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3.1.4 Commissioning and Placements Panel

This chapter was added to this manual in December 2013.


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. What Needs to Happen Before Cases Are Presented to the Panel?
  3. Who Are the Panel?
  4. What Are the Criteria for Presenting Chldren’s Cases to the Panel?
  5. Presentation to the Panel
  6. Documentation
  7. Arrangements for Panel Meetings
  8. Links to Legal Proceedings
  9. Views of Children / Young People / Parents
  10. How Will Decisions Made by the Panel be Recorded and Reported?
  11. What If Professionals Disagree with a Decision Made by the Commissioning Panel?
  12. Why Do We Need a Panel if the Assessments Have Been Made by Suitably Qualified Staff?
  13. Will the Panel Cause Delay in Decision Making for Children and Young People?
  14. Is the Panel Designed to Save Money?


1. Introduction

The Commissioning and Placements Panel will ratify all placements for children looked after and care leavers in London Borough of Redbridge Children and Families Service. In doing so, the panel will consider individual Care Plans and Pathway Plans to ensure that they focus clearly on the needs of children and young people, and that the educational, health and other needs of these children are being addressed appropriately. The panel will ensure that action is being taken to draw up permanency plans for children where required. The panel will be responsible for the allocation of placement budgets, highlighting the need for financial contributions from education, health and adults holding parental responsibility as appropriate. This will ensure that plan for children and young people, placement decisions and resource allocation are brought together in one forum.

The Panel will also consider requests to commission taxis on anything other than a one-off basis. This relates to the provision of taxis for all children and young people not just for children looked after and care leavers.

The panel does not make casework decisions and not does perform a supervisory function although both excellent and inadequate practice will be brought to the attention of the relevant Head of Service by the panel chair.       


2. What Needs to Happen Before Cases Are Presented to the Panel?

Before cases are presented to the panel there is an expectation that social work teams will have sought to identify alternatives to a care placement wherever possible. This will include creative problem solving, discussions with family members, negotiations with partner agencies / organisations who may be able to help and consideration of alternative methods of supporting the child and his / her family. Evidence of this work will be required in order for the panel to reach a decision.


3. Who Are the Panel?

The panel will consist of:

  • Head of Service  Chair;
  • Business Support Manager (Children Looked After Away from Home ) (CLAFH);
  • Commissioning and Placements Team Manager  (Vice Chair);
  • Observers or those on an induction are welcome, please make requests to the Head of Service, CLAFH.


4. What Are the Criteria for Presenting Children’s Cases to the Panel?

All requests for placements will need to be presented to the panel. This includes foster care, in-house and P & V (respite, short and long term), placements with connected persons, residential children’s homes, supported lodgings, mother and baby placements, semi - independent provision, placements for children and young people with disabilities, specialist provision and all other settings. Requests should be presented to panel before a placement is made unless a child or young person has been placed in an emergency in which case representation should be made to the next panel meeting retrospectively. If a child or young person needs to move from an existing placement or if their placement disrupts, their case will always need to be  re-presented to the Panel. If the placement move was made in an emergency then the arrangement will need to be re-presented to the next panel meeting retrospectively.

Requests to pay retainers to keep placements open, for example when a child returns to the care of their parents for a trial period and there is an assessed need to keep the placement open, must also be presented to panel for agreement. Requests of this nature should be exceptional and will only be agreed for a short period of time typically a maximum of a one week period. If a retainer has to be agreed in an emergency then the arrangement must be presented to the next panel meeting retrospectively.

Early warning / concern a placement may be required - When it becomes apparent that a child or young person’s needs cannot be met by his or her family or a more specialist provision is required it should be discussed with the relevant line manager. Early identification can help to identify creative alternative solutions to meet children’s needs.

All care placements - Permission must be sought from the Chief Children and Families Officer or DEPUTY Chief Children and Families Officer of the Children and Families Service before any child becomes looked after whether the placement is a planned one or being made in an emergency. This includes placing a child with a connected  family or friend. The Placements Team can not identify a placement before this permission is received. The request will go to the Chief Children and Families Officer or Deputy Chief Children and Families Officer of the Children and Families Service via the appropriate Head of Service. 

Placement reviews - Every decision made by the Panel will be subject to review on a date set by the Panel. The frequency of reviews will vary and will be subject to the nature of the case and the needs of the child or young person. The Panel may also ask for a case to be represented to panel for additional information to be considered to in order to better inform subsequent decision making.    

The panel will review the commissioning arrangement for all placements at the end of each financial year to ensure that they are meeting the needs of children and young people in an effective and efficient way and to project the placement costs into the next financial year. In these cases the appropriate manager may be asked to provide additional specific information to the panel to support informed decision making.  


5. Presentation to the Panel

Who presents cases to the panel?

Cases need to be presented by the appropriate team manager or in their absence a supervising senior practitioner or senior practitioner. Social workers or case workers may also attend with their manager if required by their team manager, supervising senior practitioner or senior practitioner to do so. 

Managers presenting to the panel need to be satisfied that the placement request is reasonable, meets the panel criteria and that all practical alternatives have been investigated and found to be unsuitable. If the placement was made in an emergency then the team manager is responsible for ensuring that the relevant permission has been sought via the Head of Service from the Chief Children and Families Officer or Deputy Manager Director.  


6. Documentation

What documents will the panel require?

There are three panel forms as follows:

  • Commissioning Panel referral form (Appendix One);
  • Commissioning Panel Update form (Appendix Two);
  • Commissioning Panel Taxi request form (Appendix Three).

Team Managers are responsible for quality assuring all papers presented to panel and if insufficient or unclear information is received the panel may defer the matter until any such issues are resolved.


7. Arrangements for Panel Meetings   

When does the panel meet?

The Panel meets from 9.30 am every Tuesday morning. The required paperwork must be sent electronically to the panel administrator by the team responsible for the child or young person by 4pm on the Friday before the date of the panel. 

If a social worker / case worker has been advised that a child or young person is to be considered by the panel OR a child has become looked after in the period between panels OR a placement move has been arranged in the period since the previous panel OR it is planned that a child is to become looked after, then the social / case worker for the child and / or their manager should contact the panel administrator by the Friday before the date of the panel meeting to confirm attendance and the provision of the relevant documentation. The Panel administrator will send out a timed agenda or the panel no later than the day before the panel takes place.  It may be possible to request particular time slots by prior arrangement.


8. Links to Legal Proceedings 

In some circumstances courts are empowered to order Local Authorities to place children and young people in specific placements or resources. These are unusual and infrequent, often resulting from a difference of opinion between the Local Authority / Guardian and or Judge / Magistrates. Every effort should be made to avoid these circumstances through negotiation and attempts to resolve the conflict. Where this is not possible it is important that Service Managers and the Head of Service are kept fully informed.  

When there is a strong possibility of a placement being ordered by a court, consideration should be given to presenting the case to the commission panel. This will provide the opportunity for early discussion and the exploration of alternatives that may be able to better meet the child or young person's needs. In all cases when a child or young person is placed in a placement as the result of a court order, the case should be retrospectively presented to the panel. Whenever placements are ordered by the courts, all efforts must be made to maximise the contributions to the cost of the placement from the other parties (e.g. Adults with parental responsibility parents and through legal aid).


9. Views of Children / Young People / Parents

How should children and parents be involved in the panel process?

The panel will not make decisions about placements in the absence of information about the wishes and feelings of children young people and their parents / carers. These should be gathered in the normal way via the care planning process and included in the information presented to panel. Should a child wish to make a request to the panel, this should be done through their social worker or children’s advocate.

The panel is an internal children’s services business process designed to assist in managing and administering the placement and taxi requests and finite budgets in a fair and equitable way. Consequently parents and children will not be invited to attend or make specific representations. In the event of disagreement about a decision this will need to be managed through the existing routes e.g. Care Planning and Review and the Complaints and Representations Processes.


10. How Will Decisions Made by the Panel be Recorded and Reported?

The panel will make decisions and note any actions required during panel meetings. A short summary of any decision and actions required will be uploaded onto Protocol within three working days. The decision should be conveyed to the child and their family by the social worker / caseworker or manager as appropriate.


11. What If Professionals Disagree with a Decision Made by the Commissioning Panel?

Any disagreements should be considered and discussed in supervision between the social worker and their supervisor. They can then make representations to the chair of the panel who will consider the reasons as they would do in any other area of potential professional disagreement.


12. Why Do We Need a Panel if the Assessments Have Been Made by Suitably Qualified Staff?

The panel is designed to be an additional safeguard to ensure that the best decisions are made for children and young people care settings. Placing a child or young person away from their home is a major and potentially life changing event, consequently it is appropriate to have an enhanced level of scrutiny. The panel also discusses the most effective use of the finite resources available to the Children and Families Service and partner organisations.


13. Will the Panel Cause Delay in Decision Making for Children and Young People?

NO. If in exceptional circumstances a child or young person cannot wait for a placement until the next panel meeting a decision can be taken outside the panel process. It is important to remember that placements can only proceed with the written authorisation from the Chief Children and Families Officer or Deputy Managing. The placement must then be presented to the next commissioning panel retrospectively.    

The panel may also help to speed up progress in some cases as it will reduce the need to attend multiple panels.

The procedure for presenting a case to the Commissioning and Placements Panel link with but do not replace the statutory obligations to review the child’s or young person’s care plan through the Child Looked After Reviewing Process. These obligations are clearly set out in The Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations - Volume 2: Care Planning, Placement and Case Review.


14. Is the Panel Designed to Save Money?

The overriding purpose of the panel is to improve services for children and young people whilst making the best use of finite resources. There is extensive research available that demonstrates that children and young people placed away for their family and community often suffer poorer outcomes than children placed locally. The research shows that children in care often fail to achieve good educational and health outcomes and are significantly more likely to experience abuse when placed externally. Many external providers claim to ensure better outcomes for children and young people, part of the role of the panel will be to test these claims.

The panel operates in a transparent manner and welcomes observers by agreement with the chair.

This document will be reviewed on an annual basis. Date of this review 09.09.2011

This document should be read in conjunction with:

  • Contributions and Charges Policy;
  • The Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations - Volume 2: Care Planning, Placement and Case Review www.education.gov.uk.

End