Whenever there are difficulties in caring for a child at home and it is not possible, or in the child’s welfare interests for them to remain at home, the decision can be made for a statutory agency to become legally involved to look after the child.
Who is a ‘looked after’ child?
What is the legislation for ‘looked after’ children?
What are the implications of the legislation for a parent?
How does a child become ‘looked after’?
Why do ‘Looked After’ Children need special attention?
How can the EWS support ‘looked after’ children with their Education?
Where can I get more information about Looked After Children?
Who is a 'Looked After' child (LAC)?
The Children (NI) Order 1995 states that a 'looked after' child is one ‘who is in the care of a Trust or who is provided with accommodation by a Trust’. Looked after children can live:
What is the legislation for 'looked after' children?
A 'looked after' child can be the subject of:
an interim Care Order
a full Care Order
a Residence Order
What are the implications of this legislation for a parent?
The Children (NI) Order 1995 contains both principles and legal requirements which are there to protect children and promote their welfare. They provide parents with guidance and direction on nurturing their child, keeping them safe and on working with services for children e.g. from Health and Social Services Trusts and Education and Library Boards.
The welfare of the child is the priority in legislation relating to children and Parents must work alongside others as necessary to ensure this as well as having the right to have their wishes considered and to be consulted.
A child can be looked after under a court order or a Trust can accommodate a child after agreement with parents. If a Care Order is placed on a child ‘parental responsibility’ for the child becomes shared by a parent with a Trust. This is defined in law as ‘all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child…’
There are a number of agencies such as the Children’s Law Centre who will provide parents with detailed guidance and advice on their rights and responsibilities regarding their children and the implications of a wide range of legislation.
How does a child become ‘looked after’?
Before any decision is made about a child being looked after the child’s needs must first be assessed by a social worker: consultation leading to decision making will then take place regarding meeting the child’s needs. The decisions made are formalised in care and placement plans which can include changes in the child’s living and care arrangements and is directed by the legal framework there to protect and safeguard every child’s welfare.
Health and Social Services Trusts have written Policies and Procedures giving detail of all stages of this statutory process. Educational issues are a main focus of every looked after child’s care plan.
Why do these children need special attention?
Recent research in Northern Ireland is indicating a significant number of 'looked after' children have low educational achievements which may impair their future life chances.
Young people in public care deserve the same educational experiences and life chances as everyone else. They may have particular needs because of their life experiences.
How can the Education Welfare Service support 'looked after' children with their education?
The Education Welfare Service can offer advice and support to individual children and their carers. We also work alongside others who have professional responsibility for 'looked after' children within Social Services and other statutory and voluntary agencies, for example providing training and advice on educational issues.
Where can I get more information?
Each Education and Library Board Education Welfare Service has devised specialist provision and should be contacted individually depending on the area you live in. They have a range of resources available.