Dangerous Weapons Policy
This policy document is intended for Kent's Fostering Service and front line social workers and managers who make placement decisions in relation to Children in Care.
National Minimum Standards in Fostering 2011 standard 4 requires that children and young people's welfare is promoted and safeguarded in all fostering placements and Standard 6 highlights the role of foster carers in providing a healthy environment for children to live in.
2. Policy Statement
The ownership of Dangerous Weapons by prospective or existing carers must be thoroughly risk assessed to ensure the safety of any children to be placed or in placement with them.
Children in Care have often either experienced or witnessed violence or may not have the capacity to recognise danger or protect themselves. Therefore, it is Kent's policy that Children in Care must be protected from coming into contact with dangerous weapons.
Kent is a large rural county with a tradition of hunting and country sports and it is recognised that amongst those who wish to be approved as carers there will be applicants who possess firearms and other dangerous weapons. Kent will require stringent precautions to be in place to ensure that they are kept away from children in placement, and, that any contact is specifically agreed as part of the child or young person's Care Plan and properly supervised, and part of an organised shooting/sporting activity.
Weapons should be secured securely and preferably away from the family home if possible. Licensed firearms may be kept in the home with good reason i.e. working farm, and as long as the storage meets the required standards and must be kept at all times in a commercially manufactured and locked gun cabinet according to Home Office recommendations (Firearms Handbook).
Owners will be expected to demonstrate that ammunition and keys are also kept in a safe place and that the firearm is also secure while in transit to a sporting club or event.
3. Legal Context
For legislative purposes dangerous and offensive weapons include:
- All firearms including replicas, de-activated guns and air rifles;
- Hunting knives and blades;
- Swords, axes and machetes.
The legislation relating to firearms is complex. The term “firearm” means “a lethal barrelled weapon of any description from which any shot, bullet or other missile can be discharged.” Key policy relating to firearms is contained within the Firearms Act 1982 and Firearms (Amendment) Acts of 1988 and 1997.
The law does not allow for possession of any automatic or semi- automatic weapon or handgun.
The law does allow possession of rifles and shotguns but, with the exception of very low powered airguns, they must be licensed with either a Firearms Certificate (FAC) or a Shotgun Certificate. The certificate will also specify how much ammunition may be held by the owner for each gun.
Under Home Office regulations a license can only be issued if a person has a legitimate sporting or work related reason to have a firearm. The Police must be convinced that a person has a good reason to own each gun and they can be trusted with it without anger to public safety or peace.
Licenses are time limited and require regular renewal. Licenses may also include restrictions set by the certification authority, which might include stipulations as to where firearms and ammunition may be held.
Firearms that have been de-activated in accordance with the requirements of the Act, namely that they have been de-activated by a specific authority and bare its mark of approval are exempt from the certification process.
Antique weapons may also be exempt from certification. However, it will be for the Police to determine whether they are antique or historic. No ammunition may be kept with antique weapons. Historic weapons require certification.
Young people under 14 may not be granted a license to own a firearm under any circumstances although their parent/guardian may have a license varied for the young person if that young person has a legitimate reason for using the weapon, e.g. competitive shooting.
A young person under the age of 17 is not allowed to purchase or obtain a firearm unless it is a gift in which case they will be required to go through the same vetting process as an adult.
Are defined by the Offensive Weapons Act 1996 as a “knife, knife blade, razor blade or axe or any other article, which has a blade or is sharply pointed, made or adapted for causing injury.”
The Knives Act 1997 uses the term “suitable for combat” and defines this as anything that can be used as a weapon to cause injury.
These Acts, together with others, make it an offence to sell such implements to young people under 16, for any person to take such items into school premises and for people to carry items concealed upon their persons that could be used to cause injury.
4. Risk Assessment of Carers
Where prospective or existing foster carers (including connected persons foster placements), adopters or special guardians or other household members have weapons or implements that could be viewed as dangerous weapons on their property they must bring this to the attention of their social worker.
An assessment of the risk to the safety of Children in Care must be carried out to include:
- The reasons for keeping the weapons;
- Their secure storage including storage of ammunition and keys;
- How the weapons are kept out of sight of all children living in the home and how the actual or prospective carers will ensure that they are never brought to the attention of the child/young person unless this is expressly agreed as part of the Care Plan;
- The carer's attitude to risk and the vulnerability of Children in Care;
- Where a Firearms Licence or Certificate is required this is current, seen by the social worker, any requirements are met and a copy placed on file.
Where carers have firearms or replica guns that are not required to have a certificate, they must be stored in a locked cabinet out of view and inaccessible to children and young people.
No child or young person should be placed with applicants where dangerous weapons are being held unsafely, or where there is no current firearms and/or shotgun certificates, and immediately reported to the Fostering Team Leader and in the case of no current certificate the Police informed. Applicants who cannot satisfy the Directorate that their Safe Care Plan is robust will not be approved.
If an existing carer is not able to satisfy the Directorate that they have a robust Safe Care Plan in place, this should be immediately reported to the Fostering Team Leader and the matter considered at a Fostering Panel.
As part of the Foster Carer Annual Review the security of any dangerous weapons and ammunition and the ownership of a current license/certificate must be considered.
Inspection of dangerous weapons may form part of supervision or unannounced visits.
5. Risk Assessment of Child/Young Person
Some children may be particularly vulnerable and additional actions may be required to protect them in placement. It is therefore important that, as part of the assessment and matching of the child/young person being placed, any specific vulnerability or interests in weapons is identified so that this may be brought to the attention of the carers and inform the Care Plan.
Foster carers must not involve children or young people in their care in any use of firearms without the permission of their parents and the child/young person's social worker.