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3.1.2 Commissioning and Placements Panel for Children and Young People Living Away from Home Terms of Reference

This chapter was added to this manual in December 2013.


  1. Purpose
  2. Principles
  3. Operational Remit of the Commissioning Panel
  4. Panel Composition
  5. Frequency of Meetings
  6. Unplanned Placements
  7. Presentation Protocol
  8. Budget
  9. Panel Administration
  10. Review

1. Purpose

To ratify decisions about placements and make decisions about the use of resources for children and young people living away from home who may require internal or external provision to meet educational, care or health needs, or a combination thereof. This includes foster care (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. (Agreement for placements can only be made by the Chief Children and Families Officer or Deputy Chief Children and Families Officer for the Children and Families Service.)

To make decisions about commissioning taxis on anything other than a one-off basis.

To make decisions about whether retainers can be made to reserve placements for particular children and young people although these requests should be seen as exceptional.  

The panel does not make casework decisions although clearly the allocation of resources does have an impact on casework.

The panel does not have a supervisory function although both inadequate and excellent practice will be brought to the attention of the appropriate Head of Service by the panel chair.

To ensure that holistic needs of children and young people are fully considered when making decisions about the use of resources.

To agree budget arrangements, placement costs, timescales and review dates, including financial provision from education and health as well as social care.

To monitor and review the needs of children and young people with complex needs to enhance the ability of local services to meet those needs. To review the panel decision at the discretion of the panel or at least annually.

To monitor unstable or disrupted placements and where a change of placement is required for the purposes of commissioning only.

2. Principles

Wherever possible, and appropriate, children and young people will be placed in local resources i.e. in resources managed by the Children and Families Service and / or located within the London Borough of Redbridge e.g. foster care.

Children and young people will only be placed in external resource when their needs cannot be safely or appropriately met from within local resources, or there are insufficient internal resources available.

All children should have access to some form of family life, either with their birth family or where this is not possible with an alternative family. Placements to the contrary will only be agreed in exceptional circumstances and plans must be put in place to address this deficit.

3. Operational Remit of the Commissioning Panel

To consider the cases of all children and young people who may need a care placement as soon as it is identified as a possibility including liaison with the panel responsible for placements in independent schools. (STREPP). 

The panel will operate within the guidance, policy and procedure of Redbridge Children and Families Service and partner agencies. It will make decisions in accordance with their statutory responsibilities and after having ascertained that those statutory responsibilities are being met e.g. reviews, statutory visits, placement plans, care plans, health assessments and Personal Education Plans (PEPs).  

The panel will only ratify a placement decision if evidence is presented that the needs of the child cannot be met by them living at home and receiving local services and using local resources and that there is a clear, coherent and current care plan agreed for that child / young person.

The panel will consider creative alternatives to external placements, where such provision has not already been explored and this may involve the allocation of further resources for which separate  agreement will be needed from the budget holder. 

The panel will also review a targeted selection of cases where it appears that it may be in a child or young person’s interest to return to a placement located within the borough. When identified, these cases will be called for presentation at the panel.

In every case, the panel will set a review date for the further consideration of the placement needs of the individual child / young person.

4. Panel Composition

The panel will consist of:

  • Head of Service (Chair);
  • Business Support Manager;
  • Commissioning and Placements Team Manager (Vice Chair);
  • Manager representing CWD / LDD services;
  • Manager representing Fostering service;
  • Manager representing  Independent Reviewing Officer;
  • Social Work Team Manager on a 4 weekly rotating basis;
  • Panel Administrator.

5. Frequency of Meetings

The panel meets every Tuesday morning. It may be possible to arrange specific timeslots by prior arrangement with the panel administrator.

The required paperwork must be sent electronically to the panel administrator a minimum of 3 working days before the date of the panel (i.e. by 4pm on the previous Friday).

6. Unplanned Placements

In exceptional circumstances a decision may need to be made about the placement of a child or young person before the circumstances can be presented to the panel. In these cases the placement will be considered at the next meeting of the panel retrospectively.

7. Presentation Protocol

Individual cases will be presented by the relevant team manager or in their absence the supervising senior social worker or senior social worker. It is important that they know the case sufficiently well to be able to present it in a concise manner. The social worker or case worker is welcome to attend but their attendance is not required.

The panel will consider the placement needs of all children and young people, regardless of the nature of the placement required, whether it is a new placement or a placement move.

Cases may be presented to the panel for information when there is a significant likelihood that they may require additional resources at some point in the future.        

The first time a case is presented the panel will require full completion of the referral form (Appendix One) with evidence clearly stated as to how the decision to request a placement was reached, the authorisation protocol followed and other resources explored. On subsequent occasions the placement review form (Appendix Two) should be completed.

The panel will require the referrer to have reviewed all relevant up to date inspection reports and references for proposed placements (i.e. OFSTED, etc) provided by Placements Team and, where appropriate visits, should be undertaken by the appropriate professional in advance of presentation to panel. These visits should not normally include the child, young person or their parents and great care should be taken with the presentation of this information, as no placement can be confirmed until ratified by the panel chair.

The panel may opt to delay decisions if insufficient information is available. They may also call upon additional expertise if it is required to assist in the decision making process.

The panel may decide to agree a placement request, decline it or defer pending the provision of further information and set a review date. The responsibility for that decision lies with the chair of the panel, having taken into account the views of panel members.

Parents, carers, children and young people will not be involved in the panel process. Should a disagreement arise out of the plans agreed by the panel, then it should be managed through existing routes - e.g. Care Planning and Reviewing, Complaints and Representations Processes.

8. Budget

The Panel will take into account the cost(s) likely to be incurred by each placement. It will seek to ensure that individual placements meet the needs of the child / young person and provide value for money.

The Panel will have regard to the possibility that placements may be jointly funded in respect of those elements that reflect the child’s education and / or health needs and negotiate those costs accordingly.

Each panel decision will be reflected in the appropriate budget projections.

9. Panel Administration

The panel will have its own administrator.

A record will be kept of the decisions made by the Panel. Those decisions will be recorded within a child / young person’s electronic record within three working days. 

10. Review

The panel will commission the production of an Annual Report providing information about the needs of children who have been presented over the previous year.

The panel chair will provide an annual report on panel activity which will presented to the Children and Families Service Management Team. The panel procedures and terms of reference will be reviewed on an annual basis. 

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