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4.1.2 Financial Assistance Section 17 (s17) Children Act 1989

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This Chapter outlines the provision of financial assistance Section 17 payments. This chapter should be read in conjunction with the Financial Assistance for a Child in Need Section 17 Children Act 1989 Practice Guidance for Social Work Staff, found in the Forms/Signs of Safety Practice Guidance section of this manual.

AMENDMENT

In March 2016, a link was added to Financial Assistance for a Child in Need Section 17 Children Act 1989 Practice Guidance for Social Work Staff.


Contents

  1. Provision of s17 Financial Assistance
  2. Criteria for s17 Financial Assistance
  3. Types of s17 Financial Assistance
  4. Approval of s17 Financial Assistance
  5. Monitoring Spend


1. Provision of s17 Financial Assistance

Financial assistance in terms of goods or services, or in exceptional circumstances cash, can be provided to a child, parent or carer under Section 17(6) Children Act 1989 to address identified needs to safeguard and promote a child’s welfare where there is no other legitimate source of financial assistance.

The services provided by a local authority in the exercise of functions conferred on them by this section may include giving assistance in kind or... in cash.

Assistance may be unconditional or subject to conditions as to the repayment of the assistance or of its value (in whole or in part).

Before giving any assistance or imposing any conditions, a local authority shall have regard to the means of the child concerned and of each of the child’s parents.

No person shall be liable to make any repayment of assistance or of its value at any time when he is in receipt of income support. Part VII of the Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992, of any element of child tax credit other than the family element; of working tax credit; of an income-based jobseeker's allowance or of an income-related employment and support allowance.

In order to appropriately and efficiently apply these responsibilities, this guidance outlines the Local Authorities expectations regarding practice and requires all staff who may request financial support from the s17 budget, to be fully aware of these expectations and be able to justify any application for resources accordingly.

The management of the budget and compliance, as well as the Local Authority financial regulations, within which this guidance operates, rests with the budget holder.

Social work staff shall be mindful of issues of risk and liability when purchasing goods.


2. Criteria for s17 Financial Assistance

The Criteria for s17 financial assistance are:

  • The payment must be to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child;
  • An allocated worker should be actively involved with the family at least for the duration of the payments and if the financial assistance is more than one off emergency assistance, this must be assessed as part of an assessment or through the review of a child's plan.

All alternatives should be explored with the family to assist in accessing and utilising their existing resources to the best effect and support the family in becoming self-sustaining, prior to any application for funding; Please see Financial Assistance for a Child in Need Section 17 Children Act 1989 Practice Guidance for Social Work Staff, 1. Financial Assistance to Service Users.

  • Payments should be made directly to the supplier or provider of services. Monies should not be given directly to the family or carers except in exceptional circumstances;
  • At point of request for financial support it should be confirmed that there are no alternate sources of finance from the Benefits Agency, Housing Benefit family or friend contributions, other agencies, charities. Evidence needs to be uploaded in Liberi documents and recorded on the child’s file under case notes. If theft is alleged, a crime number should be provided and recorded in case notes;
  • All financial assistance is a one off payment. There may be exceptional circumstances where multiple payments are required; these are to be considered on a case by case basis at Access to Resources Panel and must be subject to review and time-limited. The period for which funding has been agreed must be clearly communicated by the team worker to the person in receipt of the assistance.


3. Types of s17 Financial Assistance

3.1 One off payments

These should be used to overcome a crisis, following the best assessment that can be achieved in the following circumstances:

Specific Guidance – Allowable expenditure

  • Food - method of payment goods only, in exceptional circumstances cash;
  • Gas - method of payment direct payment only, in exceptional circumstances cash;
  • Electricity - method of payment direct payment only, in exceptional circumstances cash;
  • Clothing - one off payment, method of payment goods only, in no circumstances cash;
  • Toiletries - one off payment, method of payment goods only, in exceptional circumstances cash;
  • Nappies and baby milk should be given in appropriate amounts, no cash provided.

3.2 Clothing and Equipment

The provision of clothing, furniture, bedding or safety equipment can only be provided where an assessment determines items identified as essential to meet the needs of the child and/or prevent the child suffering Significant Harm and/or the need for the child to be looked after by the local authority.

Specific Guidance

  • The assessment should address where needs are identified what avenues the family have taken to address the issue themselves, including family members support, via benefits and how family resources are being utilised;
  • Access to community resources should be considered. Liaison with the benefits agency, Kent Support and Assistance Service (KSAS) and other charitable organisations locally that can be accessed and specific grants should be sought. For example uniform provision can be accessed through schools and the Dedicated School Grant. Or checking with the Children’s Centre for local arrangements and opportunities to access appropriate safety equipment;
  • Submission for funding should include efforts undertaken to seek alternate sources of funding.

3.3 Travelling Expenses

This provision is available to support the transport of children, parents, carers or extended family member to attend assessments, activities, appointments and support groups which are essential to a child’s plan or to comply with court direction.

An assessment must ensure and agree that they could not reasonably be expected to travel using their own means due to medical, situational, financial or geographical reasons. This support is to be provided through bus tickets, train tickets or reimbursement of own, family or friend’s petrol costs currently this is paid at 15 pence a mile.

Taxis are not the first option to be explored and will not be approved unless all other avenues of travel have been exhausted and the cost of travel has been evaluated against the benefits to the child of the appointment.

Specific Guidance

  • GP confirmation of medical conditions reported to impact upon capacity to travel or use public transport are to be provided to the Local Authority by the parent, carer, adult family member;
  • Reimbursement of petrol costs to be subject to driver and vehicle being appropriately licensed and insured. The rates of payment for fuel, has to be based upon average miles per gallon for the vehicle used for an agreed distance between home to meeting, the cost identified to be agreed prior to submission for approval. For guidance on the reimbursement rates for petrol costs, please refer to HM Revenues and Customs Guidance;
  • Only council approved Taxi companies can be used for transportation. These can be accessed through the Children’s Transport Team - Number: 03000 422859.

3.4 Specialists Assessments and DNA/Hair Strand Testing

If special assessments or testing is required prior to care proceedings (pre proceedings public law outline PLO) to ascertain if a child is at risk of harm then these need to be agreed by the Access to Resources Panel.

Specific Guidance

  • Costs should be coded to Section 17;
  • Any agreement for the above needs to be via an Access to Resources Panel application.

3.5 Interpreter and Translation Costs

Where English is not the first language for children and carers, workers need to ascertain if the child and/or carer is able to understand and speak English to the level that they can complete their intervention in a meaningful way.

If the child and/or carer is not able to understand or speak English to the required level then an interpreter will be required. Consideration is to be given to whether this could be an extended family member or family friend or community worker including teaching staff with the carers permission if it will not be detrimental to the intervention.

If a professional interpreter is required please phone 0845 365 1645. An English-speaking operator will take details of what you need and arrange a translation or interpreting service. Key documents such as assessments, child protection case conference minutes, plans and court documents should always be translated.

Specific Guidance

  • Professional Interpreters should always be used for assessments; Case Conferences; and court proceedings.

3.6 Other Types of Payments not Covered by this Guidance


4. Approval of s17 Financial Assistance

All requests for financial assistance should be made by the team worker on a s17 Expenditure Application SHWB 324 Form with the supporting welfare issue that needs addressing and the alternatives that have been explored. Goods and services should be purchased through 'e purchasing' or 'purchase cards'; cash via 'imprest' should only be used in exceptional circumstances. All requests must be recorded on the child’s file and the SHWB 324 Form uploaded to Liberi documents signposted from case notes.

In all cases the child's worker will make their request to their team manager who will review work undertaken and will confirm approval for submission to the service manager/Access to Resource Panel. Amounts exceeding £500.00 or seen as being required under exceptional circumstances will be referred to service manager who will identify any additional actions that may need to be undertaken before making the request for payment to the Access to Resources Panel.

The schedule for authorisation applicable to this budget is as follows:

Financial Approval Limits Authorised to Sanction
£1 - £50 Team or Duty Manager
£50 - £500 Service Manager
£500 and above Access to Resources Panel

It is expected that all proposed expenditure is submitted for approval and agreement through the delegated power. Where the team manager is unavailable, delegation can be given to the duty managers or other team managers for the approval of single items within the prescribed financial limits. This should be reported to the team manager upon return.

Where the budget holding service manager is absent any financial assistance or a single item above approved limits, will require approval from a service manager from the same management group, with an automatic notification to the budget holding service manager for their return.

This will also apply to the presentation of an application to the Access to Resource Panel which in the absence of the service manager can be taken by another service manager in the same management group. The SHWB 324 Forms should be stored on the child’s case file, whether approved or not, with the nature of the request and outcome being recorded in case notes by the worker. Please see Financial Assistance for a Child in Need Section 17 Children Act 1989 Practice Guidance for Social Work Staff 5. Access to Resources Panel (ARP).

Repeat request for funding needs to be taken to the Access to Resources Panel (ARP). Where ongoing services have been identified as a need and require approval, for the provision of services over a period of time. A spreadsheet should be completed, with the weekly amount listed, the time this weekly payment should be made from to the end or review date. The total commitment should also be listed to ensure budget commitments are correctly monitored.

A copy of all SHWB 324 Forms completed and approved will also be given to the teams budget operator for the maintenance of financial management of the budget.


5. Recording

No payments can be made if the SHWB 324 Form is only signed by one person. Two signatures are required one from the staff member requesting funding and one from the manager/ARP approving the request. Management and ARP decisions and authorisation of payments need to be recorded on Liberi Case Notes. For more details see Financial Assistance for a Child in Need Section 17 Children Act 1989 Practice Guidance for Social Work Staff 6. Recording.


6. Monitoring Spend

S17 payments are time limited and subject to review. A s17 payment to a Child in Need will be reviewed in supervision a month after the payment has been made and not exceeding three months and recorded on the child’s case file on Liberi. It is the responsibility of the service manager and finance officer to meet monthly to monitor the budget via ORACLE. SCS DivMT will review payments at their regularly meetings.

End