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Looked After Children

The term ‘looked after’ refers to children and young people who are provided with accommodation by the Local Authority or which is commissioned by the Local Authority for more than 24 hours. It places specific responsibilities on the local authority to safeguard and promote the child’s / young person’s welfare.

Children and young people who live away from home, whilst not being ‘looked after’, may still be vulnerable. Such settings include Private Fostering, healthcare, boarding schools (including residential special schools), prisons, young offenders’ institutions, secure training centres, secure units and army bases.

Safeguarding Looked After Children

Children and young people, either ‘looked after’ or living away from home, should be afforded the same essential safeguards against abuse, and practice needs to be framed on an understanding that there may be additional risks and vulnerabilities for children and young people living away from home.

Many agencies may be involved, but all should have policies and procedures that are in line with the Local Safeguarding Children Boards’ arrangements and ensure that children and young people have their general welfare promoted, are protected from harm and treated with dignity and respect.

When a referral is received concerning a child or young person who is looked after, the same procedures should be followed as for any child or young person. The duty to undertake Section 47 Enquiries when there are concerns about Significant Harm is the same.

In situations where an allegation is made against a member of staff, see Managing Allegations or Serious Concerns in Respect of any Adult who Works or Volunteers with Children.

When a child or young person’s name is subject of Child Protection Plan and he or she is looked after, meetings and planning should be separate but coordinated. Reviews of the Care Plan should take into account the Child Protection Plan and vice versa.

Any changes to the child or young person’s care arrangements, or circumstances such as a return to their birth parents, should be discussed and the risks evaluated by a child protection conference prior to decisions being made.

If it is not possible to convene a conference prior to a change in care arrangements or circumstances, a full evaluation of any risks needs to be made by the allocated practitioner, authorised by a manager and recorded on the case file.

If a decision has been made by the court to return the child home, then the court’s directions should be clearly recorded in the Care Plan, particularly if the actions prescribed differ from those within that plan. All agencies must be notified in writing.

Professional disagreements between the looked after care planning process and child protection conference should be brought to the attention of the relevant senior manager and should be dealt with in line with the Escalation and Conflict Resolution Procedure.

A private fostering arrangement is one that is made without being instigated by the local authority for the care of a child under the age of 16 (under 18, if is a child with disabilities) by someone other than a parent or a close relative, with the intention that it should last for 28 days or more.

Private foster carers may be from extended family such as a cousin or great aunt, but a person who is a relative under the Children Act 1989 i.e. a grandparent, brother, sister, uncle or aunt (whether of full blood or half blood or by marriage) or a step-parent will not be a private foster carer.

The law requires parents, prospective private foster carers and those who receive a child in an emergency or who were providing accommodation for a child when he became a privately fostered child, and any other person who is, or who proposes to be, involved in making such arrangements.

Safeguarding Children in Private Foster Care

See also Hidden Children Guidance

Children in private foster care should receive the same degree of protection as children looked after in their own homes or by the local authority.

Many private foster carers and parents are not aware of the notification requirements and, as a result, many private fostering arrangements remain hidden, leaving the children who have been placed with them without the benefit of formal monitoring arrangements.

When a child is placed in a private fostering arrangement the private foster carer becomes responsible for providing the day to day care of the child in a way which will safeguard them and promote their welfare. Overarching responsibility for safeguarding and promoting the welfare of the child remains with the child’s parents or other person with parental responsibility.

The Children Act 2004 places a duty on local authorities to promote awareness in their area of the notification requirements.

The local authority should report annually to the LSCB on how it satisfies itself that the welfare of privately fostered children in its area is satisfactorily safeguarded and promoted, including how it co-operates with other agencies in this connection.

When a referral is received concerning a child in private foster care, the same procedures should be followed as for any child.

In addition, every effort should be made to locate the person(s) with Parental Responsibility and to speak with them as part of the assessment / Section 47 Enquiries.

Children and Young People who Display Sexually Harmful Behaviour

Where there are concerns that a child or young person is displaying sexually harmful behaviour, see the local arrangements and protocol set out in Guidance for Professionals Working with Young People Displaying Sexually Harmful Behaviour

Children, particularly those living away from home, are also vulnerable to abuse by their peers. All such abuse should be taken as seriously as abuse perpetrated by an adult. Staff should not dismiss some abusive sexual behaviour as ’normal’ between young people and should not develop high thresholds before taking action.

All work with children and young people who show sexually harmful behaviour should recognise that such children are likely to have considerable needs themselves, and also that they may pose a significant risk of harm to other children. Evidence suggests that children who sexually harm others may have suffered considerable disruption in their lives, been exposed to violence within the family, may have witnessed or been subject to Physical Abuse or Sexual Abuse, have problems in their educational development, and may have committed other offences. Such children are likely to be Children in Need, and some will in addition be suffering or suffering or likely to suffer Significant Harm, and may themselves be in need of protection.

Children and young people who abuse others should be held responsible for their abusive behaviour, whilst being identified and responded to in a way which meets their needs as well as protecting others.

Three key principles should guide work with children and young people who sexually harm others

  • There should be a co-ordinated approach on the part of Children’s Social Care, Police, the Youth Offending Service, Child Welfare, Education (including Education Psychology) and Health (including Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) agencies;
  • The needs of children and young people who sexually harm others should be considered separately from the needs of their victims;
  • An assessment should be carried out in each case, appreciating that these children may have considerable unmet developmental needs, as well as specific needs arising from their behaviour.

In situations where a child or young person has displayed sexually harmful behaviour, a referral must be made to either the police or Children’s Social Care – see Making Referrals to Children’s Social Care Procedure. The child or young person should not be questioned about the allegation before making the referral.

When such information is received it will be shared immediately with the other agency. The police will be responsible for action taken in relation to the criminal justice system and Children’s Social Care will lead in relation to the child protection process, but neither should embark on a course of action which has implications for the other without appropriate consultation.

A Strategy Discussion should be convened in line with the procedures in Paragraph 4.4, Strategy Discussions/Meetings, of the Action to be taken where a Child is suffering or likely to suffer Significant Harm Procedure This should, wherever possible, be a face to face meeting, but where this cannot take place because the delay in holding one would prejudice the child’s welfare, this may take place over the telephone.

In planning a Section 47 Enquiry, the following additional points should be considered:

  • Relevant specialist workers should be invited to the Strategy Meeting;
  • The Youth Offending Service should be invited to the Strategy Meeting if the alleged perpetrator has reached the age of criminal responsibility;
  • A social worker should not act as an appropriate adult for the interview of the alleged perpetrator. The Youth Offending Service should ensure that an appropriate adult attends where the parent cannot or will not;
  • The safety of other children with whom the alleged perpetrator is in contact should be considered and whether any immediate action is necessary to protect them.

When it is confirmed that an incident has taken place, a risk assessment of their behaviour should be commenced in addition to the Assessment. This will inform the decision as to whether or not to convene a child protection conference. A conference should only be held if the child or young person is considered personally to be at risk of continuing Significant Harm. If the conference decides that the child or young person should be subject to a Child Protection Plan the plan must address the young person’s harmful behaviour and identify work to reduce the risk.

Safeguarding Children at Risk of Sexual Exploitation

See Safeguarding Children and Young People from Sexual Exploitation

The Sexual Offences Act 2003 covers the sexual exploitation of children and young people up to the age of 18, through prostitution and pornography. It is an offence to pay for sex in money or in kind with a child or young person 18 years and under. It is also an offence to cause or incite child prostitution or pornography, control a child prostitute or a child involved in pornography, and arrange or facilitate child prostitution or pornography. The Act also includes an offence of administrating a substance with the intent of committing a sexual offence.

Children and young people at risk of sexual exploitation should be viewed as victims of abuse, and primary legislation should apply, such as The Children Act 1989. See also Safeguarding Children and Young People from Sexual Exploitation which was issued by the Department for Children, Schools and Families in June 2009.

Looked After children and young people may be particularly vulnerable to this form of abuse and exploitation and staff and carers need to be aware of the signs and indicators that this form of abuse is likely to or is occurring.

When there is evidence or a suspicion that a child or young person is at risk of or is already involved in prostitution, a referral should be made to Children’s Social Care. The safeguarding procedures should then apply, and the Strategy Meeting be convened. In addition to the standard agenda (see Paragraph 4.9, Strategy Discussions/Meeting, of the Action to be taken where a Child is suffering or likely to suffer Significant Harm Procedure) the Strategy Meeting should consider:

  • Whether the child or young person is reluctant or fearful of engaging with professionals, either as a result of threats, or influence from those who abuse and exploit them;
  • Whether substance misuse may be a contributory factor to the abuse and exploitation;
  • The specific strategies that may be required to assist the child or young person to leave the abusive environment;
  • The possible risk to any other young people.

All enquires involving child prostitution must be notified to the Local Safeguarding Children Board who have a responsibility to enquire into the extent to which children are involved in prostitution in the local area.

Primary law should be used in regard to abusers. If the prosecution of an offender requires the evidence of a young person who has been involved in prostitution, then attention must be paid to their safety and welfare, including the possible need to move him/her and to the confidentiality of the information. This may require the close co-operation of the Police, Victim Support and other agencies.

Where there is suspicion that an adult is involved in organising the prostitution of, or paying for sex with, a child or young person and they are themselves parents of children, then an assessment of the needs and risks to those children should be considered.

Child Trafficking and Exploitation

See also Safeguarding Children who may have been Trafficked Guidance.

The Home Office describes trafficking as a modern form of slavery. It defines it as involving the ‘the movement of people, either within one country or from one country to another, using coercion, deception or abuse of power for the purpose of their exploitation’.

Exploitation includes ’the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.’ The Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 includes an offence of ‘Trafficking for Prostitution.’

The Sexual Offences Act 2003 covers offences of trafficking for the purposes of committing any sexual offence against an adult or child, as well as Trafficking from one place to another within the UK.

Trafficking should not be confused with smuggling. ‘People smuggling is the facilitation of illegal entry.’

Safeguarding Children Involved in Trafficking and Exploitation

In recent years the numbers of migrant children has increased. Children and young people may enter the country in a variety of ways. They may be unaccompanied asylum seekers (see Paragraph 7.47), students or visitors. They may be accompanied or met by an adult claiming to be a relative or friend.

Where a child or young person is suspected or known to be involved in trafficking, the safeguarding procedures set out in Making Referrals to Children’s Social Care Procedure should be followed and consideration should be given to involving immigration officials at the Strategy Discussion stage. (The Trafficking Toolkit provides helpful guidance. In addition, details about the National Referral Mechanism are set out in paragraphs 6.58 – 6.66 of Working Together to Safeguard Children 2010 (now archived)).

If a child or young person is being Looked After, carers should be vigilant in case an unknown adult attempts to make contact. Any adult seeking contact with the child should be first investigated and their identity validated.

Interpreters should be made available to children and young people who do not have English as a first language.

Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children (UASC)

See also Safeguarding Children who may have been Trafficked Guidance

A UASC is an asylum seeking child, under the age of eighteen who is not living with their parent, relative or guardian in the UK. An Assessment, and where appropriate, an Assessment should be carried out for every child referred.

In the majority of cases this will lead to them being Accommodated. Under Section 20 of the Children Act 1989 they are required to be the subject of a Care Plan (and a Pathway Plan at 16+).

Female Genital Mutilation

See also Safeguarding Children at Risk of Abuse through Female Genital Mutilation Guidance

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a collective term for procedures which include either the partial or total removal of the external genital organs for cultural or other non therapeutic reasons.

It is illegal in England and Wales and has been since the introduction of the Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act 1985. The Female Genital Mutilation Act (2003) replaced the 1985 Act and now makes it an offence for girls and women to be taken out of the country for the purposes of performing this procedure elsewhere, or arranging for this to happen.

Safeguarding Children and Young People From Female Genital Mutilation

Female Genital Mutilation is more common than many people recognise both in this country and many others, worldwide. It is not required by any major religion and is a harmful and dangerous practice that can cause long term physical as well as psychological trauma.

A referral may be prompted by:

  • Suspicion that a child or young person is about to have the procedure performed;
  • Suspicion that a child or young person is being, or may be, sent to another country for the purposes of performing the procedure;
  • The procedure is known to have happened;
  • Another girl or women in the family has been mutilated.

Where there is evidence of or suspicion that FGM has or may be performed, the safeguarding procedures should be invoked.

The Strategy Discussion should include consideration of:

  • Whether the police need to take action in their primary law enforcement role;
  • The potential risks to all girls in the family;
  • Whether legal action is required to safeguard the child or young person.

Children’s Social Care will need to work closely with the Police, who have a primary law enforcement role. The use of a Prohibited Steps Order may be appropriate.

Forced Marriage

See also Forced Marriages – Practice Guidance

A clear distinction must be made between a forced marriage and an arranged marriage. In arranged marriages the families of both spouses take a leading role in arranging the marriage but the choice of whether or not to accept the arrangement lies with the young people. In forced marriage one or both spouses do not freely consent to the marriage and some form of duress is involved. Duress can include physical, psychological, financial, sexual and emotional pressure. Forced Marriage is an abuse of human rights and, where a child is involved, an abuse of the rights of the child.

Although there is no specific criminal offence of “forcing someone to marry”, criminal offences may be committed. The term “honour crime” or “honour-based violence” embraces a variety of crimes of violence. Perpetrators (usually parents or family members) could be prosecuted for offences including conspiracy, threatening behaviour, assault, kidnap, abduction, unlawful imprisonment, and murder. Sexual intercourse without consent is rape regardless of whether it occurs within a marriage or not. In addition, the Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act 2007, which was implemented in November 2008, makes provision for protecting children, young people and adults from being forced into marriage without their full and free consent (through Forced Marriage Protection Orders).


Isolation is one of the biggest problems facing those trapped in, or under threat of, a forced marriage. Many young people who face a forced marriage will not even discuss their worries with their friends for fear their families may find out. Only rarely will they disclose fear of forced marriage. Young people may therefore present with a variety of symptoms. The following factors may be an indication that a young person fears they may be forced to marry.

  • Education: Truancy; Low motivation in school; poor exam results; withdrawal from school; request for extended leave;
  • Health: self harm; attempted suicide; eating disorders; depression; isolation; female genital mutilation;
  • Family history: siblings forced to marry; family disputes; domestic violence and abuse; running away from home; unreasonable restrictions e.g. house arrest;
  • Employment: Poor performance; poor attendance; limited career choices; not allowed to work; unreasonable financial control e.g. confiscation of wages/income;
  • Police Involvement: victim or sibling reported missing; reports of domestic abuse; female genital mutilation; threats to kill; victim reported to Police by family for offences, e.g. shoplifting.


If anyone suspects that a child (male or female) is in danger of a forced marriage:

  • Children’s Social Care should be contacted immediately and a Strategy Meeting convened. This must include a representative from the police.

The Strategy Meeting should agree who will be responsible for contacting the Forced Marriage Unit for advice 020 7008 0151 (9-5 Monday to Friday), for out of hours emergency support, contact the FCO Response Centre on 020 7008 1500)

  • If the child or young person has made the complaint they should be involved in developing an appropriate plan.

At no time should:

  • Allegations be treated as a domestic issue and the young person be sent back to the family home;
  • The young person’s concerns be ignored and the need for immediate protection be dismissed;
  • Members of the young person’s family, or community be contacted without the express consent of the young person as this will alert them to the enquiries;
  • The family be contacted in advance of any enquiries either by telephone or letter;
  • Information be shared outside child protection information sharing protocols without the express consent of the young person;
  • The young person’s confidentiality be breached except where it is necessary to share information with other agencies in order to ensure the young person’s safety;
  • Mediation be attempted – this is very important as mediation can be extremely dangerous and has been linked with so called ‘honour crimes’;
  • Arrangements be made for a Family Group Conference because of the risk of physical danger and emotional manipulation which the young person may experience as a result.

Further information and guidelines concerning work with situations of forced marriage is available in the following government publications:

The Right to Choose – Multi Agency Statutory Guidance for Dealing with Forced Marriage, 2008

Multi Agency Practice Guidance: Handling Cases of Forced Marriages (published by the Forced Marriage Unit in June 2009)

Guidance for local authorities on applying for Forced Marriage Protection Orders, published by the Ministry of Justice in November 2009.

Forced Marriage and Learning Disabilities: Multi Agency Practice Guidelines published by the Forced Marriage Unit in 2011.




Cambridgeshire Police has set up a dedicated helpline for victims of honour based violence – it is staffed by specially trained women police officers and is open 24 hours 7 days a week.

Cultural and Religious Beliefs That may Impact on Safeguarding Children

See also Child Abuse Linked to a Belief in Spirit Possession Guidance

The basic requirement that children are kept safe is universal and cuts across cultural and religious boundaries. All concerns about the safety of a child should be acted upon in accordance with the guidance in this document, and there can be no excuse for failing to take adequate steps to protect a child, whatever their cultural or religious circumstances.

Practitioners should be alert to the fact that children may be harmed within faith communities and that religion does not necessarily offer protection from abuse.

All assessments and Section 47 Enquiries should seek appropriate advice from those with knowledge of the culture/religion of the child and/or their family. Agencies should ensure that connections are made with key people in local communities and faith groups in order to help practitioners with this task.

The Local Safeguarding Children Board has a responsibility to ensure that all faith groups have adequate and appropriate child protection procedures in place.

Children Moving Between Local Authorities

A significant number children and young people move between local authorities. The circumstances that lead to a child and/or their family moving from one area to another vary. It may be planned or in response to a crisis. It may be temporary or permanent.

The local authority for the area where the child is living, whether temporarily or not, has responsibility to provide services. The exceptions to this are:

  • The child is subject to a Care Order or Interim Care Order;
  • The child is Accommodated;
  • The child is subject to a Child Protection Plan;
  • The child is in receipt of services other than rent and subsistence.

Only when the second authority explicitly accepts responsibility is the first authority relieved of the responsibility to take emergency action. The acceptance should subsequently be confirmed in writing.

Safeguarding Children and Young People Moving Between Local Authorities

Children and young people may be at increased risk as a result of any move. They may not have access to universal services that seek to support and protect such as health via a GP and education.

When a child or young person comes to the attention of Children’s Social Care and it is known that they have recently moved into the local authority, staff must obtain identifying information such as full names, dates of birth and previous address(es).

If any worker from any agency discovers that a child or young person who is subject of a Care Order or who is subject to a Child Protection Plan is planning to move, or has moved out of area or into the area, then they must inform the child’s social worker as soon as possible. They should then inform all the other key agencies. The family should be made aware of this.

In regard to children or young people subject to Care Orders or Accommodated, subject to Child Protection Plans or receiving services as Children in Need and for whom a move is known, information should be passed to the local authority to which the child is moving to and all relevant agencies, prior to the move occurring. The family should be made aware of this. For children and young people subject of a Child Protection Plan, it should be the Lead Social Worker who is informed. The Lead Social Worker should then inform all the other key agencies.

Children and young people who are subject of a Child Protection Plan and who move should be recorded as being subject of a Child Protection Plan by the receiving local authority under a temporary category until a conference can be convened. An agreement should be reached between managers of both authorities about the implementation of the Child Protection Plan.

For children and young people who are subject of a Child Protection Plan the Lead Social Worker should attend and provide a report to the transfer conference in the local authority to which the child has moved. At the transfer conference, a decision may be reached for both local authorities to joint work for a time limited period.

Following the transfer conference, the conference chair should write to the originating authority and formally notify them of the outcome. Only then can the child or young person be recorded as no longer the subject of a Child Protection Plan by the originating authority.

Organised and Complex Abuse

See also: Complex Abuse Investigations Inter Agency Issues (Home office and DoH 2002)

Complex (organised or multiple) abuse may be defined as abuse involving one or more abusers and a number of children. The abusers concerned may be acting in concert to abuse children, sometimes acting in isolation, or may be using an institutional framework or position of authority to recruit children for abuse.

Use of the internet may be linked to the abuse. It can occur across a family, a community or care settings such as residential homes or schools.

Safeguarding Children and Young People From Organised and Complex Abuse

Investigations, particularly those that relate to historic abuse, can be very complex in that the abuse may have occurred in a number of places, involving a number of people and those involved may be difficult to trace.

The investigation of complex abuse requires thorough planning and collaboration across the agencies involved.

Children and adult survivors may need support to access therapeutic services.

The senior manager will inform the Director of Children’s Services, the Chair of the LSCB and the senior management of the key agencies involved. The council’s press office will also be notified.

A senior manager will chair the Strategy Meeting. If staff members are involved, managers of those services should not be included and action should be governed by the Allegations of Abuse Made Against a Person who Works With Children Procedure, see Paragraph 7.82.

The Strategy Meeting should:

  • Agree the resources that will be needed and how these will be made available;
  • Agree the staff team that will follow through the investigation and who should be told that the investigation is taking place;
  • Any communication regarding the investigation should be on a strictly ‘need to know’ basis;
  • The timetable for reconvening the Strategy Meeting in order to monitor progress and evaluate the information arising from the investigation.

Allegations of Abuse Made Against a Person who Works With Children

These procedures relate to situations where a person working in a paid or unpaid basis has:

  • Behaved in a way that has harmed a child, or may have harmed a child;
  • Possibly committed a criminal offence against or related to a child;
  • Behaved towards a child or children in a way that he/she is unsuitable to work with children.

Safeguarding Children and Young People From Staff, Carers and Volunteers

Despite recruitment and selection processes that are designed to deter and prevent those that pose a risk to children and young people being employed, abuse from staff, carers and volunteers still occurs. Abuse can occur in any setting and by anyone and all organisations working with children should have a procedure for handling such allegations which is consistent with this guidance. The procedures in Education settings should be consistent with SCE (2005): Dealing With Allegations of Abuse Against Teachers and other Staff and Appendix 5 Working Together 2010 (now archived).

Where anyone has suspicion or evidence that abuse is occurring or occurred in the past a referral should be made to the Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO) in accordance with the relevant agency protocol. The protocol should clearly identify a senior manager within the agency who should be informed of all concerns and who will inform the LADO of all such concerns.

Staff, carers or volunteers making an allegation against another member of staff should be given support and protected where possible from any reprisals, in accordance with the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998.

The head of the agency employing the member of staff should be informed as soon as any allegation has been made by the senior manager identified in the protocol after discussion with the LADO.

There may be three related but independent strands to the process in response:

  • Section 47 Enquiry;
  • Police investigation;
  • Disciplinary investigation.

It is essential that the common facts of the alleged abuse are applied independently to the three strands. The fact that a prosecution is not possible does not mean that action in relation to safeguarding children, or employee discipline is not necessary or feasible.

Once a decision has been made to proceed with any or all three investigations, then the member of staff should be informed unless this would jeopardise the outcome. Arrangements should be made to offer support to them throughout the process (see Appendix 5 Working Together 2010 (now archived)).

In situations where allegations or suspicions have arisen in regard to a member of staff in Children’s Social Care, an independent person should be involved in the investigation.

If the referrals amount to complex or organised abuse, then reference should be made to those procedures.

Any communication regarding the investigation should be on a strictly ‘need to know’ basis. Parents of the children or young people involved should be notified about the process in a manner that does not impede the proper exercise of Section 47 Enquiries, disciplinary and investigative processes. They should be given information about the conclusion reached once the work has been completed. The LADO should consult with colleagues how best to inform parents.

If the allegations are substantiated, then the names of the members of staff must be notified to the Disclosure and Barring Service with a view to the information being including on the Children’s Barred List. The LADO will discuss this with the employer. The LADO will discuss this with the employer.

A report should be provided to the LSCB on a quarterly basis by the LADO regarding allegations made against staff members who work with children. This should state:

  • Numbers;
  • A breakdown occupational group;
  • Type of allegation;
  • Timescales for response;
  • Outcome.

Where an allegation has been subject of a Section 47 Enquiry, the Chair of the LSCB should be informed by the LADO and consideration should be given as to whether a full Serious Case Review may be appropriate.

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