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5.2.8 Protocol for The Management of Independent Sector Residential and Foster Care Placement Contracts for Looked After Children

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

The chapter aims to define the protocols for managing contracts for children and young people placed in Independent Sector Residential Homes or Independent Sector Foster Care, including the management of safeguarding issues and breaches of contract.

RELEVANT CHAPTER

Placement Plans Procedure

AMENDMENT

This chapter was revised in June 2014 to reflect a revised internal process and a new Appendix 1: Process for Commissioning Residential and Foster Care Placements for Looked After Children (LAC) with Independent and Non-Maintained Providers was added.


Contents

  1. Purpose
  2. Safeguarding
  3. Residential and Foster Care Placement Contract
  4. Contract Management
  5. Service Area Responsibility
  6. Children’s Commissioning Team Responsibility
  7. Remedying Performance Issues and Contract Breaches
  8. Responses to External Inspections by Regulatory Body
  9. Appeals

    Appendix 1: Process for Commissioning Residential and Foster Care Placements for Looked After Children (LAC) with Independent and Non-Maintained Providers


1. Purpose

The purpose of this document is to define the protocols for managing contracts for children and young people placed in independent sector Residential Homes or Independent Sector Foster Care, including the management of safeguarding issues and breaches of contract.

This document is to be used as a guide to the correct protocols and procedures to be followed in case of an issue arising. It is a précis of the contracting process and is not in any way to be considered or used as a substitute for reporting safeguarding concerns, the care planning process or procedures or specific contract clauses and conditions. It does not negate the need for management advice or legal advice (if in any doubt as to the meaning of this document or related policies and procedures).

Contacts

For any queries in relation to this protocol please contact the Children's Commissioning Team in the first instance on 01522 552728.


2. Safeguarding

In the event of any safeguarding concerns identified in relation to these placements, the first priority must be to ensure the immediate safety of the child and any other LCC children placed with the provider and to ensure the appropriate safeguarding reporting procedures are followed - see LCC Safeguarding Children Policy and Lincolnshire LSCB website for the LSCB Inter-agency Procedures Manual.

In the placement setting, it will also be appropriate to consider what supervision arrangements are required to safeguard the child. If any safeguarding concerns are raised or identified in relation to the child or young person whilst in the placement, then the process below should be followed.

  • Some allegations will be so serious as to require immediate referral to the Police Protection Unit - PPU (some authorities may call it the Child Abuse Investigation Unit - CAIU). If the allegation is against a professional or volunteer working with the child then the Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO) should also be informed. Other allegations may be much less serious and at first sight might not seem to warrant consideration of a PPU/CAIU investigation. However, it is important to ensure that even apparently less serious allegations against professionals/volunteers are examined objectively by someone independent of the case. The (LADO) will provide this independence.

    Any decision to deviate from the advice of the LADO must be discussed and authorised by a senior manager within the employing organisation.  

    Please note: when reporting allegations the PPU/CAIU and/or LADO it must be in the Local Authority area in which the alleged abuse occurred.

    The LADO should also be informed of any allegations that are made directly to the police (which should be communicated via the Police Force' Designated Officer) or to the Customer Service Centre (CSC). The LADO will ensure that allegations which meet the criteria are logged on their database;
  • The LADO must then make arrangements preferably with the child or young person’s Keyworker(s) to ensure that any child or young people placed with the provider are safe within the existing placement(s);
  • If the decision is to remove the child or young person from the placement the child or young person’s key worker should manage this and then notify the Children’s Commissioning team. The Children’s Commissioning team will then make the appropriate arrangements to terminate the IPA(s) and review the contract.


3. Residential and Foster Care Placement Contract

Due to the limited requirement for Independent Sector residential and foster care placements Lincolnshire County Council’s (LCC’s) current policy is to Spot Purchase this provision for children and young people as the need arises, please see Appendix 1: Process for Commissioning Residential and Foster Care Placements for Looked After Children (LAC) with Independent and Non-Maintained Providers for residential placement commissioning process guide.

Providers signed up to the LCC contract have had quality assurance checks to confirm their suitability as a contracted supplier for LCC. A contract management visit is undertaken with each provider at least once a year to ensure the suitability of provision, in addition to an annual desktop review of contracted providers to ensure they meet the minimum requirements of the contract, for example LCC specified insurances cover and the appropriate regulatory certification (OFSTED). Where service providers are contracted in this way there is no guarantee of a level of business from LCC.

For each child or young person placed there should be an Individual Placement Agreement (IPA) setting out specific details relating to the child. It is the responsibility of the key worker to ensure this (IPA) is in place prior to the placement commencing. Support and advice will be provided by the Commissioning Team in sourcing a suitable provider if requested. Should a placement cease and there are no other placements at a residential home or Independent Fostering Agency this does not mean that the contract ceases as well. The contract remains in force until either it terminates (under the relevant clause) or it is terminated for any other reason.

All placements should have an LCC Placement Cost completed by the provider to itemise exactly how the placement cost is broken down and any additional costs linked to specific outcomes or needs, along with a timescale for meeting them and a review date.


4. Contract Management

All Residential and Foster Care contracts are managed by the Children’s Services Commissioning Team and have a designated Commissioning Officer allocated to each contract. The Children’s Commissioning officer will set up an annual contract management meeting with the provider and nominated service area representative.

The Children’s Commissioning officer will send a contract management toolkit for the provider to complete and return in advance of the meeting along with a request for any relevant updated documents, policies, procedures, insurances etc, if not already on file. The Children’s Commissioning officer will also request service area feedback regarding any issues they have with the placement or provider.

At the meeting the Children’s Commissioning officer will discuss any issues identified from the information on the completed toolkit and provider documents supplied, moderate the self assessment and ask for further evidence to support it as necessary. Any issues regarding the placement or the provider will also be discussed. The Placement Cost will be reviewed to ensure that the placement cost is still relevant and reflects any changes in the child’s needs and desired outcomes. The Children’s Commissioning officer in conjunction with the service area representative will undertake a balanced scorecard approach to assess the provider’s performance and record areas of concern and actions required, and also note areas of best practice that can be shared to increase performance of other providers.

An overall rating will then be awarded to the provider dependent on the results of the assessment and any risk factors identified. The provider will have an opportunity to discuss the score and it may be moderated as appropriate. An action plan will be sent to the provider as necessary with timescales for completion. Any significant issues identified will also be notified to the Head of Regulated Services. Any contracts causing concern will be reviewed monthly by the Contract Programme Board and appropriate actions identified.


5. Service Area Responsibility

It is important that the service area notifies the Children’s Commissioning Team of their intention to place a child or young person in an independent sector placement, as soon as possible, so that the officer can work with the service area to identify an appropriate provider and ensure LCC receives value for money. 

For each child or young person in an independent sector placement the service area must satisfy themselves that the placement is meeting the needs of the young person as identified within the Care Plan.

The child or young person’s social worker is responsible for quality assuring the placement and the associated IPA in parallel to managing the Care Plan. The IPA should be reviewed at the end of the initial seven day trial placement period and then at least every six months thereafter.

The Placement Cost should also be revisited every six months (or sooner if a specific itemised outcome has a shorter timescale for completion) to ensure that the initial costing is still relevant and any specific needs/outcomes related to any additional costs are being met. The social worker will also be responsible for completing statutory visits in line with regulations. Reviews of IPA’s are undertaken in accordance with the Service Specification and the individual child or young person's Care Plan.

Issues of performance, quality assurance or changes to needs/outcomes linked to additional costs identified during the IPA and placement review should be reported to the Children’s Commissioning Officer who will if necessary instigate price negotiations with the provider. The Social Worker and/or Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) should also ensure that the performance issues are addressed in line with this protocol.


6. Children’s Commissioning Team Responsibility

Upon notification by the service area of an intention to place, the Children’s Commissioning Team will support them in identifying a suitable provider and ensure an appropriate contract is in place (The IPA for child or young person will need to be put in place jointly by the Social Worker and Commissioning Officer).

Each Residential Home and Independent Fostering Agency will have an allocated Children’s Commissioning Officer responsible for the contract. The responsible Children’s Commissioning Officer will undertake an annual Contract Management review for each contract where a child or young person is placed by LCC. This will be done in collaboration with a service area representative. The Placement Cost will also be reviewed at this time. Any issues identified will be recorded on the contract management toolkit and reported back to the Head of Regulated Services.

In addition the Children’s Commissioning Team will review on a monthly basis the Ofsted inspection scores for all Independent Residential and Foster Carer Providers where there is a contract in place and will report any changes in Ofsted ratings to the responsible social work team. Any changes to Ofsted scores will be addressed in line with this protocol.


7. Remedying Performance Issues and Contract Breaches

This section of the protocol provides guidance on how to remedy performance issues identified in relation to the contract as well as dealing with contract breaches.

Remedying performance issues and contract breaches are secondary to ensuring that the child or young person is safeguarded. Any safeguarding issues identified should be addressed as identified earlier in this protocol (see Section 2, Safeguarding above).

Safeguarding action may require the termination of IPA(s). In such instances a review of the contract will be required to establish the suitability of using the provider going forward. In these instances any new placements will be suspended with the existing provider until the review is completed. Any other existing placements with that provider will also need to be reviewed by the responsible social worker.

Some safeguarding issues may not require the termination of the IPA but will require the provider to take action to address the risks identified. In such instances the provider will receive written instruction from the Children’s Commissioning Team to make the necessary performance improvements within a specific timescale. Failure to address the risks within these timescales may trigger the termination of the IPA(s) and lead to a formal review of the contract.

7.1 Minor Performance Issues

Minor performance issues identified through review of placements and IPA(s) will be discussed with the provider by the responsible social work team. Both parties will agree what needs to be done to resolve the performance failure within a mutually acceptable timescale.

The social work team should write to the provider confirming the agreed actions and timescales for resolution and copy the letter to the Children’s Commissioning Team for information and recording on the contracts database.

The social worker should confirm to the Children’s Commissioning team that the matter has been resolved with the provider by e-mail or alternatively escalate the matter with the Children’s Commissioning Team as a significant performance issue.

For further guidance on what constitutes a minor performance issue, please contact the Head of Regulated Services or a member of the Children’s Commissioning Team.

7.2 Significant Performance Issue

Significant performance issues identified through the review of placements, and IPA(s) or minor performance issues that have been escalated by the social worker, will be discussed with the Head of Regulated Services who will agree action to be taken with the provider.

The Children’s Commissioning Team will discuss the action that the provider needs to take to address the performance issue and agree timescales for this action to be delivered. 

The Children’s Commissioning Team will write to the provider confirming the agreed actions and timescales for resolution of the performance issue and copy the letter to the Head of Regulated Services for information. They should also file a copy in the provider contracts file and record on the contracts database.

Failure to comply with the agreed actions will trigger a review of the placement of the young person by the Head of Regulated Services and a review of the contracts with the Children’s Commissioning Team.

For further guidance on what constitutes a significant performance issue, please contact the Head of Regulated Services or a member of the Children’s Commissioning Team.

7.3 Breach of Contract

Breach of contract notices may be issued as a result of :-

  • Notification of Non-statutory enforcement actions;
  • Notification of Statutory enforcement actions;
  • All other breaches of contract terms and conditions.

7.3.1 Notification of non-statutory enforcement actions

Upon notification of failure to adopt or follow recommendations identified by the appropriate regulatory body the Children’s Commissioning Team working with the Head of Regulated Services will complete a review of the contract and trigger a review of all placements and IPA(s) with the provider.

Depending on the circumstances the review of the contract may result in:

  • Written notice to improve with agreed timescales;
  • Contract suspension with agreed period of review;
  • Contract termination.

Failure to meet written notices to improve will be escalated to contract suspension. Contract suspensions may be escalated to contract termination if this is the action concluded at the end of the period of review.

If there is any notice to de-register the provider or outbreak of notifiable disease as defined within (RIDDOR), the Children’s Commissioning Team will contact the provider and write to notify them that the contract is suspended. The Children’s Commissioning Team will also contact the Head of Regulated Services to trigger a review of IPA(s).

7.3.2 Notification of Statutory Enforcement Actions

Under Section 30A of the Care Standards Act 2000 (as inserted by s29 of the Children and Young Persons Act 2008) Ofsted are required to send a notification to every local authority in England and Wales when they take certain enforcement action against a children’s social care provision i.e. where they:

  • Issue a notice of decision to cancel the registration of a manager or provider;
  • Issue a summons to prosecute;
  • Restrict accommodation at a children’s home or residential family centre.

The notification will include information about what action they have taken; the name of the registered provider; and the name and address of the setting involved.

This notice will initially be sent to the Director of Children’s Services. As soon as this notice is subsequently received by either the Commissioning or Social Care Team discussions should take place to establish whether LCC have a child placed with that provider:

  • If no LCC child is placed with that provider then the Children’s Commissioning Team should keep a record of this on file for future reference; or
  • If an LCC child is placed with that provider the Head of Regulated Services should review all existing placement(s) with that provider and decide whether the child or young person(s) need to be removed temporarily (until the matter is resolved) or permanently. They should communicate that decision to the Children’s Commissioning Team who will terminate the IPA and review the contract as appropriate and assist with commissioning an alternative placement should this be required;
  • The Children’s Commissioning Team will issue a contract breach notice. The contract will be suspended and no new placements will be made until the statutory deficit is resolved;
  • In the event of the de-registration of the Proprietor or Home the contract and all IPA(s) will be terminated and the provider notified.

Ofsted will send an additional notification where a provider or manager appeals against the enforcement action and the outcome of that appeal, and where they lift a restriction of accommodation or when a cancellation takes effect. These notifications when received will either be kept on file if there are no current LCC placements, or trigger a further review of any current placement and/or contract dependent on the circumstances.

7.3.3 All other Breaches

In relation to all other breaches a written contract breach notice will be served upon the provider by the Children’s Commissioning Team and a review of the contract will be completed by the Children’s Commissioning Team with the Head of Regulated Services, to agree the necessary action. This will be either:

  • Written notice to improve with agreed timescales;
  • Contract suspension with agreed period of review;
  • Contract termination.

Failure to meet written notices to improve will be escalated to contract suspension. Contract suspensions may be escalated to contract termination if this is the action concluded at the end of the period of review.


8. Responses to External Inspections by Regulatory Body

The provider will be subject to regular regulatory checks and inspections. Ofsted will score the provision following assessment.

The Children’s Commissioning Team will review the Ofsted inspection scores of providers where LCC have contracts in place on a monthly basis. Where the inspections scores have deteriorated the Children’s Commissioning Team will notify the Head of Regulated Services to agree appropriate action to be taken with the provider. This will also trigger a review of placement and the IPA(s). 

If the Ofsted score is inadequate, the Head of Regulated Services will review with the Children’s Commissioning Team whether any further placements should be suspended with the provider and will trigger a review of all placements with that provider.

Any safeguarding issues will be addressed in line with the guidance provided earlier in this protocol.


9. Appeals

A provider retains the right to appeal against a decision by the purchaser regarding contractual sanctions be referring the matter to arbitration under the Provisions of Arbitration Act 1950 or 1979 or any statutory modification or re-enactment thereof. The procedure to be followed in such an event is that prescribed in relevant Clause (Disputes) of the General Terms and Conditions of Contract.


Appendix 1: Process for Commissioning Residential and Foster Care Placements for Looked After Children (LAC) with Independent and Non-Maintained Providers

Click here to view Appendix 1: Process for Commissioning Residential and Foster Care Placements for Looked After Children (LAC) with Independent and Non-Maintained Providers.

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