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5.5.4 Transport Arrangements for Children who are Looked After

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This procedure applies to all children in foster care placements, including children Looked After who are placed (Regulation 24 or 25) with relatives, friends or Connected Persons (This does not apply to children on a care order who are placed at home with parents ) and applies to arranging transport for looked after children and young people who (a) are unable to travel independently and (b) where transport cannot be provided by carers in relation to:

  • Home to school transport;
  • Contact arrangements;
  • Therapy or counselling;
  • Other trips such as respite, health appointments etc.

The Integrated Transport Unit has a service level agreement with Children's Social Care and Safeguarding to undertake all the above.

OTHER RELEVANT CHAPTERS

Contact with Parents / Adults and Siblings Procedure


Contents

  1. Our Policy
  2. General Principles
  3. Confirmation and Review
  4. Integrated Transport Unit
  5. Travel to School
  6. Children's Travel to Contact
  7. Parents Travel to Contact
  8. Alterations to Agreed Travel Arrangements


1. Our Policy

Portsmouth City Council is determined that children who are Looked After will, as far as possible, share the normal expectations and day to day experiences of all children. Part of this principle extends to children being able to expect that their full time carers will take them to school, leisure activities, contact, etc.

Our expectation therefore is that providing transport arrangements through the ITU will be agreed as an exception to our policy.

We also aim to maintain a child's school placement wherever possible in order to minimise disruption to their child's schooling. Changes are discouraged in all but exceptional circumstances and a proposed change requires the agreement of the Commissioning Manager (LAC or A&I).


2. General Principles

Wherever possible children and young people who live close to their school should travel in the same way as their peers:

  • Be walked to school by their carers; or
  • Walk alone if they are of an appropriate age and can do so safely; or
  • Be driven by their carers and dropped off.

Children and young people who live further away from their school but live in the city should also travel in the same way as their peers where possible:

  • Be driven there by their carers and dropped off; or
  • Reach school by public transport if they are of an appropriate age and can do so safely.

In house foster carers are expected to meet all their travel costs as part of their fostering allowance, but if the costs are excessive, due to distance or the frequency of arrangements, they can receive a mileage rate for undertaking this transportation. This must be agreed by the fostering team manager.

It is likely that children and young people who are accessing therapy or counselling will be anxious prior to the appointment and may exhibit varying degrees of distress following the session. Some children and young people may wish to disclose very sensitive matters, including possible abuse disclosures. Therefore, wherever possible, children and young people who are accessing therapy or counselling should be transported by their carers.

Where this is not possible, the child's social worker must consider other options, bearing in mind that there should be as much continuity as possible:

  • Taking personal responsibility for transporting the child or young person;
  • Using a safe and trusted family member(1);
  • Using a social services assistant;
  • Using a social worker in training.

Where children are placed with an IFA the foster carers are expected to be responsible for all transport arrangements, as this should be included in the commissioning of the placement arrangements, including travel costs.

All transport requests must be fully completed by the child' social worker and be agreed by the responsible fieldwork team manager prior to forwarding to the Integrated Transport Unit.

Bus passes for independent travel can be obtained through the ITU.

Under no circumstances must a member of staff enter into arranging transport directly with a voluntary driver or taxi company.

The ITU intend to develop a scheme for Independent Travel Training which will be operational by 2013. Detailed information will be provided once the scheme has been fully developed.

(1) This is a member of the child or young person’s family who has ongoing unsupervised contact or a member of the extended foster family who is known to the child, has regular contact with them and has had the appropriate checks.


3. Confirmation and Review

Once the supervising (fostering) social worker has confirmed that a child's carers cannot provide transport because:

  • It conflicts with the needs of other children living in the family; or
  • The foster carer was approved as a carer in employment and cannot reasonably be expected to undertake all transport arrangements.

The supervising (fostering) social worker must ensure that all travel arrangements are clearly defined and agreed within the Placement Planning process, the child's social worker will then reflect this within the Care Plan and it will form part of the discussion within Looked After Child Reviews.

The responsible Commissioning Manager will ensure that all transport requests are reviewed and re-authorised annually.


4. Integrated Transport Unit

The ITU will only act on a transport request, which has been fully completed as comprehensive information is needed to match the child's individual needs with available resources (e.g. choice of voluntary driver, sharing transport).

Travel arranged through the Integrated Transport Unit will, wherever possible, be via the use of a voluntary driver. Children who are being transported for contact or therapy/counselling will always be allocated to a voluntary driver.

Occasionally, in addition to the core areas referenced in Section 3, the ITU will provide a staff journey for business travel purposes.

If very short notice is given for travel requests it increases the likelihood that the ITU cannot allocate a voluntary driver and the journey will have be undertaken by taxi.


5. Travel to School

When a child has left their family home or care placement and is placed at a much greater distance from their school, urgent consideration must be given to sustaining the child's education and school place. The first questions to be posed are:

  • Can the new carer or a family member(2) assist on a short-term basis, up to the end of a school term?
  • Dependant on their age and ability, can the child or young person travel to school safely by a school bus or public transport?

A transport request will only be authorised if a family member is unable or unwilling to assist and the new carer's existing commitments prevent them from transporting the child and the child cannot travel independently.

(2) This is a member of the child or young person’s family who has ongoing unsupervised contact or a member of the extended foster family who is known to the child, has regular contact with them and has had the appropriate checks.


6. Children's Travel to Contact

Arrangements for contact with parents should always be clearly detailed in the Placement Plan, setting out how contact will take place, the venue, the frequency and how the arrangements will be evaluated and reviewed. Contact arrangements will be regularly re-evaluated in relation to both the child's needs and their wishes and feelings. This will take place through the planning and review process and arrangements will change as the child's needs, wishes and feelings in relation to contact change. See Contact with Parents / Adults and Siblings Procedure.

Babies and younger children

Our expectation for babies and younger children is that it is in their best interest, in terms of emotional attachment, emotional stability and physical routine, for contact to normally take place within the foster carer's home.

If this is not possible, which will be in all cases assessed as high risk and those in Care Proceedings where the court has directed supervised contact, the foster carer should be the individual of first choice who transports the child to and from the contact venue.

If the foster carer is unable to transport a baby or a pre school child to and from the contact venue, the use of a voluntary driver will be a last resort once all other possibilities have been explored.

If the supervising social worker (fostering) confirms that:

  • The foster carer cannot transport the child to the contact venue and cannot act as an escort: and

The child's social worker confirms that:

  • If contact is supervised, the contact supervisor cannot transport the child; and
  • There is no safe and trusted family member(3) to offer transport; and
  • There is no other staff member able to transport (e.g. a social services assistant).

Then a case must be made by the child's social worker through their line manager to their Commissioning Manager for agreement to request a voluntary driver through the ITU.

Children of primary school age

Our expectation for children of primary school age is that it is in their best interest, in terms of their emotional stability and physical routine, for contact to normally take place within the foster carer's home.

If this is not possible, which will be in all cases where parents are assessed as high risk, the foster carer should be the individual of first choice who transports the child or young person to and from the contact venue.

Older children and young people

Our expectation for older children and young people is that following an assessment of contact arrangements within the planning and review process:

  • Some children and young people, in terms of their emotional stability and physical routine, will continue to need contact to take place within the foster carer's home;
  • Some children and young people will have contact within another agreed venue.

Older children and young people who can travel independently

For older children and young people, following an assessment of their individual situation and ability, a decision may be arrived at that allows the young person to travel on public transport to and from the contact venue where contact cannot take place within the foster home.

When older children and young people are assessed as being unable to travel independently

If the child's social worker confirms that:

  • An older child or a young person cannot travel independently;
  • Where contact is supervised, the contact supervisor cannot transport the child; and/or
  • There is no other staff member able to transport the child or young person; and

The supervising social worker (fostering) confirms that:

  • The foster carer cannot transport the child to the contact venue.

Then the ITU, on receipt of a completed transport request form, will arrange a voluntary driver.

(3) This is a member of the child or young person’s family who has ongoing unsupervised contact or a member of the extended foster family who is known to the child, has regular contact with them and has had the appropriate checks.


7. Parents Travel to Contact

Parents can be assisted with travelling expenses to enable contact to go ahead. The social worker should submit a request for financial support to his or her manager, with reasons. Once the manager's approval has been given, the social worker should ask the team's administrative staff to arrange for the payments to be made or travel warrants to be issued.


8. Alterations to Agreed Travel Arrangements

The ITU must be given as much notice of cancellations as possible in order to avoid unnecessary costs being incurred and drivers undertaking unnecessary journeys.

In the majority of situations cancellations will be notified to the ITU through the Social Worker either by e-mailing Transport@portsmouthcc.gov.uk or by phoning 023 92841414. However, foster carers are able to cancel a driver in limited situations, e.g. where the child is ill, an inset day is planned or similar 'one off' events.

The ITU cannot accept a permanent cancellation from a foster carer which must be via the social worker.

Any minor changes to a transport arrangement such as change of time can be notified by the Social Worker via e-mail. However, changes that have a financial implication can only be made with a new authorised fax request form.

The ITU will not accept a request from a foster carer to alter the destination of a child's journey, any such request must be made via the social worker.

To determine how much a journey will cost before committing to it, a fax request form can be completed and left unsigned then be sent to the ITU making it clear that a quote only is required at this stage. If the price is acceptable the fax request form will need to be resubmitted with an authorising signature. 

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