satisfy themselves as to such matters as the suitability of the private foster carer, and the private foster carer's household and accommodation. They have the power to impose requirements on the private foster carer or, if there are serious concerns about an arrangement, to prohibit it.

The Children Act 1989 creates a number of offences in connection with private fostering, including for failure to notify an arrangement or to comply with any requirement or prohibition imposed by the authority. Certain people are disqualified from being private foster carers. A carer, who is disqualified from being a private foster carer or who lives with someone else who is disqualified, cannot privately foster without the consent of the local authority. There is a right of appeal against the refusal of consent.

A local authority is empowered to prohibit a carer from being a private foster carer if they believe that:

  1. The carer is not a suitable person to foster a child; or
  2. The premises in which the child is, or will be accommodated, are not suitable; or
  3. It would be prejudicial to the welfare of the child to be, or continue to be, living with that carer in those premises.

A prohibition may prevent the carer fostering anywhere in the area, restrict fostering to specific premises, or restrict fostering a particular child in those premises. There is a right of appeal against the imposition of a condition.

The local authority may also impose requirements on a carer affecting.

  1. The number, age and sex of the children to be fostered;
  2. The standard of accommodation and equipment;
  3. Health and safety arrangements;
  4. Specific arrangements for the children to be fostered.

With effect from July 2005, amendments to section 67 of, and Schedule 8 to, the Children Act 1989 (made by Section 44 of the Children Act 2004) require local authorities to promote awareness in their area of notification requirements, and to ensure that such advice as appears to be required is given to those concerned with children who are, or are proposed to be, privately fostered. This will include private foster carers (proposed and actual) and parents.

Also with effect from July 2005 the Children (Private Arrangements for Fostering) Regulations 2005 require local authorities to satisfy themselves of the suitability of a proposed arrangement before it commences (where advance notice is given).

The private fostering regulations require Lincolnshire County Council Children's Social Care to monitor their compliance with all their duties and functions in relation to private fostering, and will place a duty on them to appoint an officer for this purpose.

The Officer for Lincolnshire County Council Children's Social Care is Bryan Glover.

The new measures in the Children Act 2004 and the regulations strengthen and enhance the private fostering notification scheme, and provide additional safeguards for privately fostered children. They, along with new National Minimum Standards, and the new role for Local Safeguarding Children Partnerships in looking at private fostering, focus local authorities' attention on private fostering and require them to take a more proactive approach to identifying arrangements in their area. LSCP will monitor the effectiveness of the arrangements for private fostering and will expect:

  • An improvement in notification rates;
  • Compliance with the existing legislative framework for private fostering;
  • Significant increase in the number of arrangements checked out before a child is privately fostered; and
  • Actions to address the key problems identified with the scheme.

Publicity information to promote awareness of private Fostering is available (see Lincolnshire County Council Private Fostering).

See also Children Act 1989: private fostering.

6. Children in Hospital

The National Service Framework for Children, Young People and Maternity Services (NSF), (2004) sets out standards for hospital services. Standard 6, DfES/DHSC, Children and Young People who are ill of the National Service Framework is to be taken alongside the hospital standard, which was published in 2003 to meet the commitment made in the Governments response to the report of the Public Enquiry into Children's Heart Surgery at the Bristol Royal Infirmary 1984-1995: Learning from Bristol. The Healthcare Commission has undertaken an improvement review of the NHS implementation of the hospital standard.

When children are in hospital, this should not in itself jeopardise the health of the child or young person further. The NSF requires hospitals to ensure that their facilities are secure, and regularly reviewed. There should be policies relating to breaches of security and involving the police. The LA where the hospital is located is responsible for the welfare of children in its hospitals.

Children should be offered to be cared for on a children's ward. The NSF Standard for Hospital Services requires care to be provided in an appropriate location and in an environment that is safe and well-suited to the age and stage of development of the child or young person. Hospitals should be child friendly, safe and healthy places for children. Wherever possible, children should be consulted about where they would prefer to stay in hospital and their views should be taken into account and respected. Hospital admission data should include the age of children so that hospitals can monitor whether they are being given appropriate care in appropriate wards.

Additionally, section 85 of the Children Act 1989 requires Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) to notify the 'responsible authority' - i.e. the local authority for the area where the child is ordinarily resident or where the child is accommodated if this is unclear, when a child has been or will be accommodated by the CCG for three months or more (for example in hospital), so that the local authority can assess the child's needs and decide whether services are required under the Children Act 1989.

See Statutory visits to children with special educational needs and disabilities or health conditions in long term residential settings, DfE/DHSC (2017).

7. Children in Custody

The Local Authority has the same responsibilities towards children in custody as it does towards other children in the authority area. Following the judgement of Munby, J in November 2002 which found that local authorities continue to have obligations to children held in custody, it has been agreed that the Youth Justice Boards (YJB) will fund for 2 years, approximately 25 LA staff across all the juvenile Young Offenders Institutions (YOI), to undertake Children Act 1989 duties. A significant part of these duties will be in relation to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children. In particular, these staff will be responsible for overseeing procedures to safeguard and promote the welfare of children within the secure estate, and helping to ensure that appropriate links are made between the YOI and its LSCP. Local Authority Circular (LAC) 2004(26) (Archived).


Where there are concerns that a child in custody has suffered or is at risk of suffering significant harm or where Lincolnshire Children's Services are notified that a child who lives in Lincolnshire is the subject to a police protection order or is in police protection, they shall:

  • Make or cause to be made enquiries as they consider necessary to enable them to decide whether they should take action to safeguard and promote the child's welfare;
  • It is the authority in the area where the custodial establishment is located which is responsible for carrying out the s47 enquiries in relation to any child in custody who they have reasonable cause to suspect is suffering or is likely to suffer significant harm;
  • If a child in custody makes allegations about abuse that happened before they entered custody or it becomes clear that they may be at risk of suffering significant harm on leaving the establishment, the local authority in the area the establishment is located will need to initiate s47 enquiries, and negotiate transfer to the local authority in the area the child was living or will be living or where the abuse is alleged to have taken place.

Where it is considered that a child or young person in custody is in need as defined under s17 of the children Act 1989, the following arrangements will apply:

  • Where a child or young person has been receiving services under Part III of the Children Act 1989 immediately prior to entering custody, from the local authority in the area he was living, then as part of his responsibility for sentence and discharge planning, the youth Offending Team Worker for the area where the child was living should request relevant information from the local authority's social care services. This information may include for example, the results of any assessment. He or she will then need to discuss with the local authority in the area the child will be living as part of planning for discharge, what services the local authority will provide to the child on discharge;
  • Where a child has not been receiving services from the local authority immediately prior to entering custody, the local authority in the area the YOI is located will need to make a judgement about whether the child is likely to be a child in need on release and will therefore need services provided by the local authority in the area he will be living on discharge. Where this is so, then they should make a referral to the relevant YOT worker or local authority;
  • There may be occasions for example when a child with a disability or child with an unmet mental health need, requires an assessment under the Assessment Framework and services provided to meet these needs when in custody. This will be the responsibility of the Local Authority in the area the establishment is located.