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5.2.2 Homeless Families with Children Protocol

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This Protocol is a County wide document concerned with partnership working between District Council Housing Departments and Lincolnshire Children Services. It is written to provide clarification on providing a service to vulnerable families who are homeless or who are at risk of becoming homeless. It is designed to foster a practical commitment from the signatories to deliver a service in circumstances where households are "intentionally homeless ", and thereby meet the aims of the 2002 Homelessness Act. An example of the Intentionally Homeless Referral Form and Acceptance Form is available on the Core Children's Services Forms page on George (under Forms E-J).


  • District Council Housing Departments and Lincolnshire Children's Services;
  • Boston Borough Council Housing Department;
  • East Lindsey District Council Housing Department;
  • Lincoln City Council Housing Department;
  • North Kesteven District Council Housing Department;
  • South Holland District Council Housing Department;
  • South Kesteven District Council Housing Department;
  • West Lindsey District Council Housing Department and ACIS Group Housing;
  • Lincolnshire County Council Children's Services.


Contents

  1. Introduction/Purpose of the Protocol
  2. Parties to the Protocol and their Obligations Under it
  3. Legal Framework
  4. Procedures for District Housing Departments
  5. Procedures for CAF
  6. Procedures for Children Services Department
  7. Responsibility for Making the Protocol Work
  8. Resolution of Disputes
  9. The Joint Protocol - Achieving and Maintaining both County and Local Operational Ownership
  10. Local Contacts/Signatories to the Joint Protocol


1. Introduction/Purpose of the Protocol

1.1 The first step in tackling homelessness is always based on early intervention and preventative measures to keep families together and in their own homes. The CAF (Common Assessment Framework) is a tool to provide a holistic assessment for children and their families and the vehicle for multi-agency working to meet the presenting needs through the child's plan. This form of assistance is the responsibility of all agencies working with children aged 0 - 19 yrs, to assess the family needs using the CAF form and to work together to address these needs - this includes both statutory and voluntary agencies. In some cases prevention of homelessness is very difficult, either because efforts fail or because an individual household fails to seek assistance, therefore making themselves 'intentionally homeless', but if possible with consent of the family the CAF is a pro-active response to prevent wherever possible homelessness.
1.2 This joint protocol has been devised to provide an improved service to families who have fallen through the welfare safety net and have become/likely to become homeless. It aims to clarify procedures and foster co-operation and good practice between Housing, Children's Services and all other interested parties in Lincolnshire, therefore fulfilling the aims of the Homelessness Act (2002).


2. Parties to the Protocol and their Obligations Under it

2.1 The parties to the protocol are Lincolnshire County Council Children's Services and the seven local housing authorities in Lincolnshire (Boston Borough Council, East Lindsey District Council, Lincoln City District Council, North Kesteven District Council, South Holland District Council, South Kesteven District Council and West Lindsey District Council).
2.2

The development of this protocol demonstrates the practical commitment from all involved organisations to deliver on the objectives set out in the Lincolnshire Joint Homelessness Strategy (2003) and to deliver the best positive outcomes for intentionally homeless families.

Specifically to: -

  • Promote the welfare of children in need, using CAF to initiate a multi-agency response to meet the needs of the child and family;
  • Ensure the upbringing of such children by their families where it is safe and consistent with the child's welfare;
  • Avoid family breakdown where homelessness or the potential of homelessness is seen as the cause for such breakdown.
2.3 The parties agree to implement the protocol and ensure that the relevant staff within their respective organisations are familiar with the protocol and their obligations under it. The parties also agree to the need for the development of reciprocal arrangements to ensure that the protocol works effectively in practice.


3. Legal Framework

3.1

The Housing act 1996 as amended by the Homelessness Act 2002 placed new duties on local authorities to carry out reviews and publish strategies to tackle and prevent homelessness in their area.

The local housing authority has a duty to assess homelessness applications.

Under Section 193 of the act the local authority has a duty to secure accommodation for people who are homeless, eligible for assistance, in priority need and not intentionally homeless. Housing authorities aim to complete enquiries within 33 working days.

Sometimes households who are eligible for assistance but have made themselves "intentionally homeless." Under Section 190 of the Act, such households with dependant children will need to be secured accommodation for a "reasonable" period (this is agreed locally to be 28 days), to give the household a chance to secure accommodation for themselves. They will be offered advice and assistance in securing accommodation.

Under Section 195 of the Housing Act 1996, applicants at risk of homelessness but found to be threatened with homelessness intentionally, are only entitled to advise and assistance in securing that accommodation.

Section 191 of the Housing Act 1996 defines intentionality; "a person becomes intentionally homeless if he deliberately does or fails to do anything in consequence of which he ceases to occupy accommodation which is available for his occupation and which it would be reasonable for him to continue to occupy" Such acts of omission include rent arrears, anti-social behaviours, breaches of tenancy and giving up accommodation suitable to a family or individuals needs.
3.2

Housing authorities responsibility towards families with children

The Homelessness Act 2002 stresses the need for cooperation between housing authorities and children's services when dealing with intentionally homeless households with dependant children. If a household with children under the age of 18 is deemed intentionally homeless then the local authority must inform Children's Services (with the applicant's consent). Under the Code of Guidance, Section 10.5, there are circumstances where even if consent is withheld, the housing department may disclose information to Children's Services if they have reason to believe that a child may be at risk of significant harm.

Under Section 213A of the Homelessness Act, if Children's services decide that the child's needs would be best met by assisting the family in obtaining accommodation, they can ask the housing authority for reasonable assistance and the housing authority must respond. The Housing Authority may assist Social services in discharging their obligations under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989 for example by offering advice and assistance as to the range of options available. The duty does not extend to a requirement on the housing authority to provide accommodation for the family.
3.3

Children's services responsibilities towards children in need.

Section 17 of the Children Act 1989 provides a general duty on Children's service Departments to safeguard and promote the welfare of children who are in need and to promote the upbringing of children by their families. Children in need are defined as:

  • Those who are unlikely to achieve or maintain a reasonable standard of health and development, unless the local authority provide services;
  • Those whose health and development is likely to be significantly impaired, unless the local authority provides services;
  • Disabled children.

The Children act 1989 responsibility applies to children living or found in the local authority area

Section 116 of the Adoption and Children Act 2002 amends Section 17 of the Children Act 1989 to allow assistance given by Children's services to include provision of accommodation. If a child is in need solely as a result of homelessness Children's services are expected to consider the best way of meeting that need i.e. by assisting the family in finding accommodation, or providing a deposit under s17 of the 1989 Act.

Some authorities have set up specific pooled budgets for rent deposits for intentionally homeless families.
3.3 Further clarity is given in Working Together (2006) which clearly states that '...In such cases, if children services decide the child's needs would be best met by helping the family to obtain accommodation, they can ask the housing authority for reasonable assistance in this, and the housing authority must give reasonable assistance.'


4. Procedures for District Housing Departments

4.1 At the point a Housing department determines that a family with children are intentionally homeless, likely to become homeless or not owed a duty under Part 7 of the Housing Act 1996, they must seek the consent of the family to instigate the CAF process.
4.2 Such families will normally be offered 28 days of temporary accommodation by the district council to allow them time to seek alternative sources of accommodation & advice and support. A CAF meeting will be held within 15 working days and plan developed to address the needs of the family.
4.3 The Housing department must continue to provide advice and assist the family as part of a multi-agency plan of support, and every effort should made as part of this plan to secure alternative accommodation.
4.4

The Housing Department must use the CAF form to help to identify whether a child or young person has additional needs. This will help the professional to decide on the appropriate course of action:

  • Needs met by family or housing department without involving others;
  • A referral to a single agency;
  • May need a multi-agency response if the needs require services from 2 or more agencies.

Consideration is to be given to the impact on the child of the housing situation, impact of the housing situation on the parent's ability to provide an appropriate level of care and financial and other resources available to the family.

All theses elements must be recorded fully in writing.
4.5 If the needs require a multi-agency response a call is made to the Customer Service Centre 01522 782111 and the referrer will be asked to fax the completed CAF form, which will initiate the CAF process. 
4.6 If a family refuses consent to a CAF, the Housing Department must still notify Children's Services only if they believe the circumstances are such that a child is, or may be at risk of significant harm. (Follow LSCB policies and procedures) or meets the criteria for S17 Child in need. The Model of assessment- document agreed by the LSCB is to be used further by the Housing Authority when decisions are made regarding criteria for CAF and social care- specialist service. This document can be found on the Lincolnshire Children website.
4.7 The CAF must have the written consent of the parent or young person (if deemed Fraser competent) and give details of the actions taken by the Housing Department to advise the family.


5. Procedures for CAF

5.1 The practitioner identifies that the child and family have additional needs that are beyond the remit of the Housing Department. The practitioner needs to discuss the possibility of the CAF with the family.
5.2 The practitioner needs to, with verbal consent, ring the Customer Service Centre (CSC), 01522 782111 to see if a CAF already exists. If a CAF already exists the CSC staff will give the practitioner details of the Lead Professional and they will need to contact that person and share all relevant information. If CAF does not exist the CSC staff will ask the practitioner to complete a CAF with the family.
5.3 The practitioner completes the CAF with the family and gains written consent. The practitioner then rings the CSC and logs on the families details. They will then be asked to fax the CAF form.
5.3 Once the CAF form is received the CAF Administration team will contact the practitioner to arrange the first meeting. They will discuss dates, venue, childcare and transport requirements of the family to get to the meeting and discuss the agencies needed to attend the meeting. The Admin Team will send out invites and a copy of the completed CAF form to invitees. The first meeting will take place within 15 working days and the referrer has to chair the first meeting. At the first meeting the professional's along with the parents will develop an action plan to address the identified needs. At the meeting the Lead Professional (see 5.3.1) is appointed and a review date is booked within 6 weeks for the first review. Subsequent reviews will be within 3 months.
5.3.1 The Lead Professional is a practitioner who will act as a single point of contact for children and families with additional needs to ensure they receive coherent and co-ordinated support. Go to the Lincolnshire Children website for further guidance on the role of the Lead Professional. The roles of the CAF Coordinators are to support professionals with the CAF process and are contactable by phone to discuss issues and give guidance. They will as need arises support professionals at meetings.


6. Procedure for Children Services Department

6.1 If the criteria for S17 children in need or criteria for s47 -significant harm is met and the referral is made to Children's Services Department then the allocated worker from the children's services will initiate a contact with the referrer to inform them of any action taken. (Model for assessment document is to be used as guidance when identifying the level of needs for children in Lincolnshire)
6.2 Checks must be made by the Children's Team, on the client database SWIFT/MOSAIC, to determine if the family is already known to/receiving a service from Children's Services. If a CAF already exist on the child the referrer will be given the details of the lead professional.
6.3 The Children's Team must notify the district council using the CAF response form, within 5 working days informing them of what action has been taken.
6.4

The referral could have one of three outcomes:

  • A decision not to progress the referral - (If the decision is made not to progress the referral the local housing authority should be informed in writing including the reasons for the decision. Children's services will then have discharged their duty in respect of that referral);
  • A decision to undertake a Social Care Assessment to be completed within 45 working days (Note: However, a decision-making point at an earlier stage should be taken in conjunction with the Team Manager as to initial outcomes and actions) of the receipt of the referral form. (N.B. this would exceed the 28 day period of accommodation provided by the District council);
  • A decision to make child protection enquiries under Section 47 of the Children Act.
6.5 Children's Services departments do not have the primary statutory duty to provide accommodation to such families within the first 28 days of being found intentionally homeless. The extent to which Children Services will provide practical or financial assistance to a family will depend on the outcome of the initial stages of the Social Care Assessment and the risk of family breakdown.
6.6 In all cases, where further assessment work is undertaken, close liaison will be required between the Children Services and Housing Officers. Under Section 27 of the Children Act, Children Services can request for advice and assistance from the district housing department to find help find suitable temporary accommodation for the family to move to after the 28 day period has expired (if this is deemed necessary in the Social Care Assessment), until the case is closed.
6.7 A decision to accommodate the child or children separately from their parents under S20, will only be made in exceptional circumstances. Only where the level of risk to the child is high or the ability of the family to provide adequate care is considered such that separate accommodation is the only short-term solution and we are satisfied that Family Group Conference has been explored to help the family generate their own solutions.
6.8 In all such cases a multi-agency approach is essential to ensure that no action is taken that places the child at further risk or disrupts the temporary accommodation without the knowledge of the other department.


7. Responsibility for Making the Protocol Work

7.1 Both organisations will nominate a local operational manager to ensure that this protocol is disseminated to staff and that the workings of the protocol are reviewed.
7.2 In Children's Services this would be the Team Managers and for CAF the CAF Coordinators.
7.3 In Housing this would be the Principal Housing Officer.


8. Resolution of Disputes

8.1 In the case of disputes regarding organisational responsibility or the working of this protocol each organisation will nominate a Senior Manager to act as the senior point of contact. Disputes should be resolved in such a way as to not adversely impact on the family concerned.
8.2 In Children Services this would initially be the Head of Services. If not available the matter should then be referred on to the Assistant Director for Children Services. Failing any resolution to the dispute, a complaint can be made to 'The Complaints Officer', Orchard House, Orchard Street, Lincoln, LN1 1BA.
8.3

In CAF this would be the 4 CAF Coordinators :

Kim Lyon, East and West Lindsey: 07825356707
John Darby, Lincoln: 07825356713
Peter Robinson, Grantham, Stamford and Sleaford: 07825356718
Annie Farrow-Smith, Boston and Spalding: 07825356709
8.4 In Housing this would be the Principal Housing Officer. If not available, the issue should be raised with their line manager - the Housing Manager for the district.
8.5 Is it anticipated that this protocol will be subject to regular review.


9. The Joint Protocol - Achieving and Maintaining both County and Local Operational Ownership

8.1

Queries regarding this protocol can be addressed to:

Mr. Dave Cressey
Chair of County Homelessness Strategy Group
East Lindsey District Council
Tedder Hall
Manby Park
Louth
Lincolnshire
LN11 8UP

Tel:- 01507 601111


10. Local Contacts/Signatories to the Joint Protocol

Boston Borough Council..................................................................................

East Lindsey District Council..............................................................................

City of Lincoln Council......................................................................................

North Kesteven District Council...........................................................................

South Holland District Council.............................................................................

South Kesteven District Council............................................................................

West Lindsey District Council/ACIS Group Housing..................................................

Lincolnshire County Council Children Services...............................................................................................

End