Briefing 247

February 2019

Placing and Visiting Children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities or Health Conditions in Long-Term Residential Settings


This briefing reflects the DfE/DoH, Statutory Visits to Children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities or Health Conditions in Long-term Residential Settings - Statutory Guidance for Local Authorities, Health Bodies and Health or Educational Establishments (2017) with regard to children who are placed for more than 3 months in:

Statutory visits and monitoring of these placements are undertaken by the ‘Responsible Authority’. (See Definitions below).

Note this guidance does not apply to children who are Looked After.

However, the statutory guidance identifies that where a child is placed away from their parents for longer than 3 months it should be considered whether the child should become looked after under Section 20 Children Act 1989. This decision is a judgment that should be made following an assessment of the family and child’s circumstances by a social worker and the full facts and implications fully discussed and shared with the parents, including the issue of ‘consent’ and ‘parental responsibility’.

Although the Statutory Guidance itself does not provide any guidance or framework as such around the factors that should be considered when accommodating a child in these circumstances, local authority Children’s Services may want to consider the ‘Short Breaks’ section in The Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations Volume 2: Care Planning, Placement and Case Review.


Accommodating Authority: The health body or local authority which is arranging the placement for a child or young person.

Host Authority: The local authority in which the institution providing the placement is situated.

Home Authority: The local authority in whose area the child or young person is ordinarily resident.
Responsible Authority: The local authority that is responsible for monitoring and reviewing the progress and well-being of a child or young person who is placed in long-term residential care, and for arranging visits in order to safeguard and promote their welfare.

Responsibility for Visits to Children and Young People Placed in Long-Term
Residential Settings
  Placement is within the local authority area where child is ordinarily resident – the home local authority  Placement is within the area of a local authority area where the child is not ordinarily resident – the host local authority 
Child or young person is placed in a residential setting
(Under section 85 of Children Act 1989) 
 Home local authority is the responsible authority  Home local authority is the responsible authority
Child or young person is placed in a residential care home or independent hospital
(Under Section 86 of Children Act 1989)
 Home local authority is the responsible authority  Host local authority is the responsible authority
Where the child or family have not been resident in any local authority prior to the placement, (e.g. when they have come from abroad), the Accommodating Authority must notify the Host Local Authority, which then becomes the Responsible Authority.

Making the Placement

Considerations Prior to making the Placement

The Children and Families Act 2014 built on measures provided in the Children Act 2004 by requiring local authorities and health commissioning bodies to make joint commissioning arrangements for education, health and social care provision for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities. Local authorities are also required to integrate education, health care and social care provision where they think it would promote the wellbeing of such children and young people.

Prior to the placement, the Accommodating Authority should notify:

  • All the relevant professionals within the Responsible Authority and Home Authority (where relevant), including the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG); and
  • Where the placement is an educational establishment, the Director of Children’s Services of the Home Authority where the child or young person is ordinarily resident.

Local authority staff responsible for services for children in need under Section 17 the Children Act 1989 should be involved in making decisions about residential placements which are being considered by education and/or health colleagues.

When arranging a residential placement, the Accommodating Authority should:

  • Have regard to the wishes and feelings of the child or young person and their family;
  • Provide the child or young person and their family with impartial information and support;
  • Where needed, support the child or young person to communicate their wishes and feelings.

Placing a Child in a Residential Establishment

Formal notification of all placements should be made without delay so that the responsible authority can fulfil its duty to visit the child or young person to ensure their welfare is safeguarded and promoted:

  • Where a placement has been pre-planned, the responsible authority should be notified before the child or young person takes up the placement;
  • In other circumstances, the notification should be made on the day of the placement.


The Responsible Authority should ensure that all children placed in long-term residential placements have ready access to an advocate if required.

For children with communication difficulties placed in long-term residential placements, the advocacy service should be able to provide an advocate skilled in non-verbal communication.

A child or young person detained under the Mental Health Act 1983 has a right to have an independent advocate.

(See also Frequency of Visiting below).

Placement of a Child in a Care Home or Independent Hospital

The Responsible Manager of the establishment must notify the local authority’s Director of Children’s Services where it is located.

The local authority then becomes the Responsible Authority for the child – irrespective of where the child or young person are ordinarily resident.

When notified of the placement, the local authority, (as the responsible authority), should inform the local authority where the child/young person is ordinarily resident, so that there is general awareness and can be properly involved in any element of the educational aspects of the placement.

Visiting by the Local Authority Representative The Local Authority Representative

In many cases the ‘Local Authority Representative’ will be a social worker with whom the child has developed a positive relationship. However, where this is not possible, this person should have the relevant skills and capacity to visit in order to build a relationship with the child or young person.

The person visiting should have the ability to communicate with the child:

  • An understanding of any impairments, behaviours or health conditions the child or young person may have;
  • An understanding of child development and attachment (given that the child or young person will be separated from their parent or carer;
  • An ability to identify any safeguarding concerns, including bullying and sexual exploitation.


Note: The local authority representative has the power to enter a care home or independent hospital to ensure they can meet their responsibilities and safeguard the well-being of the child. They should produce an authenticated document proving their identity and make clear that they have this authority, (Section 86 Children Act 1989). 


Frequency of Visiting

Visits to children must be in accordance with Long-Term Residential Care Regulations 2011.

First Visit:

  • If the child or young person has had a Child in Need assessment, (under Section 17 Children Act 1989), within the last 12 months and the Responsible Authority has full access to all relevant information, then the visit can be made within 3 months;
  • If not as above, the first visit must be made within 7 days;
  • In either case, the visiting representative must consider whether an advocate should be appointed and in doing so, advise the Responsible Authority so that arrangements van be made.

Subsequent visits should be made at least every 6 months; or:

  • Whenever reasonably requested to do so if it believes that a visit is required in order to safeguard and promote the child’s or young person’s welfare as a result of views expressed by:
    • The child or young person;
    • Their family or carers;
    • Their advocate; or
    • By the establishment caring for the child or young person.
  • If the Responsible Authority receives an adverse report about the establishment from its regulatory authority, then it should consider an earlier visit.

Framework for the Visit

  • A visit to the parents or carers should be made beforehand to establish their views of their child’s progress and well-being;
  • The visiting representative should speak to the child or young person in private, unless this is not appropriate or is not wanted by the child or young person. However, if the ‘private visit’ is not undertaken, the reasons for this must be recorded;
  • If the child has significant impaired communication, the visiting representative should speak directly to those working most closely with the child or young person, (for example, their key worker), so they can ascertain their views;
  • Seek to ensure the child is safeguarded and protected;
  • Confirm their health, welfare and well-being is promoted;
  • The child has their positive behaviour acknowledged and their relationships are promoted;
  • Ensure the child has their views heard, listened to and acted upon;
  • Should review how any plans for the child re being implemented and whether the intended outcomes for the child or young person are being achieved;
  • Assess and identify whether there are further steps the responsible authority should take to:
    • Promote the welfare of the child or young person; and
    • Promote contact with their family (as long as this is in the child’s best interests).
  • From Year 9 onwards, (when the child is 13/14yrs), the visiting representative should consider what preparation for adulthood is being made, including employment, independent living and participation in society.

Safeguarding, Welfare Needs and Contact

The Responsible Authority must ensure that a child’s needs are met where assessments identify safeguarding and welfare needs. This includes contact with parents, carers and other significant people for the child or young person. These services may include:

  • Advice, guidance and counselling;
  • Services necessary to enable the child or young person to visit, or be visited by, members of their family, including assistance with the costs of travel; and,
  • Assistance to enable the child or young person and members of their family to have a holiday together. 

Reports by the Visiting Representative

Under Regulation 5 of the Visits to Children in Long-Term Residential Care Regulations 2011, the Representative of the Responsible Authority must provide a report of each visit. Reports must include the Visiting Representative’s assessment of:

  • The child or young person’s wishes and feelings about the accommodation provided by the residential placement, so far as the visitor has been able to ascertain them;
  • Whether the child or young person’s welfare is adequately safeguarded and promoted by placement in the accommodation;
  • The success of the placement, including any comments made by the child or young person or those caring for the child or young person (it would be helpful to include progress towards identified outcomes);
  • Whether further visits, in addition to those specified in the Regulations, are required in order to safeguard and promote the child’s or young person’s welfare;
  • Any services which the visitor considers should be made available to promote contact between the child or young person and their family; and
  • Any other steps that should be taken by the responsible authority to safeguard and promote the child’s or young person’s welfare (these could, for example, include access to particular facilities or community activity).

The representative’s reports of visits should highlight any matters of concern or difficulties so that action can be discussed with their supervisor and then, as necessary, with other agencies.

It is important for action to address matters of concern or difficulties, and any plan should:

  • Specify agreed and appropriate timescales;
  • Identify who is responsible for taking the action(s).

Where there are serious concerns about the child or young person’s welfare and reducing contact with their family, the reasons for this should be explored and the question of the appropriate legal status of the child or young person should be re-considered.

A copy of the report must be sent to:

  • The child or young person, unless inappropriate;
  • The parent’s and/or any person with parental authority;
  • Any other person with responsibility for the child or young person’s welfare, (e.g. extended family);
  • The local authority with responsibility for the child or young person’s welfare, (unless of course they are also the home authority).


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