Skip to main content

Family and Friends Care


Children Act 1989: Family and Friends Care: Statutory Guidance for Local Authorities about family and friends providing care for children who cannot live with their parents.

Family Rights Group, Initial Family and Friends Care Assessment: A Good Practice Guide outlines what a viability assessment for family and friend carers should look like, what social workers should consider and how to undertake international assessments.

Looking After Someone Else's Child: Government advice on the support and financial help you can get if someone else's child is living with you full time.

1. Introduction

Children may be brought up by members of their extended families, friends or other people who are connected with them for a variety of reasons and in a variety of different arrangements.

This policy sets out the local authority's approach towards promoting and supporting the needs of such children and covers the assessments which will be carried out to determine the services required and how such services will then be provided.

The manager with overall responsibility for this policy is Head of Looked After Children Services.

This policy will be regularly reviewed, and made freely and widely available.

2. Values and Principles

Consideration of children's welfare and best interests will always be at the centre of the work we do.

It is an underlying principle that children should be enabled to live within their families unless this is not consistent with their welfare. We will therefore work to maintain children within their own families, and facilitate services to support any such arrangements, wherever this is consistent with the child's safety and well-being. This principle applies to all children in need, including those who are looked after by the local authority. Where a child cannot live within his or her immediate family and the local authority is considering the need to look after the child, we will make strenuous efforts to identify potential carers within the child's network of family or friends who are able and willing to care for the child.

We will provide support for any such arrangements based on the assessed needs of the child, not simply on his or her legal status, and will seek to ensure that family and friends carers are provided with support to ensure that children do not become looked after by the local authority, or do not have to remain looked after longer than is needed.

We will provide support and training in ways that are appropriate and encouraging for family and friends carers.

The local authority has a general duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of Children in Need* living within its area and to promote the upbringing of such children by their families. The way in which we fulfil this duty is by providing a range and level of services appropriate to those children's assessed needs (Section 17, Children Act 1989). This can include financial, practical or other support.

It is important to note that the local authority does not have a general duty to assess all arrangements where children are living with their wider family or friends network rather than their parents but it does have a duty where it appears that services may be necessary to safeguard or promote the welfare of a Child in Need.

*A Child in Need is defined in Section 17(10) of the Children Act 1989 as a child who is disabled or who is unlikely to achieve or maintain a reasonable standard of health or development without the provision of services by the local authority.

To clarify: the children who may come within the definition of Children in Need, the local authority has drawn up a 'Thresholds to Children's Social Care Services' document, which is available through the Council's website.

Children in Need may live with members of their family or friends in a variety of different legal arrangements, some formal and some informal. Different court orders are available to formalise these arrangements.

Looked after children will always come within the definition of Children in Need, whether they are accommodated under Section 20 of the Children Act 1989 (with parental consent) or in care subject to a Court Order whereby the local authority shares parental responsibility for the child. The local authority has a responsibility wherever possible to make arrangements for a looked after child to live with a member of the family (Section 22 of the Children Act 1989).

For a detailed summary of the meaning and implications of different legal situations, the rights of carers and parents, and the nature of decisions which family and friends carers will be able to make in relation to the child, please see Annex A: Caring for Somebody Else's Child - Options. Section 4, Different Situations whereby Children may be Living with Family and Friend Carers, which sets out the local authority's powers and duties in relation to the various options.

In relation to financial support, the local authority may provide carers of children in need with such support on a regular or one-off basis, under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989. This may include discretionary funding based upon a financial means test. However, the status of the placement will determine the nature and amount of the financial support and who can authorise its payment. The legal status of the child may have a bearing on the levels of financial support which may be available to carers, however. There are different legislative provisions which apply to financial support for children living with family or friends in looked after/adoption/special guardianship/Child Arrangements Order arrangements. The following sections of this policy set out the financial support that we may provide to family and friends who are caring for children in these different contexts.

4. Different Situations whereby Children may be Living with Family and Friends Carers

4.1 Informal family and friends care arrangements

Where a child cannot be cared for within his or her immediate family, the family may make their own arrangements to care for the child within the family and friends network.

The local authority does not have a duty to assess any such informal family and friends care arrangements, unless it appears to the authority that services may be necessary to safeguard or promote the welfare of a Child in Need. In such cases, the local authority has a responsibility under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989 to assess the child's needs and provide services to meet any assessed needs of the child. Following assessment, a Child in Need Plan will be drawn up and a package of support will be identified. This can comprise a variety of different types of services and support, including financial support.

Parental responsibility remains with the birth parents, but the carer may do what is reasonable to safeguard or promote the child's welfare.

For further information please go to: OMG Working with Children in Need

4.2 Private fostering arrangements

A privately fostered child is a child under 16 (or 18 if disabled) who is cared for by an adult who is not a parent or close relative, where the child is to be cared for in that home for 28 days or more. Close relative is defined as 'a grandparent, brother, sister, uncle or aunt (whether of the full blood or half blood or by marriage or civil partnership) or step-parent.' It does not include a child who is Looked After by a local authority. In a private fostering arrangement, the parent still holds parental responsibility and agrees the decision-making arrangements with the private foster carer.

The local authority has a duty to assess and monitor the welfare of all privately fostered children and the way in which they carry out these duties is set out in the Children (Private Arrangements for Fostering) Regulations 2005. However, the local authority may also become involved with a child in a private fostering arrangement where the child comes within the definition of a Child in Need. In such cases, the local authority has a responsibility to provide services to meet the assessed needs of the child under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989. Following assessment, a Child in Need Plan will be drawn up and a package of support will be identified. As in 4.1 above, this can comprise a variety of different types of services and support, including financial support.

4.3 Family and friends foster carers – 'Connected Persons'

Where a child is looked after by the local authority, we have a responsibility wherever possible to make arrangements for the child to live with a member of the family who is approved as a foster carer (Section 22 of the Children Act 1989). The child can be placed with the family members prior to such approval, subject to an assessment of the placement, for up to 16 weeks. This temporary approval can only be extended in exceptional circumstances. In this context the carer is referred to as a Connected Person and the process of obtaining approval for the placement is set out in the Placement with Connected Persons Procedure. Where temporary approval is given to such a placement under the procedure, the carers will receive financial support on a regular basis. This may cover placements at very short notice.

Connected Carers will receive the same financial allowances as mainstream foster carers.

In addition the child will have a placement plan which sets out the specific arrangements surrounding the child and the carers including the expectations of the foster carers and the support they can expect to receive to enable to fulfil their responsibilities for the child.

The assessment and approval process for family and friends who apply to be foster carers for a specific Looked After child will be the same as for any other foster carer except that the timescales for the assessment are different where a child is already in the placement as indicated above. In all other respects the process is the same as for any other potential foster carers and is set out in the Assessment and Approval of Foster Carer Procedure. An information pack will be available to potential foster carers about the process and they will be given the name and contact details of the social worker from the Fostering Service allocated to carry out the assessment.

Once approved as foster carers, they will be allocated a supervising social worker from the fostering service to provide them with support and supervision; and they will receive fostering allowances for as long as they care for the child as a foster carer.

While the child remains a looked after child, as a foster carer, they will be expected to cooperate with all the processes that are in place to ensure that the child receives appropriate care and support, for example, contributing to reviews of the child's Care Plan, cooperating with the child's social worker and promoting the child's education and health needs.

Authority for day-to-day decision making about the child should be delegated to the carer(s), unless there is a valid reason not to do so.

4.4 Child Arrangements Order

A Child Arrangements Order is a Court Order which sets out the arrangements as to when and with whom a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact.

These orders replace the previous Contact Orders and Residence Orders.

A Child Arrangements Order may give parental responsibility to the person in whose favour it is made. Parental responsibility is shared with the parents.

Authority for day-to-day decision making about the child should be delegated to the carer(s), unless there is a valid reason not to do so.

Child Arrangements Orders may be made in private family proceedings in which the local authority is not a party nor involved in any way in the arrangements. However, a Child Arrangements Order in favour of a relative or foster carer (who was a 'Connected Person') with whom a child is placed may be an appropriate outcome as part of a permanence plan for a Child in Need or a 'Looked After' child.

4.5 Special Guardianship Order

Special Guardianship offers a further option for children needing permanent care outside their birth family. It can offer greater security without absolute severance from the birth family as in adoption.

Relatives may apply for a Special Guardianship Order after caring for the child for one year. As Special Guardians, they will have parental responsibility for the child which, while it is still shared with the parents, can be exercised with greater autonomy on day-to-day matters than where there is a Child Arrangements Order.

Special Guardianship Orders may be made in private family proceedings and the local authority may not be a party to any such arrangements. However, a Special Guardianship Order in favour of a relative or foster carer (who was a 'Connected Person') with whom a child is living may be an appropriate outcome as part of a permanence plan for a Child in Need or a 'Looked After' child.

Where the child was Looked After immediately prior to the making of the Special Guardianship Order, the local authority has a responsibility to assess the support needs of the child, parents and Special Guardians, including the need for financial support.

See also the Applications for Special Guardianship Orders Procedure for details of what financial assistance may be available to holders of Special Guardianship Orders, the applicable criteria and who within the local authority will make decisions under the policy

4.6 Adoption Order

Adoption is the process by which all parental rights and responsibilities for a child are permanently transferred to an adoptive parent by a court. As a result the child legally becomes part of the adoptive family.

An Adoption Order in favour of a relative or foster carer (who was a 'Connected Person') with whom a child is living may be an appropriate outcome as part of a permanence plan for a Child in Need or a 'Looked After' child.

Local authorities must make arrangements, as part of their adoption service, for the provision of a range of adoption support services. They then have to undertake assessments of the need for adoption support services at the request of the adopted child, adoptive parents and their families, as well as birth relatives. The support required is then set out in an Adoption Support Plan and this may include financial support.

5. Accommodation

The authority, whenever possible, will ensure family and friends carers living in social housing are given appropriate priority to move to more suitable accommodation if this will prevent the need for a child to become looked after.

6. Supporting Contact with Parents

The authority is under a duty to promote contact for all Children in Need, although this differs depending on whether or not the child is Looked After.

Where the child is not Looked After, we are required to promote contact between the child and his/her family 'where it is necessary to do so in order to safeguard and promote his or her welfare'. As part of the support arrangements, it may be identified that specific assistance is required to ensure that any such contact can be managed safely. If necessary, information will be made available to family and friends carers about our local contact centres and family support services, and how to make use of their services.

Where a child is Looked After, we are required to endeavour to promote contact between the child and his or her family 'unless it is not practicable or consistent with the child's welfare'. The overall objective of the contact arrangements will be included in the child's Care Plan and the specific arrangements will be set out in the child's Placement Plan - see Contact with Parents/Adults and Siblings Procedure.

7. Family Group Conferences

Family Group Conferences are meetings held between professionals and family members, which aim to achieve the best outcomes for children. They promote the involvement of the wider family to achieve a resolution of difficulties for Children in Need, and may help to identify short-term and/or permanent solutions for children within the family network.

We will offer a Family Group Conference or other form of family meeting at an early stage. If a child becomes Looked After, perhaps following an emergency, without a Family Group Conference having been held, then (where appropriate) we will arrange one as soon as possible.

The process is set out in the Family Group Conference Procedure as set out in the Local Safeguarding Procedures Manual.

8. Complaints Procedure

Where a family or friends carer is not satisfied with the level of support provided to enable them to care for the child, then they have access to the local authority's complaints process. Our aim would be to resolve any such dissatisfaction without the need for a formal investigation but where an informal resolution is not possible, then a formal investigation will be arranged.

The timescales and process are set out in the Complaints and Representations Procedure.

Annex A: Caring for Somebody Else's Child - Options

Click here to view Annex A: Caring for Somebody Else's Child - Options.

Useful Organisations and Information Family and Friends Carers


Offers a range of support developed for families and carers affected by substance misuse.

Addaction website

Address: 67-69 Cowcross Street

Tel: 020 7251 5860


Works with families affected by drugs and alcohol, and supports carers of children whose parents have drug and alcohol problems.

Adfam website

Address: 25 Corsham Street
N1 6DR

Tel: 020 7553 7640

Advisory Centre for Education (ACE)

Offers free independent advice and information for parents and carers on a range of state education and schooling issues, including admissions, exclusion, attendance, special educational needs and bullying.

Advisory Centre for Education (ACE) website

Address: 1c Aberdeen Studios
22 Highbury Grove
N5 2DQ

General advice line: 0808 800 5793
Exclusion advice line: 0808 800 0327
Exclusion information line: 020 7704 9822 (24hr answer phone)

Website offering information and advice to grandparents, plus online and telephone advice.

Helpline: 0845 434 6835


Supporting agencies and professionals who work with children and young people.

CoramBAAF website

Address: CoramBAAF
Coram Campus
41 Brunswick Square

Tel: 020 7520 0300

Chat (Portsmouth)
Family Information Service
Chat Offers a wide range of free information on childcare, activities and services for families and children ages 0-19 years.

If you are looking for childcare, activities for children and young people, want to work in childcare or looking for information on parenting classes, family support, health and a wide range of other information Portsmouth Chat can help you.

Address: Portsmouth Chat
Central Library
Guildhall Square

Tel: 023 9268 8830

Children's Legal Centre

Provides free independent legal advice and factsheets to children, parents, carers and professionals.

Children's Legal Centre website

Address: University of Essex
Wivenhoe Park

Tel: 012 0687 7910

Child Law Advice Line: 0808 802 0008
Community Legal Advice - Education: 0845 345 4345

Independent Review Mechanism (IRM)

The Independent Review Mechanism (IRM) is a review process which prospective or existing foster carers can use when they do not agree with the qualifying determination given to them by their fostering service provider. The review process is conducted by a review panel independent of the foster service provider.

Address: Contract Manager
Independent Review Mechanism (IRM)
Unit 4, Pavilion Business Park
Royds Hall Road
LS12 6AJ

Independent Review Mechanism website

Tel: 0845 450 3956

Citizens Advice Bureaux

Helps people resolve their legal, money and other problems by providing free, independent and confidential advice through local bureaux and website.

Citizens Advice Bureaux

Department for Education

Lists details of telephone help lines and online services to provide information, advice and support on a range of issues that parents and families may face in bringing up children and young people.

Department for Education website

Family Fund Trust

Helps families with severely disabled or seriously ill children to have choices and the opportunity to enjoy ordinary life. Gives grants for things that make life easier and more enjoyable for the disabled child and their family.

Address: 4 Alpha Court
Monks Cross Drive
YO32 9WN

Family Fund Trust website

Tel: 0845 130 4542

Family Rights Group (FGR)

Provides advice to parents and other family members whose children are involved with or require children's social care services because of welfare needs or concerns. Publishes resources, helps to develop support groups for family and friends carers, and runs a discussion board.

Family Rights Group (FGR) website

Address: Second Floor
The Print House
18 Ashwin Street
E8 3DL

Tel: 020 7923 2628
Advice line: 0800 801 0366

The Fostering Network

Supports foster carers and anyone with an interest in fostering to improve the lives of children in care. Publishes resources and runs Fosterline, a confidential advice line for foster carers including concerns about a child's future, allegations and complaints, legislation and financial matters.

The Fostering Network website

Address: 87 Blackfriars Road

Tel: 020 7620 6400
Fosterline: 0800 040 7675

The Grandparents' Association

Supports grandparents and their families, especially those who have lost or are losing contact with their grandchildren because of divorce, separation or other family problems, those caring for their grandchildren on a full-time basis, and those with childcare responsibilities for their grandchildren.

The Grandparents' Association website

Address: Moot House
The Stow Harlow
CM20 3AG

Tel: 012 7942 8040
Helpline: 0845 434 9585

Welfare benefits advice and information: 0844 357 1033

Grandparents Plus

Champions the role of grandparents and the wider family in children's lives, especially when they take on the caring role in difficult family circumstances.

Address: Grandparents Plus
18 Victoria Park Square
Bethnal Green
E2 9PF

Tel: 020 8981 8001

Mentor UK

Promotes the health and wellbeing of children and young people to reduce the damage that drugs can do to lives.

Mentor UK website

Address: Fourth Floor 74
Great Eastern Street

Tel: 020 7739 8494

National Family Mediation (NFM)

Provides mediation services to support couples who are separated, and their children and others affected by this.

National Family Mediation (NFM) website

Address: 4 Barnfield Hill,
EX1 1SR.

Tel: 0300 4000 636

Partners of Prisoners and Families Support Group

Operates helpline and provides a variety of services to support anyone who has a link with someone in prison, prisoners and other agencies.

Partners of Prisoners and Families Support Group website

Address: Valentine House
1079 Rochdale Road
M9 8AJ

Tel: 016 1702 1000
Offenders' Families Helpline Tel: 0808 808 2003

Prison Advice and Care Trust (PACT)

Provides practical and emotional support to prisoners and to their children and families. The Kinship Care Support Service provides support and advice to family members and friends who care for children whose parents are in HMP Holloway.

Prison Advice and Care Trust (PACT) website

Address: Park Place
12 Lawn Lane

Tel: 020 7735 9535

Prisoners’ Families Helpline Tel: 0808 808 2003

Parents Against Drug Abuse (PADA)

Delivers support and services to the families of substance users, including a national helpline.

Parents Against Drug Abuse (PADA) website - to follow

Address: The Foundry
Marcus Street
CH41 1EU

Phone: 015 1649 1580
National Families Helpline: 0845 702 3867

Parentline Plus

Provides help and support in all aspects of family life, including information, an online chat facility and a 24 hour helpline.

Family Lives website

Address: CAN Mezzanine 49-51
East Road
N1 6AH

Tel: 020 7553 3080
24hr Advice line: 0808 800 2222


The government's national drugs helpline which offers free confidential drugs information and advice 24 hours a day. Information and advice is also available via the website.

TalktoFrank website

24 hour advice line: 0800 77 66 00
Text: 82111


Advocacy organisation for children living away from home or in need.

Voice website

Address: 320 City Road

Tel: 020 7833 5792

Young person's advice line: 0808 800 5792

Young Minds

Young Minds Works to improve the emotional wellbeing and mental health of children and young people and empowering their parents and carers.

Young Minds website

Address: 48-50 St John Street

Tel: 020 7336 8445
Parents helpline: 0808 802 5544

Trix procedures

Only valid for 48hrs