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6.3 Protocol for Joint Work between Housing and Children's Services

AMENDMENTS

This Protocol was updated in December 2011 to take account of the Protocol regarding the Management of 16 and 17 year old Young People who may be Homeless or require Accommodation, which replaced section 5.3 of this document.


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Assessment Framework for Children in Need and their Families
  3. How to Make a Referral to Specialist Children’s Services and Safeguarding
  4. Child Protection and Safeguarding
  5. Guidelines on Homelessness
  6. Housing Priority Nominations


1. Introduction

The following has been agreed between the two departments to:

  • Ensure statutory duties are fulfilled;
  • Ensure families and children are dealt with efficiently and with clarity;
  • Make effective use of the skills and knowledge of both departments.

There are four areas that are addressed under this guideline. These are:

  • Homelessness;
  • Homeless 16/17 year olds estranged from family;
  • Housing priority nomination;
  • Concerns about children and families that may arise in the course of the duties undertaken by the Housing neighbourhood offices.


2. Assessment Framework for Children in Need and their Families

(See Inter-Agency Referral Record)

Southwark Specialist Children’s Services and Safeguarding aims to secure the well-being of children by protecting them from all forms of harm and assuring their developmental needs are responded to appropriately. In order to achieve this it aims to work collaboratively with other Local Authority Departments, Health Trusts and Community Services. In discharging this duty, Specialist Children’s Services and Safeguarding aims to ensure all children coming to the attention of the Department who are likely to be in need have their needs assessed in line with the Assessment Framework. The responsibility for completing an assessment will rest with Specialist Children’s Services and Safeguarding although, with appropriate permission from the family, colleagues from other agencies are likely to be involved at all stages of the process.

The Assessment Framework will:

  • Determine whether or not a child is a Child in Need;
  • Ensure that the child’s welfare is both safeguarded and promoted;
  • Provide a clear analysis of the needs of the child and how these might be met;
  • Assure that service provision is related to need.


3. How to Make a Referral to Specialist Children’s Services and Safeguarding

Using the Inter Agency Referral Record to make a referral, a decision should be made within 24 hours as to whether the referral information indicates a child is likely to be In Need. If yes a decision will be made to complete a Single Assessment.

Where the Single Assessment indicates the Child is In Need and meets the eligibility criteria the Assessment, should be completed in 45 days.


4. Child Protection and Safeguarding

Vulnerable Children and Families

Housing Authorities may have important information about families, which could be useful to Children’s Services Departments carrying out assessments under the Assessment Framework. In accordance with its duty to share under section 27 of the Children Act 1989, the Housing Department should be prepared to share relevant information verbally or in writing, subject to having parental consent to do so, unless to obtain parental consent would place the child or children at risk of Significant Harm, in which case the information should be shared without such consent.

Should there be concerns about a child who may be at risk of Significant Harm or without intervention will be at risk of significant harm then this needs to be referred immediately, to the District Office and be dealt with as a Child Protection Referral.

Child Protection Referrals should be made without delay and will be investigated in line with the London Child Protection Procedures, Referral and Assessment Procedure. Referrals should be made by phone, followed up in writing using the Inter Agency Referral Record and sent to the local District Office, dependent upon the location of the accommodation. If the Housing Officer has any doubts about whether to refer a case, he/she should contact the Duty Officer at either North District or South District. Should a Child Protection Conference be arranged, the Housing Officer should attend to report any information and participate in any plans that are made.


5. Guidelines on Homelessness

When a person or a family approaches the council as homeless, the authority has a duty to investigate their circumstances and establish if legal duties exist regarding advice and assistance or the provision of accommodation.

Housing Officers will need to ascertain if the applicant:

  • Is eligible under immigration legislation; and
  • Has no home anywhere in the world to go back to; and
  • Is in one of the priority need categories (vulnerable if a single person); and
  • Is not intentionally homeless;
  • Does not have a local connection with another authority for them to qualify for long term housing assistance.

Limited council resources make it unlikely that Housing Officers will be able to provide accommodation if not required by law.

5.1 Families evicted from Council tenancies making a homelessness application

Where the Neighbourhood Housing Officer initiates possession proceedings against a family including children, as part of the DA7 stage, a referral to the relevant Social Services office is to be made. An early referral to Social Services will allow Social Services to complete their assessment before eviction can take place.

If a homelessness application is received from a family evicted from a Council tenancy and if they are found to be intentionally homeless, Housing will continue to provide temporary accommodation to them for a limited period of 28 days only (if accommodation was already provided). An immediate referral by the Housing caseworker to the relevant District Children’s Office (by way of fax) will be made with a copy of the decision letter. Specialist Children’s Services and Safeguarding will then update their previous assessment or undertake a Single Assessment as guided by the Assessment Framework.

Best practice would be to inform Specialist Children’s Services and Safeguarding in advance of the 28 days deadline to assess whether the Children are In Need. A copy of the Single Assessment will be sent to the Housing caseworker (Homeless Persons Unit).

5.2 Homeless Single people evicted from council tenancy making homelessness application

In all cases where the Neighbourhood Housing Officer is initiating possession proceedings against a single person holding a council tenancy, the housing records should be checked as to previous Social Care Services involvement, e.g. the Adolescent and After Care Service, Mental Health Team, Adult Disabilities Team and/or Specialist Children’s Services and Safeguarding. If known, an immediate referral to the relevant Specialist Children’s Services and Safeguarding office should be made. An immediate referral should be made where the tenant has support needs but has no previous Social Care Services involvement on record.

The outcome of this initial referral to Specialist Children’s Services and Safeguarding will be to relay back to the Housing Officer who made the referral. Joint working will be crucial to preventing eviction from taking place.

If a homelessness application is received from a single person who previously held a Council tenancy, it is quite possible that the applicant will be found to be intentionally homeless. If the Housing Officer believes the ex-tenant to be vulnerable in some way, an immediate referral will be made to Specialist Children’s Services and Safeguarding, which will determine the level of advice and assistance to be made available under relevant legislation.

5.3 Sixteen/seventeen year olds who are requesting housing as homeless

Please see Protocol regarding the Management of 16 and 17 year old Young People who may be Homeless or require Accommodation.

5.4 17 - 25 previously Looked After who is a council tenant

This applies to young people aged between 17 and 25 who have been Looked After by Southwark. This information is on the front of the Housing Department file and on the Housing Department database. 

If a problem arises in respect of this tenant, the Housing Officer should refer the matter as soon as possible to the Adolescent and After Care Service based at Sumner House.

These cases may indicate a breakdown in arrangements made for the young person upon leaving care, and require assessment to determine the level of concern. Both services will undertake assessments with the aim of supporting this young person to remain in their accommodation.

5.5 Council Tenant presenting as homeless age 16-25 who is making a homeless application

Housing officers will carry out an assessment under the Housing Act with regards to entitlement to accommodation from Housing, but will immediately refer to 16+ Team to establish practical arrangements that should be put in place.

5.6 Families deemed intentionally homeless and referred to social services

These families are referred to Specialist Children’s Services and Safeguarding for assessment. Specialist Children’s Services and Safeguarding Policy is outlined in the Prioritisation Criteria for Children in Need

Families whose sole need is housing are defined as coming within low priority, Level 1.

Families where lack of access to appropriate housing is adversely affecting the child are defined as coming within medium priority Level 2 need.

Where a family, referred by Housing or from any other source as intentionally homeless, presents at Specialist Children’s Services and Safeguarding, the following action will be taken:

  • A Single Assessment will be undertaken in order to determine the level of need of the family;
  • Such an Assessment will be undertaken within 10 working days;
  • In exceptional circumstances, Specialist Children’s Services and Safeguarding will provide the family with temporary accommodation pending the assessment. However housing will always notify Specialist Children’s Services and Safeguarding of such cases in advance to their decision to cease services to the family;
  • Families falling within Level 1, Low Priority need, will not be offered a service unless their circumstances are exceptional. Any decision whether the circumstances of a particular case are exceptional are to be made by the Service Manager;
  • Families falling within Level 2, Medium Priority need, may be offered a service. Such a service will normally be limited to the provision of accommodation for the children in the family. It will not normally include financial assistance;
  • In some cases, in relation to families falling within Level 2, Medium Priority need, but where there are complex problems within the family as well as a lack of housing, Specialist Children’s Services and Safeguarding may decide to undertake further assessment of the need;
  • In all cases the family will be provided with a copy of the assessment.


6. Housing Priority Nominations

How to make a housing priority nomination to housing

Officers in Specialist Children’s Services and Safeguarding can make nominations to Housing for families/individuals for priority re-housing. This requires the approval of the Designated Manager (Housing Priority). Housing’s ability to make an offer will depend on availability of accommodation.

The following households will be considered for acceptance;

  • Young people or adults in Looked After or other semi-supported placements who are ready to live independently;
  • Families who need re-housing in order to facilitate their caring for an adult previously in residential care, or for a child previously cared for elsewhere;
  • Households who need re-housing due to complex and serious family problems.

Specialist Children’s Services and Safeguarding staff will need to complete the relevant application and submit this with the most recent assessment. A joint Panel between Specialist Children’s Services and Safeguarding and the Housing Access Unit will meet regularly to consider priority nominations for housing.

End