Policy for residential care homes for children and young people

Under the Children (Scotland) Act 1995, local authorities have a duty of care towards all children in need in their area and must therefore provide a place for any child or young person who needs to be looked after.  Because of this, from time to time, individual residential units for children and young people may need to go above the numbers of children which they are registered to care for to accommodate a child or young person in an emergency.

This conflicts with the condition imposed on the registration which provides for the maximum number of service users the service can care for at any given time.  Such conditions can be imposed on the registration of a service in terms of section 60(2) of the Public Services Reform (Scotland) Act 2010 ("the Act") and paragraph 7(f) of The Social Care and Social Work Improvement Scotland (Registration) Regulations 2011 (SSI 2011/28).

So that the immediate needs of children and young people are met, and to reflect the emergency nature of these situations which cannot be covered by the normal variation procedures, the Care Inspectorate may agree to specific requests from providers to exceed their registered number, subject to the following conditions being met:

Before considering any emergency placement, the Unit Manager should seek agreement from the Care Inspectorate.  We will consider agreement where the assessed needs of the child require such action by the local authority and to not accommodate the child in the unit, despite exceeding numbers would create higher risk.  We would not give agreement if there is evidence of the named provision not being in the child's best interests or interests of other residents or if there is evidence of alternative provision that would be in the child's best interests.

  • Accommodation should not be used where the Care Inspectorate has previously deemed it unsuitable for use, even in an emergency.
  • The proposed accommodation for the child or young person must be fit for purpose, taking into account the nature of the emergency.
  • The condition on numbers can be exceeded only to accommodate a single child on a single occasion. It cannot be used to accommodate non related children on the same occasion as an emergency.
  • If the design and size of the building is fit for purpose to enable the accommodation of more than one child, sibling groups can be accommodated on a single occasion, so long as there is no compromise on safety and wellbeing.
  • Regulation 37(1) of The Looked After Children (Scotland) Regulations 2009 (SSI 2009/210), allows for emergency placements in a residential establishment for a period not exceeding three working days during which time the child's case must be formally reviewed by the placing local authority.
  • The Care Inspectorate must be informed of the specific plan for the child (ren) on the same day as the formal review. If the child(ren) is to remain in the placement then consideration should be given regarding how the service proposes to manage the impact of additional numbers and request a variation.
  • The provider must keep a detailed record of all occasions when registered numbers are exceeded.
  • The provider must consider the impacts on other young people and the stability of the care home.
  • If the accommodation is being used frequently and the premises are fit to accommodate children in an emergency basis the service's Aims and Functions should be reviewed and consideration given to changes to the conditions of registration. In this situation there should be no further need for approval of emergency admission resulting in a temporary increase in numbers.

It is important that the case holding inspector monitors instances of such applications.  If children or young people are being routinely accommodated in care homes provided by the local authority and those care homes are regularly going over the numbers of children they are registered to care for, inspectors should raise this with their line manager so that the matter can be pursued at a policy level with the local authority as it may indicate a capacity issue.

Enforcement action may need to be considered.  However in terms of Chapter 4 of Part 5 of the Act, cancellation of registration may not be possible if the care service in question is one which the local authority determines it must provide in order to fulfil a statutory duty.  In such circumstances the Care Inspectorate would be required to report the matter to Scottish Ministers under section 91 of the Act.

Where independent sector services are asked by the local authority to provide the emergency accommodation and this will result in them going over their registered numbers, the criteria outlined above will also apply.  The provider of the independent unit should provide evidence of such a request from a local authority.  This information should be monitored as this may indicate a capacity issue for the placing local authority and may need to be referred via the line manager as a policy issue.

However, any enforcement action resulting would be taken against the independent provider under Chapter 3 of Part 5 of the Act.