Looked After Children and Care Leavers

What is a Looked After Child?

 A child is legally defined as ‘Looked After’ by a Local Authority if he or she:

  • is accommodated by the local authority for a continuous period of more than 24 hours
  • is subject to a Care Order (to put the child into the care of the local authority)
  • is subject to a Placement Order (child placed for adoption)

A looked after child might be living with foster parents, at home with their parents under the supervision of the Local Authority, in a residential children’s home or other residential settings like schools or a secure unit.

A looked after child might have been placed in care voluntarily by parents, or more commonly, the Local Authority may have intervened because a child was at significant risk of harm.

The terms looked after child(ren) (LAC) or child looked after (CLA), child(ren) in care (CIC) are used interchangeably and mean the same thing. Children prefer that the abbreviations are not used.

Looked after children are, by legal definition, under 18 years of age.

The looked after child population within a Local Authority, is a mix between those who originate from that borough and those who are under the care of other Local Authorities and live in the borough.

How we look after children and young people in Surrey

The role of NHS Surrey Heartlands

NHS Surrey Heartlands has a statutory responsibility to support Looked After Children under the Children’s Act 1989, 2004 and Promoting the Health and Wellbeing of Looked After Children (DfE,DOH 2015) both of which set out a duty to comply with requests from the Local Authority to provide support and services to Looked After Children, including the statutory requirement for the completion and quality assurance of health assessments.

The role of the Looked After Children and Care Leavers Team

The role of the Surrey Heartlands Designated Looked After Childrens Team is to:

  1. Listen to the voice of the child – ensuring that children and young people’s voices are at the heart of the work we do.
  2. Promote the health and welfare of Looked After Children and Care Leavers – overcoming health inequalities and improve the social determinants of health.
  3. Provide strategic leadership and oversight.
  4. Fulfill corporate parenting responsibilities.
  5. Advocate for children and young people – challenge and escalate issues with a child first approach to ensure the child’s needs are met.
  6. Work in partnership – with multi-agency partners and stakeholders to improve the health and wellbeing of Looked After Children and Care Leavers.
  7. Influence commissioning.
  8. Be accountable to service users – demonstrate clear governance structures to ensure good service delivery and promote good outcomes for people who use our services.

Looked After Children and Care Leavers Strategy

Children who have experienced care are at particular risk of poor outcomes and must be a focus of ICSs in their work regarding health inequalities.

(Office for health improvement and disparities)

Building on the areas of priority indicated within the Health and Social Care Act (2022), NHS Surrey Heartlands have worked collaboratively with partner agencies and stakeholders to co-design a Looked After Children and Care Leavers Health Partnership Strategy.

The aim of the strategy shows how we will:

  • work in partnership to safeguard and improve the health and wellbeing of Surrey’s looked after children and care leavers
  • reduce the experience of health and social inequalities.

The strategy is included in the Surrey Heartlands Joint Forward Plan.

Surrey Heartlands Looked After Children and Care Leaver Strategy 2023-2026 [docx] 250KB

Surrey’s Looked After Children Sufficiency Strategy

Surrey County Council produces Sufficiency Strategies for both children and young people with additional needs and disabilities and those looked after.

Sufficiency means having enough of the right accommodation and services, in the right places, to effectively support Surrey's children, young people and families. This also includes thinking about the quality of those services and whether or not they are making a positive difference to the lives of children, young people and families. The aim of a sufficiency strategy is to enable the system of support to realise better outcomes.

Surrey County Council Commissioning sufficiency strategies

Care Leaver Covenant

Surrey County Council signed the Care Leaver Covenant on 31 March 2023.

The Care Leaver Covenant (CLC) is a national inclusion programme that supports Care Leavers aged 16 to 25 to live independently. The scheme is funded by the Department for Education (DfE) and it encourages local authorities, voluntary organisations and private sector businesses to sign up and make pledges to support care leavers in England.

As part of the Care Leavers Covenant, NHS Surrey Heartlands have been selected as one of 10 Integrated Care Board Pathfinders to enable care leavers to access career opportunities across the NHS.

Care Leaver Covenant

Career opportunities for people who are care leavers