Morecambe Bay CCG has a mandatory responsibility to support children looked after (CLA) under the Children’s Act 1989, 2004 and ‘Promoting the Health and Wellbeing of Looked After Children 2015, both of which set out a duty to comply with requests from the Local Authority to provide support and services to children looked after, including the statutory requirement for the completion and quality assurance of health assessments.
Who is a Looked After Child?
A child is looked after by a local authority if he or she is in their care or is provided with accommodation for more than 24 hours by the authority.
Looked after children fall into four main groups:
- Children who are accommodated under voluntary agreement with their parents (section 20);
- Children who are the subject of a care order (section 31) or interim care order (section 38);
- Children who are the subject of emergency orders for their protection (section 44 and 46);
- Children who are compulsorily accommodated. This includes children remanded to the local authority or subject to a criminal justice supervision order with a residence requirement (section 21).
The term ‘looked after children’ includes unaccompanied asylum seeking children, children in friends and family placements, and those children where the agency has authority to place the child for adoption.
It does not include those children who have been permanently adopted or who are on a special guardianship order.
Why do Children become Looked After?
Most children become looked after as a result of abuse and neglect and although they have many of the same health issues as their peers, the extent of these is often greater because of their past experiences. For example nationally:
- Almost half of children in care have a diagnosable mental health disorder
- In some areas two-thirds of children in care have special educational needs
- Only 15% of CLA achieve 5 GCSE passes at grade C or above
- 71% of children in custody had been involved with Social Services or been in care at some point in their lives
- Children who are looked after are four times more likely, than those living in private households, to smoke, drink alcohol and take drugs
The Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000 states that a Care Leaver is someone who has been in the care of the Local Authority for a period of 13 weeks or more spanning their 16th birthday.
Local authorities, CCGs and NHS England should ensure that there are effective plans in place to enable looked-after children aged 16 or 17 to make a smooth transition to adulthood, and that they are able to continue to obtain the health advice and services they need.
Both Lancashire and Cumbria County Council provide a website for care leavers that signposts and promotes access to the local offer: