Looked after children

1. Looked after children

It is not always possible for parents to meet the needs of their child and we sometimes have to arrange for children and young people to live away from their birth family. 

To help us decide what kind of care your child needs, we will carry out an assessment, which will include your views and those of your child if they are able to understand. These are some of the ways children come into care;

  • A voluntary arrangement between the parents and the local authority, known as being 'accommodated'
  • Coming into police protection
  • Being subject to a court order, such as an Emergency Protection Order, a Care Order or being remanded in criminal proceedings

Children can be looked after by:

  • Living with friends or relatives (kinship care), with our agreement
  • Living with foster carers
  • Living in a children's home
  • Living in a boarding school (though not all children in boarding school are looked after by us)
  • Living at home while on care orders made by the courts.

Short breaks

We sometimes provide children with a series of short breaks away from their homes (also known as respite). This does not mean your child is looked after unless these breaks add up to more than 75 overnight breaks in any year and you agree that your child should become looked after (accommodated).


Tel: 01296 383962

Email: cypfirstresponse@buckscc.gov.uk or secure-cypfirstresponse@buckscc.gcsx.gov.uk

2. Children's advocacy and independent visitors

National youth advocacy service (NYAS) - Who are we?

A national children’s rights charity. With over 25 years’ experience of providing advocacy and other services for children and young people.

Our mission statement :
"To enable children and young people to have a voice by providing independent and confidential advice, information and advocacy services"

Our core values

  • NYAS believes children and young people have an intrinsic worth irrespective of race, language, religion, disability, gender or sexuality
  • Children and young people have the right to be seen, heard and listened to and for their wishes and feelings to be given due weight
  • Children and young people should be given opportunities to be heard in judicial and administrative processes concerning them

From April 2009, NYAS has been providing an Advocacy service in the county for children and young people who are:

  • in care (up to age 18)
  • eligible care leavers (up to the age of 21)
  • taking part in Family Group Conferences

What is advocacy?

Advocacy is the process of one person helping another to represent their views and to speak “as if.” An advocate enables the young person either to say what they want to say themselves or represent the issues and views on behalf of the young person, after ensuring that they have been fully briefed and understand the issues. (ie their rights and responsibilities)

Advocacy what it is NOT

  • A long term supportive, “mentoring” relationship
  • Led by notions of what is “best” for the young person
  • A decision-making role


A Confidential Service - We offer a confidential service to young people. We will only share information with others if we have the young person’s permission. Child protection concerns are always shared within recognised policy and procedure.

Wishes and Feelings - We work on the wishes and feelings of the young person, not a "best interests" approach.

Issue Based Advocacy - Dealing with a specific request or issue for a young person.

Child-led Approach

A Pragmatic Approach - We are honest and realistic with young people as to what can be achieved by advocacy intervention.

Local Resolution - We will always try to resolve issues on an informal level using negotiation and mediation skills with the immediate people/professionals involved.

Supporting Formal Complaints - If negotiation/mediation is not successful we can support the young person to submit a complaint and help them understand the process.

Advocacy – What you should expect

Compliance with National Standards

NYAS was one of the leading agencies in developing the framework for National Standards for the Provision of Children’s Advocacy Services, published by the Department of Health in 2002.

Independent Visitors

  • Someone who visits regularly – once a month
  • A long term befriender: a minimum of 2 years
  • Independent from social care
  • Someone who creates and shares new experiences – and has fun!
  • Lay people/Volunteers
  • Recruited, trained and supported by the local project following Safer Recruitment guidelines
  • They befriend, support, advise, encourage, and offer friendship on a 1-1 basis
  • Spend time JUST with the child or young person
  • Focus only on the child or young person’s needs

What NYAS offers:

NYAS Freephone Helpline for young people. Monday - Friday 8am - 8pm and Saturday, 9am – 4pm.

Access to NYAS Legal Services for young people and their advocates through the Helpline.

Access to a range of advocates across the country.

Information to the local authority regarding: issues facing young people (emerging themes) and outcomes of interventions.

Making a referral for advocacy

  • Gain the consent of the young person to make a referral
  • Referrals can be made by anybody: e.g. young people, professionals, foster carers, RSW's etc.
  • Criteria for access to service needs to be met: looked after, care leaver, etc.
  • Referrals should be made to the NYAS Helpline
  • We aim to allocate referrals to advocates within 24 hours
  • Information shared with us is likely to be shared with the young person

Making a referral for an independent visitor

  • Criteria for access to service needs to be met: ie the young person is looked after
  • Gain the consent of the young person to make a referral
  • Initial referrals to the NYAS Helpline can be made by anybody, but the young person’s social worker will have to make the formal (form-based) referral
  • Following the initial referral to the Helpline, the Helpline Advisor will contact the local IV Co-ordinator
  • The IV Co-ordinator will then send the referral pack to the young person’s social worker for completion
  • The social worker should then complete the pack and return it to the local IV Co-ordinator.
  • The Co-ordinator will then work to “match” the young person to an IV.

ALL Referrals go through the NYAS helpline - 0800 616101

Helpline staff will speak with the young person or professional and record the issue. They will then:

  • in the case of an advocacy referral, contact the local Project Manager who will allocate an advocate as soon as possible
  • in the case of an IV referral, contact the local Co-ordinator who will send out the referral pack to the young person’s social worker

Where are we based in Buckinghamshire?

The Coach House
39 Walton Road
HP21 7SR
Tel: 01296 432540
Fax: 01296 436147

Project Staff Team:
Ruth Gaisford - Independent Visitor Coordinator
Debra Appleby - Project Administrator/PA
Janet Galsworthy - Advocacy Coordinator

3. Education and health

Unless other arrangements have been made, eg for individual tuition, your child will go to school in the normal way. Wherever possible, they will continue to attend the school they were going to before moving away. If this is not possible we will talk to education officers to find the best school available.

As well as a Care Plan we will also create a Personal Education Plan which will identify your child's educational needs and how they should be met. This plan will be reviewed in line with the review of the Care Plan.

You will also be asked for information about your child's health and for consent to a health assessment. The health assessment process and the purpose will be discussed with you and your child where appropriate. Each looked after child will have a Personal Health Plan prepared with, and for them, to ensure their needs are met. When signing Part 1 of the Placement Plan you will also be asked to sign your agreement to your child receiving certain medical treatments.

4. When you leave care

If you are 18 years old and about to leave foster care or a children’s home, you may be eligible for leaving care services.  You will be eligible if;

  • You have been in care for 13 weeks from the age of 14 and are still in care aged 16-17
  • You may have left care and are aged 16 or 17
  • If you are aged over 21 years and you enroll on a higher education course you may be eligible for leaving care support up to the age of 24

It is important to talk to your Personal Advisor about the allowances that may be available to you and what your responsibilities are when receiving them.

View our detailed guide on leaving care

Visit www.kidsincare.org.uk created by We Do Care in collaboration with care leavers.

When you leave care

When you first leave foster care or a children's home, dependent on your needs, you will be given an allowance based on current benefit rates until you are able to claim benefits from the Department of Work & Pensions or gain employment.

When you are 16 and 17

We will provide you with money to cover your basic needs, ie funding for accommodation, weekly allowance (for food, phone credit, toiletries etc) clothing allowance, as well as birthday and Christmas/festivals gifts.

Dependent on your circumstances you may also be entitled to help with:

  • Education/training or employment costs
  • Health and counselling needs
  • Leisure activities
  • Important documents ie birth certificate, passport
  • Contact with family and other important adults in your life
  • Incentive payments

When you are 18

If, at the age of 18, you still require financial assistance you are entitled to claim benefits. Your personal adviser will assist you to claim benefits and support you while your claim is being processed.

Contact information

The Aftercare Team 

Email: aftercareteam@buckscc.gov.uk

5. Leisure and positive activity card in Buckinghamshire

The leisure and positive activity card is for 6-17 years old children and young people in care and those in receipt of aftercare services. This is a pre-paid, top-up card which can be used to buy leisure or activities that are part of this scheme, like:

  • Sports courses
  • Swimming
  • Bowling
  • Leisure centres
  • Dance and drama classes
  • And many more activities

This is how your card will look:

Card front  Card back

How do you get one?

You don't need to do anything to enrol in this scheme! You will automatically be offered this card from the information you have already given to Buckinghamshire County Council. If you don’t want to take part, speak to your Social Worker or Personal Advisor and they will opt out of the scheme on your behalf.

The card will have your name on it, which Buckinghamshire County Council will have provided to Wirecard along with a unique reference number. The card will look like just like a normal debit card with a chip and pin.

At the start of each month £15 (depending on the money available from the government) will automatically be put onto the card. At the end of each month any money you haven’t spent will be carried over into the next month, however you need to spend all the money on the card by the end of 31st March 2011 after which the money will return to the Council.

The leisure / positive activity card will help young people and carers by:

  • encouraging Children &Young People to take part in more positive activities
  • providing funds for young people to take part in activities they cannot currently afford
  • providing a safe way to carry money using the Chip and PIN card
  • controlling where the money is spent
  • encouraging young people to take up new activities and interests
  • improving young people’s health and social skills
  • providing greater equality
  • teaching money management skills

If you would like further information please see our frequently asked questions, or email us at leisurecards@buckscc.gov.uk

6. Common questions

£15 per month (10 times a year); if it is not spent it can carry over to pay for bigger activities for next month, but any unspent subsidy will return to the council at the end of the 12 month period.

On a fixed date every month, around 20th no uploads in January and September.

Can the money be carried over?

Carried over up to 12 months, or £150 balance, all un-used will expire after that period.

Children and young people can only spend what is on the card. If the funds are not in the cardholders account, the transaction is declined.

Wirecard will send new cards to the Project Manager in the Children's Commissioning Team. This will be entered in register by support staff, then handed over to senior business support staff/social workers to distribute the card to children and young people and obtain signature, explain terms and conditions etc.

The card can be used to make payments in the same way as other bank cards but has some restrictions. A unique number identifies each business type; this is called a Merchant Category Code. It can be used at merchants who are leisure or positive activity providers, if a young person goes to an unapproved provider or a shop, their payment will be declined.

The card can be used to pay for bowling, leisure centres and other activity providers that want to be part of the scheme. A full list of providers will be issued with the card.

Age group of children eligible to receive leisure Card?

Children and young people 6-17 who are in care will receive this card. The card will cease functioning on 18th birthday. Children with disabilities who are unable to use this card will be offered alternate leisure options.

The card will be provided by Wirecard VISA International Incorporated and affiliates. They are authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority.

A standard set of information for users and professionals has been produced by the Children's Commissioning team. Any query for lost card or forgotten PIN will be provided by Business support officer of this team. All other day to day queries will be dealt by Children and young people Social workers. Balance enquiry is via website or calling Wirecard direct. Please see the set of information provided with your card.

What happens if the child loses the card?

They will be re-issued with a new card. Lost card cost will be deducted from Top-up fee (£3 for first re-issue and £5 there after). No charge for forgotten Pin or PIN reset.

Will foster carers have a reduction in their maintenance allowance because there is an element to pay for activities i.e. scouts?

This card will not change any existing systems. This card is aimed at improving access to leisure and positive activities for Children and young people.

Data information

All information held and processed will be in accordance with the relevant Data Protection legislation.

7. Long term planning

We must make plans for all children to ensure they continue to live with carers who can meet their need for a permanent family. Planning for your child's care, in most cases, includes planning their return home. We will be working with you to assess whether your child can return home to you or a member of your extended family. If there is any doubt about the final outcome of these assessments, we have to make contingency plans. These plans must take effect from quite an early stage as children's prospects can be seriously damaged if there is too much delay in helping them to live with permanent carers. Parallel planning is one of the ways this can be done. This provides for two sets of plans to run side by side. One plan is for the child's return home and, in case that is not possible, there is a second plan for your child to be placed with an alternative permanent family.

You will be encouraged to participate in the process of planning for your child. This includes being informed and consulted about an alternative plan which could lead to the placement of your child with another permanent family. This could include placement for adoption. It does not mean that a decision has already been made about what will be in your child's best interests but ensures that, when a decision is made, there is no delay in placing your child with a family who can meet their needs.

We acknowledge that it is difficult for you to consider other plans when most of your focus is on your child's possible return home, but it is important for us all to consider what will be the best for your child. You are entitled to be given information and the chance to talk with a support worker, who is not your child's social worker, about what adoption might mean for you and your child, either now, and/or at a later date if this becomes the plan for your child.

8. Records

We must keep information about all children who are looked after. In Buckinghamshire we use the nationally approved system of record keeping called Looked after children: good parenting, good outcomes. You will be involved in completing many of these records and we will give you a copy of them. The sort of records we must keep include:

Essential information records

These records contain information about your child, eg date of birth, vaccinations, illnesses and school they attend. We will ask for your help in completing these records.

Placement plans

These include a full description of what you tell us about:

  • Your child's needs;
  • Their routines;
  • Their likes and dislikes;
  • Confirmation from the carers we have chosen to look after your child that they can provide continuous care for them for the time agreed; and
  • Your consent to relevant medical treatment.

Care plans

Care plans contain descriptions of your child's needs and how these needs will be met while they are living away from home. You will be asked to sign the Care plan to show it has been discussed with you and whether or not you agree.

Reviews - consultation leaflet

We review care plans regularly to make sure that they are kept up to date. When it is time for your child's plan to be reviewed, we will give you (and the other people involved in the care of your child) a review consultation leaflet. We will ask you to fill in the parts of the leaflet that ask for comments, views and ideas about your child's care arrangements. We will then arrange a review meeting, chaired by an independent reviewing officer, and invite you and the other people to be there. This is so that everyone concerned can discuss each Care plan and make any necessary changes.

There may very occasionally be some reason why it is felt appropriate for you to not be invited to the review. If this happens you will be told the reasons. If you are not invited to a review or are otherwise unable to attend, you will be given the opportunity to make a contribution, in writing or verbally, through your child's social worker.

Assessment and action records

These booklets contain questions that ensure those responsible for your child's care consider all the important things in your child's life. These include health, education, emotional and behavioural development, social presentation, self-care skills, family and social relationships and identity. When completed, the booklet forms a record to show what has been done and what still needs to be done and by whom. This information is fed into the review.

Pathway plans

Where the Care plan is for an older child not to return home to live, a Pathway plan is produced with them before they are 16. This plan lays out the nature and level of support they will need as they move toward independent living. It will be reviewed regularly.

9. Residential care services directory

The Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI) regulates residential care provision relating to both adults and children through a process of registration and inspection.

The registration and inspection process measures the performance of social care providers against a set of national minimum standards determined by the government.

Commission for Social Care Inspection


Cambridge House
8 Bell Business Park
Smeaton Close
HP19 8JR


10. Responsibilities

If we have arranged for your child to be looked after we have a legal responsibility to make sure they are well cared for and safe.

This means that we must:

  • Ensure that the services and accommodation we provide complies with national standards
  • Make sure that we have checked and approved the carers
  • Work out what your child needs so we can meet these needs while they are away from home
  • Draw up written Care Plans which describe each of your child's needs and set out exactly how and when these needs will be met
  • Give you and your child (if they are old enough) a copy of their Care Plan
  • Consider the long term future of your child
  • Review your child's Care Plans on a regular basis

Shared responsibilities

If we have arranged for your child to be looked after, you will be involved in planning with us for the time they spend away from home. You will still be responsible for your child but we will share this responsibility with you.

We will be responsible for making sure your child is safe and well cared for. You will be responsible for helping us to make the experience of living away from home as easy and pleasant as possible. You can help us do this by giving us the information we need about your child's life, eg their friends and interests, to make sure your child's routine is not disrupted.

We will:

  • Help you and your child to stay in contact with each other
  • Check on your child's progress regularly to make sure that they are well cared for and are safe at all times
  • Tell you about any illnesses or accidents they have and any other major incidents involving them
  • Consult you on any major decisions concerning your child
  • Make sure you, your child and other people involved in their life, eg their teachers, health visitors and doctors etc, are clear about what their responsibilities are and who is responsible for making arrangements, according to the timetable in the Care Plan.

We cannot make decisions about your child without talking to you first. We have no power to keep your child away from home any longer than you have agreed to, unless there are legal reasons for doing so (ie if there is a court order).

If your child is accommodated by us and there is no court order, you have the right to ask that your child is returned to you at any time. We will arrange for this to happen, unless we have serious concerns about your child's welfare.

Your social worker's responsibilities

  • Putting the well-being of your child before anything else;
  • Making sure that you are fully involved in planning for the care and development of your child;
  • Making sure that you, your child, your child's carers and everyone involved in planning for your child can keep in contact with each other (although in some cases, contact may be restricted by a court order);
  • Ensuring that your child is well cared for and safe
  • Helping you with advice about your benefits and telling the Benefits Agency when your child is being looked after by us, unless you want to do this yourself.

Please do not hesitate to contact your social worker if you need more information, and they will be pleased to help you.

11. Independent Reviewing Officers

Your Independent Reviewing Officer is responsible for making sure families and children can share their views about care arrangements for children living away from home. They chair a meeting called a review that helps everyone share views about this care and future support.

A review takes place a soon as possible when a child first comes into care and then after three months. From then on reviews have to happen at least every six months but the child or their family can always ask for a review earlier. They can talk to the Independent Reviewing Officer about why they think a review should be held early.

The Review discusses things like:

  • School
  • health
  • friendships
  • Seeing family
  • How the child is getting on in your placement

Both the Social Worker and the Independent Reviewing Officer should talk to the child before the review and help them say how they feel about their care.

To help people think about what they want to say or ask they will be given a consultation form to complete.

The Independent Reviewing Officer will decide how best to share these views at the review.

After the review the Independent Reviewing Officer will write down the decisions so that everyone knows and understands what has been decided.

They will send a copy of these decisions soon after the review takes place. The Independent Reviewing Officer can be contacted if there is anything anyone wants to say about what has been decided.

The Independent Reviewing Officer continues to monitor the care arrangements for the child between reviews.

A child and their family should always know who the Independent Reviewing Officer is and they can be contacted between reviews if needed.

Independent Reviewing Officers Annual Report 2015 to 2016

This IRO Reviewing Officers Annual Report gives an overview of the work of Independent Reviewing Officers (IROs) in Buckinghamshire in 2015-16. IROs have statutory duties under the Children Act 1989, Section 25B (1) and in statutory guidance. It is their job to ensure that the care plan for the child fully reflects the child’s current needs and that the actions set out in the plan are congruent with the local authorities’ legal responsibilities towards the child.