Looked After Children and Young People in Contact with Youth Justice Services
AMENDMENTThis chapter was updated in September 2020.
1. Looked After Children at Risk of Offending
Local Authorities should have strategies setting out how they will encourage positive behaviour amongst looked after children who may be at risk of offending. These strategies should include details of measures in place locally to divert young people from involvement with the Youth Justice System.
Where a Looked After child is thought to be at risk of offending (or reoffending), both the care plan / Pathway Plan and the placement plan should include details of the support that will be provided to prevent this. Such support could be provided by mainstream services. The Youth Offending Team (YOT) where the child is placed should also be contacted for advice on specific preventative services available to meet the child's identified needs.
The independent reviewing officer (IRO) should ensure that the Care Plan adequately addresses any risk of offending, and should challenge the placing authority where a young person's needs are not being adequately assessed.
2. Looked After Children who are Arrested
Whenever a Looked After child aged under 18 is arrested, the responsible Local Authority should ensure that the young person has the support of an appropriate adult and a solicitor while at the police station. The solicitor should have expertise in youth justice, and be provided with relevant information about the young person's circumstances and needs, including key information from the Care Plan (and Pathway Plan if they are an eligible child).
2.1 Safeguarding Children and Young People in Police Custody
YOTs have a statutory responsibility to ensure that an Appropriate Adult service is provided for children and young people.
Providing an Appropriate Adult for young people under 18 years at the Police Station:
For more information on Appropriate Adults, including their role in supporting children and young people, and who can fulfil this role please see Appropriate adults: Guide for Youth Justice Professionals.
2.2 Trafficked Children
Custody staff, YOT workers and Appropriate Adults should be alert to the needs of children whose alleged criminal activity may be related to their having being trafficked into the UK for exploitation. Where the child's history suggests they may have been trafficked into the UK, the local authority must establish whether a referral has been made under the national referral mechanism (NRM) and make such a referral where this has not been done.
2.3 Review of Care Plan
Whenever a young person is arrested, consideration should be given to reviewing his or her Care Plan to ensure that it contains measures to reduce the risk of (re)offending.
3. Looked After Children Who are Charged with an Offence
When a looked after child is charged with an offence, it is important they are not disadvantaged and refused bail because of their status as a Looked After child. Courts need to have confidence that the child will be supported to keep any conditions attached to their bail, and is living in a suitable placement which offers the right support. Local Authorities should provide bail support programmes and specialist placements (e.g. Remand Foster Care) to ensure there are viable alternatives to a child being remanded to Youth Detention Accommodation.
The local authority, working with the child's solicitor and the responsible YOT, should actively work towards securing bail for the child.
Whenever a looked after child is charged with an offence, the responsible authority must ensure that the child is legally represented by a solicitor. The solicitor should be provided with relevant information about the child's circumstances, needs and care plan. Continuing support must also be provided to the child by professionals and carers that the child already knows and trusts.
4. Young People Who Are Remanded
4.1 Young people who are refused bail and remanded to Local Authority Accommodation or Youth Detention Accommodation (YDA)
Children aged 10-17 who have been refused bail may be remanded to Local Authority Accommodation with or without conditions. Children aged 12-17 who are refused bail can also be remanded to Youth Detention Accommodation (subject to certain conditions being met). Even if the child was not previously Looked After, they will become a Looked After Child when remanded.
Local authority support to the child and their family during this time is important, and efforts should be made to ensure that time on remand does not disrupt existing ties between the child and their community. Care planning should consider the young person's needs both during the period of remand and following the court hearing. The Care Plan will also need to consider arrangements for the young person's support should they be convicted and receive a custodial sentence.
4.1.1 Safeguarding Children and Young People in Custody
When a child or young person is remanded, the child's social worker should request a copy of the complaints procedure for the establishment. Social workers should then familiarise themselves with the complaints process and check that the child has been provided with information about, and understands, the complaints process and also about their entitlement to advocacy.
Young people who are remanded should also be provided with information which is routinely provided for all children who become looked after. This could include for example:
- Contact details for their Social Worker, Independent Reviewing Officer and other sources of support (including out of hours);
- Contact details for the Children's Commissioner Advice Line (0800 528 0731 / firstname.lastname@example.org);
- Information on the local Children's Rights / Advocacy Service / Independent Visitors for Looked After Children.
If a remanded child complains to their social worker about any aspect of their care while remanded, this should be recorded on the child's electronic record and reported to a manager and the child's IRO. The most appropriate response will vary depending on the nature of the complaint, and the type of accommodation the young person is remanded to, but could include a referral to Children's Social Care and possible Section 47 Enquiry if the complaint concerns actual or likely significant harm.
If the complaint concerns an allegation against staff, the Swindon Safeguarding Partnership Procedures, Allegations Against Staff or Volunteers Procedure should be followed. Complaints in relation to services provided by a local authority should be dealt with under the Complaints and Representations Procedure.
If a social worker has serious concerns about the care being provided to a child who is remanded, they should report this to their manager.
4.1.2 Support to Families
Within forty eight hours of detention, Governors of YOIs must make arrangements to provide each young person's next of kin (or other appropriate person) with information about visiting, personal property, pastoral care and the sentence planning, review and resettlement arrangements.
Governors must also make arrangements to ensure that parents and professionals know how to contact the establishment if they have any concerns or complaints about a child's care.
4.2 Remand to Local Authority Accommodation
Where a child is remanded to local authority accommodation, the designated local authority is responsible for identifying a suitable placement. For as long as they remain looked after, these children are entitled to the same care planning and review processes as other looked after children.
In developing the care plan for children who become looked after solely as a result of being remanded, the local authority is not required to prepare a 'plan for permanence', as required by Regulation 5(a) of the Care Planning Regulations. This amendment to local authority care planning duties recognises that some children will only be looked after for the period they are remanded, which may be relatively short.
Nevertheless, consideration should still be given to what longer term support or accommodation the child will need following the remand episode. If children need to remain looked after once the period of remand has ceased, then the local authority must comply with all the requirements of the Care Planning Regulations.
4.3 Remand to Youth Detention Accommodation (YDA)
When a child or young person under 18 is remanded or sentenced to custody, the Youth Custody Service decides where they should be placed.
This comprises the following kinds of accommodation:
- A secure children's home;
- A secure training centre;
- A young offender institution.
A court can only order a Remand to Youth Detention where certain specified criteria are met:
- The child has reached the age of 12; and
- Either the child is legally represented before the court or legal representation has been withdrawn/refused; and
- Either the offence is a violent or sexual offence or an offence punishable in the case of an adult with imprisonment of 14 years or more; or
- The child has a recent history of absconding from remand/committing offences whilst on remand; and
- It is necessary to protect the public/prevent further offences.
4.4 Young People Remanded to Youth Detention Accommodation (YDA) who are not already Looked After
Where a child is not already looked after but becomes looked after as a result of being remanded to YDA, the local authority responsible for the child's care must be satisfied that the day to day arrangements for the child are of sufficient quality and offer an appropriate response to the child's individual needs.
The local authority is not required to prepare a Care Plan or a Placement Plan; instead, following an initial assessment of the child's needs, a Detention Placement Plan (DPP) should be prepared.
The DPP should describe how the YDA will meet the child's needs, and record the roles and responsibilities of the other partner organisations. The DPP should also take into account the circumstances that contributed to the child's alleged involvement in any offending and the support s/he should be offered when they return to the community to prevent (re)offending.
The designated authority will need to appoint an Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO), to keep the child's DPP under review in the same way as a care plan.
4.5 Young People Remanded to YDA who are already Looked After
A DPP must also be drawn up for children who are already Looked After and who are remanded to YDA. This will be based on the current Care or Pathway Plan. Where the young person is subject to a Care Order, or is a relevant child, the Care / Pathway Plan will continue once the remand ceases whether or not the child is sentenced to custody.
When a Looked After child is remanded, the IRO should be notified as soon as possible.
4.6 The Detention Placement Plan
The Looked After Review must focus on whether there are appropriate arrangements in place for responding to the child's needs whilst they are detained. The review of the DPP for looked after child, including children remanded to YDA, must be a child-centred process. Whilst there may be limitations in view of the secure environment, the IRO should consult the child about how they want their meeting to be managed.
The considerations that are likely to be most relevant will be:
- Whether there is a DPP in place describing how the child will be supported whilst they remain looked after as a result of being remanded;
- The quality of contact with the local authority:
- Arrangements for contact between the child and their family;
- Whether plans for the child have taken their wishes and feelings into account;
- That arrangements are in place to respond to the child's health and education and training needs;
- That the secure establishment takes into account any specific identity and cultural needs of the child; and
- Whether the child will continue to need support from children's services when the remand ceases and they may no longer be Looked After.
If the review uncovers concerns about where the child will be living or support available to them in the community, consideration may have to be given to whether the child should remain looked after once they are no longer on remand.
Looked After Reviews of children who are on remand should always consider the child's support needs when they cease to be looked after as a result of the remand ending.
Where children are remanded in YDA, staff in the secure establishment should enable the child to speak with their IRO in privacy, unless the child refuses, and arrange a suitable venue for the review to take place.
5. Looked After Young People Who Are Convicted
When a looked after child is convicted of an offence, the child's social worker should provide information to the YOT case manager who is responsible for completing the AssetPlus (the YJB assessment of risk factors for offending). The YOT case manager should also consult the child's social worker about the content and recommendations of the pre-sentence report (PSR). This will be used by the court to determine the appropriate disposal (e.g. custodial or community sentence), ensuring that mitigating factors arising from the child's life experiences are included and that welfare considerations are reflected in the proposed disposal.
The PSR should include explicit consideration of any safeguarding factors that would make the child particularly vulnerable if sentenced to custody. Copies of the AssetPlus, PSR and other reports completed by the YOT should be sent to the child's social worker and placed on the child's case record.
In cases where a custodial sentence is likely, the YOT worker and the child's social worker should work together to prepare the child and their family by explaining what will happen and how the child will be supported during and after their time in custody.
It is good practice for the child's social worker to attend court on the day of sentencing; if this is not possible, then the child must be accompanied by their foster carer or the Home's Registered Manager. This is to ensure that the young person is supported and that the child's best interests are effectively represented via their legal representative who may need to respond to specific and particular issues.
Prior agreement should be reached with the YOT case manager about how the responsible authority will be notified of the court's decision, including details about where the child will be detained if they are sentenced to custody. This notification should be made on the same day as sentencing and be followed up in writing.
Following sentence, the child's legal status as a looked after child may change (see Appendix 2: Changes to Care Status as a Result of Criminal Justice Decisions below).
6. Children who Receive a Community Sentence
When a child receives a community sentence, the child's social worker and YOT case manager should continue to work closely together, sharing information and clarifying their roles and responsibilities. If the child is subject to a Care Order or is an accommodated child s/he will remain a Looked After Child.
Children who were provided with accommodation under Section 21 following a remand to local authority care will cease to be looked after (unless the local authority has assessed that the child's needs are such that they should be accommodated under Section 20).
If the court imposes a Youth Rehabilitation Order, this can be accompanied by a Local Authority Residence Requirement. Such children are provided with accommodation under Section 21 and are therefore Looked After. The responsible local authority must be consulted before these requirements are imposed.
7. Responsibilities of the Local Authority to Looked After Young People in Custody
If the child receives a custodial sentence, the responsibilities of the local authority will depend on the child's care status:
- If the child is subject to a Care Order under Section 31 of the Children Act 1989, s/he remains looked after and there is no change to their legal status and the local authority continues to be responsible for planning and reviewing the care plan;
- If the child was an accommodated child, s/he will lose their looked after status whilst serving the custodial sentence as they are not being accommodated in a placement provided by the local authority. Children in these circumstances, will however, be entitled to consideration as a former looked after child in custody. Local Authorities have a duty to visit such children who have ceased to be looked after;
- If the child had not been previously looked after but became looked after as a result of being remanded to local authority accommodation or to YDA, s/he ceases to be looked after on being sentenced to custody. Where, however, the child is aged 16+ and has been looked after for thirteen weeks or more from the age of fourteen, including any period as a looked after child as a result of the child being remanded, then the child will be a 'relevant child' and should be supported by local authority children's services as a 'care leaver';
- If the young person is a 'relevant child' and is entitled to support and services as a care leaver, this status remains unchanged while in custody and the local authority that looked after the young person retains responsibility for providing support during their time in custody and on release. Some young people, including young people who become looked after as a result of being remanded, will acquire this status while they are in custody on attaining the age of 16: that is, those who have spent at least 13 weeks looked after since the age of 14 and were subject to a care order or who were accommodated or remanded to local authority accommodation immediately prior to entering custody on sentence (see Responsibilities of the Local Authority to Former Looked After Children and Young People in Custody Procedure).
The Youth Custody Service (YCS) Placement Service is responsible for identifying the youth detention accommodation where the young person will serve their sentence. The YOT case manager is invited to recommend the establishment that has been assessed as being most suitable. The responsible authority's social worker, and other staff involved with the child's care, should ensure that their assessment of the child's needs is taken into account to inform this critical decision, however, the final decision rests with the YCS. The YOT should inform the responsible authority where the child will be serving their sentence on the day it starts. The child's social worker must then aim to arrange to visit the child within five working days. The child's IRO must also be informed.
7.1 Information Sharing
Within 5 working days of the young person's sentence to custody, the social worker should provide the following information to the young person's YOT case manager and the designated case supervisor within the establishment:
- The child's care status, including their entitlement to support as a care leaver;
- Persons with Parental Responsibility;
- Name and contact details of the allocated social worker, their team manager and the IRO;
- Any immediate information necessary to ensure the child's safety or that of others;
- Information about the child's family/carers and contact arrangements;
- Information about the young person's needs that will enhance the establishment's ability to care for the young person;
- The date when the social worker or local authority representative will be visiting the child; and
- The date of any forthcoming review of the child's case.
7.2 Looked After Reviews
For children who remain looked after while in custody (i.e. children subject to care orders under Section 31 of the 1989 Act) the care planning and review process continues.
Placement in YDA is a significant change. If a review of the child's care plan is not already due to take place, then it is a requirement that one should be scheduled during the period the young person is in custody. The usual statutory timescales for review apply thereafter. Depending on the length of the child's detention, consideration should be given to undertaking a review within the last month before release to ensure the child's care/pathway plan can be updated to meet their needs on release, particularly their placement needs.
A person within the custodial establishment should be nominated to act as the link with the care planning process. This may be the child's case supervisor but it is good practice to give the child an element of choice wherever possible. This link person will be informed of the key elements of the child's care plan and, in turn, keep the child's social worker informed of the child's progress and events within the establishment.
The child's home YOT case manager should also be kept informed of changes to the child's care plan and other relevant information. Subject to the child's agreement, the YOT case manager and the nominated link person within the establishment should be involved in review meetings.
The Reviews must:
- Be a child-centred process and, within the limitations that will be apparent, take into account how the young person wants their review meeting to be managed;
- Ensure that the establishment is taking into account the young person's identity and cultural needs;
- Take the young person's wishes and feelings into account;
- Focus on whether the arrangements in place are appropriate for the young person's needs whilst they are detained;
- Look at the quality of contact with the local authority;
- Ensure that contact arrangements for the young person are appropriate;
- Ensure that there are arrangements responding to the young person's health, education and training needs;
- Consider whether Accommodation will be required when the Remand / Sentence period ceases.
7.3 Social Work Visits
The young person's allocated social worker must visit the young person within one week of being sentenced and detained.
Subsequent visits must take place at intervals of not more than 6 weeks for the first year; thereafter at intervals of not more than 3 months. Additional visits should take place if reasonably requested by the young person, the establishment or the YOT, or there are particular circumstances that require a visit (e.g. notification of under performance of placement provider/concerns about the safety or welfare of the young person).
In addition, where the child is serving their sentence in a SCH or STC, a visit should also take place if there has been a notification by the Ofsted Chief Inspector of the underperformance of a placement provider (under Section 30A of the Care Standards Act 2000 or under Section 47 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994) or, where the child is placed in a YOI, concerns about the welfare or safety of children are raised by HM Inspectorate of Prisons.
The purpose of the visits is to keep in touch with the child, assess their needs and maintain an up to date care plan. The youth detention establishment should facilitate the visit and allow the child to be seen in privacy (out of hearing of an officer), unless the child refuses. Representatives of the local authority will be afforded the status of professional visitor rather than the more limited access to the child that applies to social visitor.
7.4 Sentence Planning
Each child detained in a secure setting must have a sentence plan, supervised by the YOT case manager. Sentence planning is different from care or pathway planning, and is designed to plan the activities the child will engage in during their time in custody and, for sentenced children, on release into the community. It is aimed primarily at reducing the risk of (re)offending.
The child's social worker should always be invited to sentence planning meetings and their professional input will be integral to effective resettlement planning. It is good practice for the child's social worker to attend as many meetings as possible but, as a minimum, s/he should attend the first meeting and the release preparation meeting where the release plan is discussed. For longer sentences, or where there are particular difficulties, it will be appropriate to attend more often. If the social worker is not able to attend, the local authority responsible for the child's care must provide relevant information about the child's care or pathway plan to the YOT case manager prior to the meeting
(See also Section 7.8, Planning for Release).
7.5 Advice, Assistance and Support between Visits
Looked After young people in custody remain entitled to advice, assistance and support between visits.
The social worker should keep under review whether the child is safe and whether, in view of the authority's assessment of the child's needs, the safeguarding arrangements in the YDA are adequate; and whether the establishment has arrangements in place to respond appropriately to the child's needs and to promote their welfare:
Specific factors to take into consideration will be
- Is the young person safe?
- Is there a risk of self-harm?
- Does the young person need money, clothes, books or other practical support?
- Are education staff aware of and able to meet the young person's educational needs, including any special needs?
- Are the health unit and wing staff aware of, and able to meet, the young person's health needs?
- Are staff aware of, and able to meet, the young person's religious and cultural needs?
- Is the young person worried about anything? If so, what?
- What impact has the sentence had on family relationships? Does there need to be help with contact arrangements?
- What action is needed to provide for the child's placement on release?
- Are changes needed to the child's care plan/pathway plan?
This assessment should be informed by the views of the YOT case manager, staff in the YDA, including pastoral care, education and health staff, the child and their family.
It will also form the basis for an up to date care plan describing how the child's needs will be met in custody and who is responsible for each aspect of the plan.
This plan will rely on local authority officers responsible for the child's overall welfare – i.e. the child's social worker, their IRO and the authority's service manager for looked after children's services - being able to satisfy themselves that the arrangements in place within the secure establishment are appropriate in view of the child's individual needs.
Children and young people in custody can be particularly vulnerable. Where there are concerns that the young person is not being safeguarded or their welfare promoted (for example, relating to the quality of care the young person is receiving, the suitability of the type of placement or concerns around bullying, self harm, violence or intimidation), in the first instance it may be possible to resolve the concerns by agreement with the establishment itself.
Where issues cannot be resolved at establishment level, and if the responsible authority is of the view that the young person needs to be moved to another establishment, see Section 7.7, How to Request a Transfer or Placement Review.
The Local Authority should inform the establishment and Her Majesty's Prison and Probation Service Young People's Team that they have decided to take this course of action.
All custodial establishments have a 'Complaints Procedure' and social workers should ask about this at the point of the young person's admission.
The Youth Custody Service (YCS) carries out placement reviews to decide whether a transfer is required for a child or young person.
YOTs can ask for one if they are responsible for a child or young person and:
- Their circumstances change;
- There is a risk or issue with their current placement.
To request a transfer, the YOT should read the Placement Review Guidance and then:
- Convene a multi-disciplinary meeting to establish how risk can be managed or reduced;
- Complete the Placement Review Form (Refer to the Guidance and Tips document for support on completing this form);
- E-mail it to the Placement Review team at YCSTransfers@justice.gov.uk.
Other people can ask for a transfer but only the YOT and/or staff at the establishment where the child is placed should contact the YCS Placement Team.
The YCS Placement Team makes the final decision in the best interests of the child or young person after carefully considering all of the information available and opinions stated.
Children are vulnerable in the early days after release and need considerable help, both emotionally and practically, to:
- Readjust to living in open conditions;
- Meet the requirements for reporting and surveillance;
- Sort out finances;
- Settle into appropriate accommodation;
- Negotiate work or college;
- Re-establish relationships with family and friends; and
- Avoid situations where offending may occur.
The child's social worker and YOT case manager must work together to co-ordinate arrangements for the child's release and subsequent support in the community. The child will continue to have two separate plans: the local authority care plan, which may include a pathway plan (or for a child who became looked after solely as a result of remand, the DPP) and the YOT plan. These must be coordinated so the child is clear what will be happening and professionals from both children's and youth justice services understand their respective roles and responsibilities for supporting the child in future and for minimising the possibility of reoffending.
If the child is to continue being looked after, the responsible authority must provide an appropriate placement and financial support. The child's care/pathway plan should be updated.
The YOT is responsible for providing ongoing supervision and interventions targeted at preventing further offending. There will be potential areas of overlap, where arrangements may be made by either the YOT case manager or local authority social worker, such as education provision or health treatment. Negotiation should take place about which service is best placed to make these arrangements in each case. The local authority responsible for the child's care will ultimately have responsibility for ensuring all measures are in place to enable the child to be provided with appropriate services.
Where a review of the young person's case chaired by the IRO has not already occurred, the social worker in conjunction with the IRO must arrange for a review prior to the young person's release from custody. The timing might be scheduled so that it is co-ordinated with the release preparation meeting.
As soon as possible, and at least by the time of the final sentence planning meeting 10 working days before release, the young person must be told the content of both the Care Plan and the Notice of Supervision or Licence so that they are aware of:
- Who is collecting them;
- Where s/he will be living;
- The reporting arrangements;
- Sources of support - including out of hours;
- The arrangements for education or employment;
- Arrangements for meeting continuing health needs;
- How and when s/he will receive financial support;
- When s/he will be seeing their social worker; and
- The roles and responsibilities of the respective practitioners.
7.9 Support in the Community
Looked after children, under sentence, returning to the community will continue to be supervised by the YOT case manager. Children sentenced to Detention and Training Orders serve the second half of the term in the community. Those on other types of sentence will also be subject to supervision. The responsible authority must maintain contact with children in care during the crucial period following their discharge from custody.
The child's social worker and YOT case manager should keep each other informed of significant events, including any changes in service delivery or plans. It is good practice to have some joint meetings involving the child, YOT case manager and social worker, so information is shared and the child receives an integrated service.
The YOT should consult the local authority over enforcement issues, particularly if there is a possibility of the child being breached for failing to comply with their supervision requirements. Where the child is having difficulty in complying with their Notice of Supervision or Licence conditions, the responsible authority should work with the YOT to put additional support in place. For example, it might be arranged for a residential care worker to take the child to appointments at the YOT or for a foster carer to text the child as a reminder.
Appendix 1: Overview of the Care Planning, Placement and Review Process Flowchart
See Annex 2: Overview of the Care Planning, Placement and Review Process Flowchart of the Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations - Volume 2: Care Planning, Placement and Case Review.
Appendix 2: Changes to Care Status as a Result of Criminal Justice Decisions
See Annex 8: Changes to Care Status as a Result of Criminal Justice Decisions of the Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations - Volume 2: Care Planning, Placement and Case Review.