Nominated officer sign off to be required before children placed in care voluntarily return home

Sign off to be required when children have been in care for more than 20 days and going home is part of care planning decisions

Children placed voluntarily into care will need the signature of a nominated officer to return home under Department for Education (DfE) plans.

The plan was confirmed in the DfE’s response to its consultation on improving permanence for looked after children.

In the response the DfE says the nominated officer’s signature will be required when a child has been looked after for more than 20 days and the return home is part of the local authority’s care plan. No signature will be needed if the return home is unplanned.

The DfE says the move will “raise the status of return home decisions”. Signatures will not be required for unplanned returns home because these are not part of local authority care planning decisions.

Respondents to the consultation mainly agreed with the proposal although some said it should be up to councils to decide these processes.

However, other proposals put forward by the DfE for reforming how children in care are returned home have now been dropped in light of the feedback from the consultation.

These include requirements for ‘return plans’ for care leavers, local authority reviews of unplanned returns home and social worker visits to former looked-after children.

In the response the DfE said: “Working Together to Safeguard Children is already clear about the duties on local authorities for vulnerable children; and existing guidance provides a framework for ongoing assessment, planning and review.”

The DfE’s consultation response also sets out a range of plans to reform long-term foster care.

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