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5.9.4 Guidance and Procedure for the Deregulation of Eligible Children


  1. Aim
  2. Context
  3. Procedure
  4. Agreement

1. Aim

To ensure that the needs, wishes and feelings of children aged 16 and 17 years looked after under Sect 20 of the Children Act 1989 but no longer accommodated in Brighton and Hove care placements are compatible with the powers and duties to Eligible and Relevant Children under the Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000.

2. Context

Most young people are looked after by their families until they are willing and ready to leave home. Most families continue to support their children until they are at least 18 and in many cases beyond. The average age for leaving home in the UK is 23 years and rising.

However in 1993, 33% of the total of looked after children in England and Wales left care at 16 and 17 years and by 1998 this figure had increased to 46% of the total.

The Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000 set out to redress this imbalance. Its purpose is to improve the life chances of young people living in and leaving local authority care by giving them the opportunities and encouragement to fulfil their potential and to ensure that they have the same aspirations as other children. This aim will be achieved by:

  • Delaying young peoples discharge from care until they are prepared and ready to leave
  • Improving the assessment, preparation and planning for leaving care
  • Providing better personal support for young people after leaving care
  • To improve the financial arrangements for care leavers

To meet its main purpose and aims the 2000 Act amends the leaving care provisions contained in Section 24 of the Children Act 1989. The 1989 Act however and its underlying principles continue to provide the overall legal framework and all of the new powers and duties are carried out with regard to the general child care principles on which the Children Act is based.

The Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000 applies to all children and young people aged 16 and over who have been looked after by a local authority for at least 13 weeks after they reached the age of 14. Those 13 weeks can be continuous or made up of separate episodes of care, excluding short-term placements made by way of respite care and must include a period of time after reaching the age of 16. The new duties apply whether they are subject of a Care Order (Sect 31) or accommodated by a local authority under Sect 20 of the Children Act.

The Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000 created new definitions of children who would be affected by the new legislation:

  • Eligible Children are children aged 16 and 17 who have been looked after for at least 13 weeks since the age of 14 and who are still looked after.
  • Relevant Children are children aged 16and 17 who have been looked after for at least 13 weeks since the age of 14 and have been looked after at some time while 16 or 17 and who have left care.
  • Former Relevant Children are young people aged 18 – 21 years who have been Eligible or Relevant Children or both. This is extended to 24 years if the young person is in further or higher education or on training.

Duties under the Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000 require the local authority to provide the following:

  • Eligible Children: All the provisions of the looked after children system, Leaving Care Personal Adviser, Needs Assessment, Pathway Plan.
  • Relevant Children: Leaving Care Personal Adviser, Needs Assessment, Pathway Plan, Accommodation, Maintenance, Assistance to achieve goals set out in the Pathway Plan, Duty to keep in touch.
  • Former Relevant Children: Leaving Care Personal Adviser, Pathway Plan, Assistance with Education, Training, Employment, Assistance in general, Duty to keep in touch.

In the spirit of the legislation, the Brighton and Hove Leaving Care Service “Policy, Guidance, Practice and Procedures” confirms the above in terms of Eligible and Relevant Children achieving equality of access to services, financial and personal support. This applies to Needs Assessments, Pathway Planning and Reviews, allocated Leaving Care Personal Adviser, access to Education, Training and Employment, Health and Leisure advice, Accommodation, Keeping in Touch, access to information and right to complain. The only difference between Eligible and Relevant Children in terms of service delivery is that the latter are no longer subject to Looked After Children Reviews and Statutory Visiting requirements. In practice their Pathway Plans are reviewed every six months and contact will be more frequent that LAC minimum statutory requirements. Service delivery to 18 – 21/24 year old care leavers (Former Relevant Children) is identical whether they were either Eligible or Relevant Children.

3. Procedure

This protocol will apply only to children looked after by Sect 20 of the Children Act 1989. It will apply equally to indigenous looked after children and to Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children. Separate procedures will apply to children subject of a Care Order (Sect 31) Children Act 1989 who are returned home under Placement with Parents Regulations.

When a child aged 16/17 years looked after by Sect 20 is placed in Foster Care (Brighton and Hove “in house” or Independent Foster Agency), Residential Care or Supported Lodgings their status will remain that of an Eligible Child.

When a child aged 16/17 years looked after by Sect 20 returns to his/her parent(s) the status will change from Eligible to Relevant with immediate effect.

When a Sect 20 looked after child aged 16/17 years moves from accommodation detailed in 3.2 to supported accommodation (e.g. Hove YMCA hostels, Ashley Homes/Major Close bedsits, Foyers), a privately rented flat (sublet from the Leaving Care Service via a letting agency), temporary accommodation (e.g. Bed & Breakfast), family or friends who are not approved carers or a Young Offenders Institution the following procedure will take place:

  1. The young person should be informed about any consequences of change in status from Eligible Child to Relevant Child and via discussion with their Leaving Care Personal Adviser their wishes and feelings must be taken into account. The young person will already have the leaflet “Sorted & Supported” (“all the information you need regarding financial support and young peoples rights under the Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000”) published by “Voice for the Child in Care”. This clearly describes the duties to and rights of Relevant Children.
  2. The young person should also be given the opportunity to have separate discussion with an Advocate in order to reflect on any proposal for a change in status.
  3. The parent(s) of the young person who hold(s) parental responsibility should be informed of the proposed change in status from Eligible to Relevant Child.
  4. The proposed change in status should be discussed at a Looked After Children Review after the discussions of 1 – 3 have taken place. If the next scheduled Review is not due to take place for four weeks or more then an extraordinary Review will be arranged as quickly as possible.
  5. Any disagreements or differences of opinion resulting from 1 - 3 will be discussed at this Review. The Review will then be able to recommend whether a change in status from Eligible Child to Relevant Child will be in the best interests of that young person.
  6. If after 1 - 5 have taken place the young person does not agree to a change in their status from Eligible Child to Relevant Child, this change will not take place and they will remain a Looked After Child under Sect 20 of the Children Act 1989.

Where change in status from Eligible Child to Relevant Child does take place, the responsibility for chairing the six-monthly reviews of Pathway Plans will be undertaken by the Reviewing Officers Team.

In circumstances where a young person receives a custodial sentence, their status immediately changes and they are legally deemed to be “de-accommodated” (Adoption and Children Act 2002). However it is recognised that their individual care needs still require review. In line with above the Reviewing Officers Team will therefore chair their ongoing Pathway Plan reviews.

This process will enable the through care/custody planning to continue. It will also address if the young person should be “re-accommodated” on release from custody. This will ensure a consistent reviewing process is available for all Eligible and Relevant children.

The fact that they had previously been “de-accommodated” will not influence any decision to “re-accommodate” under Sect 20 Children Act 1989.

4. Agreement

This protocol was agreed by Colin Povey, Senior Reviewing Officer, LAC Reviewing Team Andy Whippey, Head of Service and Dermot Anketell, Service Manager on 31st August 2004 and was approved by the Children, Families & Schools Operational Management Group on 22nd October 2004.