Permanency Planning Meetings

1. Introduction

A Permanency Planning Meeting should be convened at the earliest appropriate opportunity, according to the circumstances of the case, and will require action by a Family Support or Children in Care team social worker. Permanency Planning Meetings must be informed by thorough sibling assessments, from the outset.

The purpose of a Permanency Planning Meeting is to consider the most effective route to securing permanency for a child or young person.

When there are Child Protection or serious Child in Need concerns about a child, and they are at significant risk of coming into care, a Permanency Planning Meeting should always be held prior to the child coming into care and in line with the Legal Planning Process, including pre – birth, where a legal planning meeting is to be called and particularly when it is highly likely the child will be removed at birth and / or when consideration of a Foster to Adopt placement, or a Concurrency Placement is needed.

If a Permanency Planning Meeting has not been held by the time a Legal Planning Meeting is held then the Permanency Planning Meeting must be held immediately after the Legal Planning Meeting, (whether the decision made at the Legal Planning Meeting was to initiate or not initiate proceedings).

There are lots of other times / circumstances when a Permanency Planning Meeting is needed:

  • Under the Care and Supervision Proceedings and the Public Law Outline Procedure before a Legal Planning Meeting Procedure or immediately after (if not already held) whether or not the threshold has been met;
  • During proceedings whenever the decision has been made to apply to the court to share parental responsibility (to be held no later than 6 weeks before final Care Plan is filed with the court);
  • A Permanency Planning Meeting must be held within 20 working days of a decision (approved by the Designated Manager) for a child to enter care or by the first LAC review;
  • Where the child is accommodated in an emergency, a Permanency Planning Meeting must be held within 20 working days (by the first LAC review);
  • Every child or young person in care must have an overarching Permanency Plan which is formally agreed at the second Statutory Child in Care Review. That is within four months of coming into care;
  • The plan for permanence should be reviewed and tracked by Service manager / team manager every 4 weeks through 1:1 supervision and tracker meetings until permanency has been obtained;
  • A formal Permanency Planning Meeting review should be held every 12 weeks – (following the second LAC review and should fall in between each subsequent LAC review) until permanency has been obtained;
  • Whenever a Permanency Planning Meeting is needed due to failure to achieve the Care Plan objectives;
  • To address drift, especially when a child is in care under a Section 20 Accommodation arrangement;
  • Within 2 weeks of the first review, when rehabilitation home is uncertain;
  • When long term or permanent fostering is being considered;
  • Where there are potential risks to the stability of a permanent placement (e.g. violence/risk of abduction/need for geographical distance);
  • In any situation where Special Guardianship, or a Child Arrangements Order is necessary or being considered;
  • In cases where adoption is considered as an appropriate plan for the child, Permanency Planning Meeting should take place before booking for ADM decision;
  • In cases where a Placement Order (for Adoption) has been made, there is a requirement for a further statutory review under the Adoption Agencies Regulations, 3 months and 6 months post order to consider why the child had not been placed. A Permanency Planning Meeting should be called before these review points if continuing assessment of the child indicates that Adoption may not be viable;
  • When a young person is due to leave care. That is before the final review meeting. This Permanency Planning Meeting should focus on the young person's care leaving status and the impact that this status will have on their leaving care entitlement.

An early Statutory Review must follow a Permanency Planning Meeting if there is a change of Care Plan from the one recommended at the child or young person's last Statutory Review.

2. Early Permanency Planning Meetings – Prior to Entry to Care

It is the responsibility of the Family Support team to convene a Permanency Planning Meeting during a pre-birth assessment, or prior to the child coming into care, when the likely outcome is removal from the birth parent(s). A sibling assessment (see link below) must inform the type of placement, and carers required, to meet the individual needs of each child. Thoughtful, reflective practice must be evidenced. The individual child's needs will take into consideration in utero developmental issues, pre-natal care and post-natal care. These early experiences will inform the type of placement and carers required. Issues in relation to birth trauma including oxygen deprivation, smoking through pregnancy, parental mental health and learning difficulties will need to be balanced against potential positive sibling relationships as these developmental factors contribute to later placement disruptions thereby creating increased separation and attachment anxiety. The likelihood of future disruptions should be considered and inform matching and sibling placements. Carers where children with complex needs are placed together as siblings should be assessed and supported appropriately to provide adequate care to siblings to prevent disruption.

A Permanency Planning Meeting should be held before any Legal Planning Meeting, but if this has not happened then a Permanency Planning Meeting must be held immediately following a LPM where discussions around permanency, giving consideration to a Concurrency/Foster to Adopt placement would have been raised.

The Children in Care Team Social Worker and/or Team Manager must be invited to attend the meeting.

The Adoption Service have a dedicated worker for Permanency Planning Meetings and they should be invited for all children where adoption is a likely plan.

3. Returning the Child or Young Person Back to the Birth Family

The decision to return a child or young person home, and therefore securing permanency with the birth parent(s), will be dependent on their legal status. Permanency decisions for children who come into care should not be delayed based on the legal status of the child or young person.

If a child is subject to an Interim Care Order, the decision will be governed through the Court process and the views of the Guardian. In such situations, a parallel planning process may be necessary.

Parallel planning is where a return home is being assessed whilst plans for permanence away from the birth parent(s) are also developed to avoid subsequent delay. It is essential that every effort is made to minimise drift and delay in care proceedings by adhering to the 26 week court time frame. It is important to avoid numerous independent parenting assessments, expert assessments, particularly where the social worker's evidence already suggests that the parent is not able to make the change required.

A child or young person who comes into care through the agreement of their parents (Accommodated Section 20) are at much higher risk of their permanency not being secured in a timely way. It will be the responsibility of the Service Manager to make sure that the time scale for the case being presented is adhered to.

A decision to return the child home should not be undertaken without a detailed Children and Families Assessment and DBS checks on household members. An existing Child and Families assessment should be updated where necessary. Where a child under 16 has been looked after for more than 20 days, agreement has to be sought from the Children and Young People's Service Manager, and the Area Assistant Director must be notified.

Young people aged 16 or 17 and accommodated under S.20 must have a decision to return home approved by the Area Assistant Director.

The local authority must consider whether the proposed arrangements for the child's accommodation and maintenance when they cease to be looked-after are suitable, and what services and support the child and the parent(s) might need when they cease to be looked-after.

The social worker must speak to or otherwise ascertain the child's wishes and feelings about the proposed plan for their care when they are no longer looked-after.

The plan to return the child or young person back to the birth family on a permanent basis must be monitored by the Social Worker, Team Manager, and the allocated Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO).

If, by the second statutory Child in Care Review, the child or young person has not returned home, the IRO must consider whether the plan is still viable and realistic.

If the child or young person did not return home due to drift and delay in social work practice and decision making, it is essential that the child's social worker and team manager discusses the case with the Children and Young Peoples Service Manager and the Independent Reviewing Officer to agree a way forward. The Independent Reviewing Officer's line manager must be informed.

If, following this discussion, there is still drift and delay, it is essential that the Independent Reviewing Officer discusses the case with Children and Young Peoples Service Manager responsible for the case. The Independent Reviewing Officer's line manager must be informed. The issue resolution process may be triggered. If the issue is not resolved, the IRO can use the formal dispute/issues resolution process, see Appointment and Role of Independent Reviewing Officers Procedure, Appendix 1: Dispute Resolution Flowchart to resolve issues within a timescale of not more than 20 working days.

If, following the above discussion, the drift and delay continues, the Area Assistant Director must discuss the case with the Children and Young People's Service Manager and ensure that the actions are delivered within the agreed time scales.

Tackling drift and delay is a joint responsibility shared by Independent Reviewing Officers, managers and social workers. It is essential that such issues are not simply addressed through email communication, but should be ideally resolved through a face to face discussion or a wider meeting if necessary, and telephone contact where there are difficulties.

4. Child or Young Person Unable to Return Home and the Appropriate Permanence Plan Needs to be Considered and Agreed

In addition to the requirements set out in Section 1, Introduction, a Permanency Planning Meeting should be called pre-birth and/or pre entry to care, if the circumstances of the case indicate that the child is unlikely to be able to live with birth parent/s and a Legal Planning Meeting is to be held (see Section 2, Early Permanency Planning Meetings – Prior to Entry to Care).

The Adoption Service should be notified if the preferred plan is likely to be adoption.

If it is apparent that a child is likely to need a permanent placement from the outset of a looked after episode, the Permanency Planning Meeting must be held before the first statutory review.

Where adoption becomes the agreed plan for a relinquished child, family finding should begin immediately in order to achieve early placement following the decision. It will be jointly decided by involved social workers whether Permanency Planning Meeting is required, in case there are complicating factors.

If there is no apparent prospect of reunification with the birth family following the first Child in Care Review a further Permanency Planning Meeting should be convened by the child's social worker no later than 2 weeks after the first Child in Care Review meeting. This will include children where adoption is a strong possibility.

If at any point following the first Statutory Review, it becomes clear that the Care Plan to reunify the child or young person to the birth family is not a viable option, and the child requires permanency through another option, a statutory review should be set up by the child's social worker to agree revision to the Care Plan.

The Social Work Team manager in conjunction with the Children and Young Peoples Service Manager should consider a Permanency Planning Meeting before the statutory review process so that consideration is given to the real possibility of the birth parents being able to demonstrate their capacity for long term sustainable change within the child's time line. Permanency Planning Meeting The statutory review should set the time scale for holding a subsequent Permanency Planning Meeting.

5. Attendance at the Permanency Planning Meeting

The Permanency Planning Meeting should be organised by the Child's Social Worker.

The relevant Social Work Team Manager (and sometimes the Service Manager) should chair the Permanency Planning Meeting.

The Children In Care Team Manager should be notified and asked to send a representative, if the child is not yet in care.

The fostering social worker or fostering duty must be involved as the decisions regarding placement and matching are a key consideration for children who are entering care for the first time. Foster carers and children/young people must be sensitively prepared for entry into care. Foster care profiles are available which should be shared with children and young people entering into care.

The Adoption Service have a dedicated worker for Permanency Planning Meetings and they should be invited for all children under the age of 10 years where adoption is a likely plan. This ensures that adoption is considered as a long term plan as well as the service providing advice on availability of adoptive carers in relation to siblings.

Where appropriate the Children's Guardian should be invited as an observer.

The Independent Reviewing Officer and the social worker from the fostering team and the family finding adoption team (where relevant) should be notified and invited.

The current carers for the child should usually be invited. If it is not possible for them to attend, it is essential that their feedback is provided to the chair through a brief written report.

The social worker must be clear foster carers that the Permanency Planning Meeting is not a matching meeting. It may be necessary to hold the meeting in two parts, if the professionals involved need to discuss the capacity of the current foster carers to permanently care for the child. A decision needs to be made about how the decision is then discussed with the carers in a fair and transparent way.

It is essential that the views of the child and young person, their parents, and significant others are available to the chair. This might be in writing, drawing, audio or video recording or verbally presented by someone else on their behalf.

If the case is in Care Proceedings, the local authority responsible solicitor should be invited to give any legal advice to the Chair either in person, or by telephone or email.

The Chair will decide the frequency of future Permanency Planning Meetings, but never more than 6 weeks apart until the permanency planning process is complete. However, a child's social worker following discussion with her/his team manager can request a further Permanency Planning Meeting at any stage of the permanency planning process if this is required.

6. Documentation for the Permanency Planning Meetings

The Chair should be provided with the last Statutory Review recommendations, the C&F Assessment, the last Care Plan/statement for the Court, expert assessments, sibling assessments etc. The placement planning information will support good matching and fostering should consider available long term matches6. Documentation for the Permanency Planning Meetings6. Documentation for the Permanency Planning Meetings6. Documentation for the Permanency Planning Meetings where there is consideration for a child to be placed in foster care and the Care Plan indicates that a return home is not the local authority plan. All children should enter care with a placement that meets the assessed need and local authority Care Plan.

It is essential that the Chair is provided with relevant documents - the social worker discuss with her/his team manager to endure that only relevant documents are sent to the Chair.

7. Agenda Decision Making

(See Appendix 2: Permanency Planning Meeting Agenda).

The Chair should send the decisions to the Independent Reviewing Officer, the Social Work Team Manager, and to the Adoption Service (Permanency Planning Meeting Lead) and County Fostering Manager within 2 working days.

8. Implementation of the Permanence Plan

Following a review to agree the plan, the case will need to be presented to the Adoption Panel Team, (the Agency Decision Maker for non-consenting adoptions), or the Fostering Panel (for permanent fostering), or in the case of Special Guardianship and Child Arrangement Orders to the Area Resource Panel if financial assessment is being requested.

The Adoption Service or the Fostering Service will provide advice and support to the social worker and team manager who must present the Permanence Plan to the appropriate decision maker or panel in a timely way.

If the Permanence Plan is not being progressed within the agreed timescales Permanency Planning Meeting a reviewing officer should either recommend that a Permanency Planning Meeting is held to reconsider the plans or, where the plan is Adoption and the Placement Order has been made, convene a review under the Adoption Agencies Regulations at 3 months, and thereafter at 6 monthly intervals to consider why the child has not been placed, and if the plan is still viable.

It will be the responsibility of the relevant Service Manager to ensure that a Permanency Planning Meeting is held to discuss the drift in the implementation of the Permanency Plans and/or family finding.