This page contains lots of information about being in care. It answers many of the questions you may have. If you have others that aren’t covered here, there are lots of people you can ask.
You can speak to your social worker, independent reviewing officer or your carer about any questions or concerns you have. You’ll find out more about all of these people inside.
The contents are based on our Statement of Purpose as an Independent Fostering Agency. The Statement of Purpose sets out how Slough Children First operates in order to provide high quality, safe, secure and caring foster families for children and young people in Slough.
About you, about us
On this page you’ll see lots of hands. These are from our tree logo.
We’ve used the hands to show you how we’ll help you – that’s why it’s titled is called ‘A Helping Hand’! You are at the centre of everything we do. All the other hands you see represent people who are here to help you feel safe and happy.
Below we’ll show you who might be involved in your care. Every case is different and you won’t all have exactly the same people looking out for you but each of our roles are explained here, so you know who everyone is.
Who is involved in my care?
You will have a social worker who will make a plan with you – a short plan if that’s best for you, or a longer plan, right the way until you’re grown up, if that’s best. This is to make sure you have a safe and settled future. Your social worker is there to listen to what you have to say and they will help you be a part of making decisions about where you live. They will explain why, when and how things will happen. They will visit you to make sure you’re doing okay and the plan we put in place is helping you.
Foster carers are members of the public who choose to look after children who are not their own. They are trained professionals and get paid to do this, and they are self-employed. Foster carers come from all different backgrounds and are different ages with different levels of experience. Some foster carers have children of their own and others don’t. Some will have more than one foster child at a time while others may not. It all depends. They’re all lovely though.
Designated teachers in schools make sure that children looked after in the school are doing okay and are getting on well. If you are looked after and you’re not sure who the designated teacher is at your school then you could ask your form tutor or get in touch with the ‘Virtual School’.
Your Learning Advocate is someone who can speak on your behalf because they know you really well. They will work with your school, parents, carers and other professionals to ensure your educational needs are met and your voice is heard.
Independent reviewing officer
The independent reviewing officer is the person who checks to see your social worker is doing what he/she said they were going to do, who can ask for changes to be made to your plan and will try to make sure you know what is happening. If you do not know who your IRO is, you should ask your key worker, foster carer or social worker.
Every child or young person who lives in a residential unit has a key worker and it’s the key worker’s job to make sure your care plan is being followed and you’re happy and settled where you’re living.
If you don’t see your family very often, then you can have someone called an independent visitor to come and see you. They will be there for you to talk to about things, they might take you out to places and give you help and advice.
Your advocate will help make sure you’re part of decisions being made for you and you have a say about what is going on. They can help you with meetings, make a complaint for you or just sort something out that’s important to you. They can also help make sure your feelings and wishes are heard and you feel safe when you do express yourself.
The specialist nurses are part of a health team who organise health assessments for children and young people. They can also offer support and advice about your health.
Personal advisor (PA)
A PA provides advice and support when you’re older (from 15½ into adulthood) and makes sure your voice is heard. Your PA will help you prepare for your future, including helping you find a job and somewhere to live when you’re older. They keep in regular contact with you and work with you to help you reach your full potential.
What does being ‘looked after’ mean?
Sometimes people shorten children looked after to CLA. Others say looked after children (LAC) but we use children looked after (CLA) because you said you prefer it (and it puts children first – that’s right!).
CLA is a term to explain that a child or young person is living in care. This can be in a foster placement with foster carers, or a residential unit with carers and key workers.
Have a look at how other children have explained being looked after
As well as this guide, children and young people have also created 3 animations that explain the different people, like your social worker, who are there to help you and keep you safe. Your carer or social worker will make sure you have the opportunity to watch the animations below.
Why am I being looked after?
If your parents cannot look after you for any reason, and neither can a relative or friend, then your social worker will ask the fostering service to find somewhere for you to live and people to care for you.
There are two ways you can start to be looked after:
Slough Children First can provide you with accommodation as a way of helping you and your family through the difficult times. Accommodation is a voluntary arrangement between your parents and Slough Children First.
Or, Slough Children First will need to legally share your parents’ responsibility for you, by applying to the court for a care order. Your social worker will tell you more about what a care order means.
What does placement mean?
Placement is a word used to describe the place where you are living. This can be a foster placement with foster carers or a residential home with key workers. It is their job to look after you and make sure you are safe. They will also help and support you to be happy and successful.
What does legal status mean?
Sometimes before you come into care, social workers have to go to court and talk to the judge. If this happens a care order will be made saying that you need to be looked after, this is called an interim care order or a care order. For some children and young people social workers don’t have to go to court straight away because their parents have given permission for them to be looked after, this is called Section 20.
Where will I live?
Most children will live with a foster family or a member of their extended family or perhaps in a residential home for children and young people. The fostering service will try to find you a placement as close to your school and family, so that you can keep in touch.
What is a foster carer?
Foster carers are ordinary people who look after children and young people who cannot stay with their own families. They may have other foster children living with them or their own children. They are carefully chosen by Slough Children First. Sometimes people you know, such as relatives or family friends, can become your foster carers.
Why are there so many forms?
We need a lot of information about you to make sure that we look after you well. One form Slough Children First can use is an assessment and action record. This is all about you. You should use it to talk and think about all the different things that are important in your life.
Can I see the information that is written about me?
Yes. Information will be kept in an electronic file by your social worker and you have a right to see what is written about you.
How will my social worker know what I want?
Your social worker will visit you regularly and talk to you on your own about how you are getting on. Your social worker will listen to you and make sure your views are taken into account when decisions and plans are made.
You should have been given a ‘hello’ card by your social worker containing their contact details and you should also write their number down and keep it safe. If you cannot get in touch with them then you can always call the general number for the Children Looked After Team on 01753 875760.
Will I be able to see my parents and other members of my family?
Usually, yes. You and your family should be able to see each other and keep in touch by telephone and letter. Your foster carer can help you with this. Your social worker will make plans so that you and your family know when you will be seeing each other, for how long and where. There are sometimes special reasons why this cannot happen. Your social worker will talk to you about this.
Will I get pocket money?
Yes. You will receive an amount agreed between you, your social worker and your foster carer. The amount you get will be dependent on your age.
Can I stay with friends?
You will need to talk to your foster carer or social worker about any friends you want to stay with. They will need to check out these plans to ensure that you are safe.
Will I get new clothes?
Yes, you will get the clothes that you need.
Will I live with people like me?
Wherever possible you will be with carers who are the same background as you or who understand, respect and value your background, culture and religion. They will help you to have the food you normally eat. They will help you to practice your religion.
Who can I talk to about how I feel?
There are many people you can talk to about how you are feeling, for example, your social worker, foster carer or independent reviewing officer.
What is a care plan?
A care plan is an important plan about you. It sets out in writing what you need to make sure you are being well looked after and supported in all the areas of your life. It will say what needs to be done to make it work and who is going to do what.
- Your care plan includes:
- Who is going to look after you.
- How to stay healthy.
- Where you are going to go to school.
- How you will do the things you enjoy.
- How and when you will see your family or other important people in your life.
- How you will practice your religion and culture.
- What the plan for your future is.
What is a children looked after review?
People often shorten children looked after review and say CLA review. A review is a meeting which is all about you and your care plan. It is very important to prepare for the meeting by thinking about what you want to say.
What is an independent reviewing officer?
Your review is chaired by someone called an independent reviewing officer. People often shorten this and say IRO. An IRO is an experienced social worker; they are an important independent person. Every child or young person who is looked must have an IRO. Your IRO will check and make sure that your care plan is right for you and is working; they will check and make sure there are clear plans about your future and make sure that everyone listens to what you say, and that they think about your views when they make decisions.
How often will my reviews take place?
Slough Children First has to make plans for your care and for your future. They must look at the plans at regular intervals to make sure they are still the right ones for you. A review meeting will be held within four weeks of you being looked after. Another meeting will then be held within three months after that, and then again within six months. After this you will have a review every six months. Sometimes reviews might be held sooner and if you move to a new placement you will have a review within four weeks. You can also ask for a review meeting to take place sooner if you are not happy with your care plan.
What happens at my review meeting?
Your care plan will be talked about and will be reviewed to make sure it is still the right plan for you. It will be decided if any changes to your plan need to be made, and what they are. Everyone has a chance to say what they think, people listen to what others have to say and everyone’s views are taken seriously. At the end of the meeting the independent chair will arrange the date, time and place of the next review to suit everybody.
How do I benefit from the review?
When reviewing your care plan, your independent reviewing officer will want to hear about what is going well for you and if there are any problems that you need help and support with. Your care plan will be an individual plan all about you that will make sure you are looked after, kept safe and have a good future.
Do I have to go to my review?
It’s a good idea to go. You will hear what is being said about you and have your chance to have a say. It is your choice if you come to your review; you don’t have to stay for all the meeting and can take breaks at any time. We understand that it can be difficult coming to meetings and speaking in them, you can ask someone you trust to speak for you. You can also ask to speak to your independent reviewing officer by yourself outside of the meeting if this helps.
How can I share my thoughts, views and feelings?
We understand that it can be difficult coming to meetings and speaking in them. We also know that sometimes it is easier to write down how you are feeling and what you are happy with or not so happy with. In this pack, there’s a journal, where you can write things down. You can then share these with your carer, your social worker or independent reviewing officer – whoever you feel most comfortable with. Before your review you will receive details on how to use your ‘My Review…My Views’ form. This form will provide you with the opportunity to share your views, wishes and feelings before each of your review meetings take place.
Who else comes to my review?
The people who are involved in your care plan will be invited, for example, your social worker, carer or key worker, teacher, and your parents if you would like them to be there. It’s important that you tell your social worker who you would like to be at your review meeting.
Where will my review meeting be held?
You have a say about where you would like to have your meeting, and where you feel most comfortable. It could be held where you live, at your school, or at your social worker’s office.
Do we get to chair our review meetings?
You are the most important person at the review meeting, after all the meeting is all about you. If you would like to we are happy to help you to chair all or some parts of your review meeting?
What happens after the review?
Your IRO will write a report about what was talked about at your meeting. They will also write down all the things that people need to do to make your care plan work.
What can I do if I don’t agree with the decisions that were made at my review or about my care plan?
You can meet with your social worker or IRO to tell them your views and ask for decisions to be explained to you. If you still don’t feel happy you can decide to make a formal complaint.
How can I contact my IRO?
Your IRO should have given you a ‘hello’ card containing their contact details. You can also contact them by calling the team on 01753 690906.
How do I make a formal complaint?
There’s a leaflet in this pack on how to complain (or compliment!) and details of independent people to help you, if you need help. Our friendly complaints manager is on 01753 875825 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Will I still go to school when I am in care?
If you are aged between 5-16 you must be in education. Usually you will go to school near where you live. It could also be a boarding school. If you are aged between 16-18 years you should also be in education, training/ apprenticeship or employment.
Which school will I go to?
Slough Children First will try to find you somewhere to live which is near enough for you to keep going to your own school. If this is not possible, you may have to change to a school which is nearer to where you are living. We will make sure that you attend a school that is rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted.
What is a personal education plan (PEP)?
Any child or young person who is looked after (in care) must have a personal education plan, sometimes you may hear it called a PEP. It’s a plan to make sure your educational needs are being met and you have the support in school that you need. Your PEP will set out targets that you and your teachers will work on together. If you feel you are behind with school work or are struggling to understand what you are being taught, you should talk with your social worker and carer about how you can get support with your work outside of school.
Why do we have a PEP meeting?
A PEP meeting is usually held in your school. The meeting happens so that your personal education plan and targets can be talked about and everyone can agree what to write on your plan. This is an opportunity for your views about school to be heard and considered.
Who comes to my PEP meeting?
You are the first person who is invited to come to your PEP meeting. Other people who will attend will be someone from your school who knows you, like your teacher, your social worker, your carer or key worker and your school’s designated teacher. Sometimes, a member of the Virtual School will attend and sometimes a family member maybe invited too. Your PEP meetings will take place once a term or may be held more often if this is needed.
What is a designated teacher?
Every school should have a ‘designated teacher’ for children looked after. They should know that you are looked after and give you help with any problems in school. The designated teacher should make sure you have a personal education plan (PEP) and will let your carer and social worker know how you are doing.
What is is a learning advocate?
All children looked after should have a learning advocate, someone who acts as your representative within the Virtual School and is there to support you and help make sure your educational needs are met.
What happens if I am excluded from school?
You should talk this through with your carers, key worker or social worker. They should work together to get you back to school as quickly as possible. Your school should set you work to do whilst you are on exclusion so that you do not miss out on you learning. You may receive additional support from Slough Children First Virtual School or you may have a home tutor for a while. You should be offered a place in a new school as soon as possible.
How do I contact the Virtual School?
Please contact us if you would like some extra tuition, help in choosing your options, careers advice or any support in school, college or university.
Call: 01753 875920
You can also look on the website (www.sloughchildrenfirst.co.uk) which has lots of information on the Virtual School and on your education.
What is a ‘specialist nurse for children looked after’?
The specialist nurses are part of a health team who organise health assessments for children and young people who are looked after. They can also offer support and advice about your health. Sometimes they’re called LAC nurses, which is the same as CLA. As we said before, we use CLA. You can contact your nurse Monday to Friday from 9am – 5pm – excluding bank holidays by:
Text or phone: 07552 007487
What is a health assessment?
You can also find support from your GP, or access the NHS 111 helpline at www.nhs.uk
Children under 5 years old will be offered two assessments a year. When you become looked after you will be offered a health assessment, usually within the first month.
You will be seen by a doctor for your first assessment who will ask a few questions about your health and any concerns or questions you may have. They may ask your carer about your health as well. The doctor/nurse will:
- Check your height and weight
- Ask about your hearing and vision
- Ask about your visits to the dentist
- Ask if you have any concerns about your health or the way you are feeling.
Your review health assessment will take place a year later. You can let the nurse who sees you know where you would like to be seen e.g. in school, at your placement or at a health centre. They will talk about your health and how you are getting on generally.
Will information I share with health professionals be shared?
You will be asked by health professionals if you consent for your health information to be shared; this could be with your social worker, GP, carer or other health professionals. You can decline and this will be respected but the health professional must be sure you understand the information you have been given. The only time information would be shared without consent is if there is a risk of harm to you or other people.
How often will I see my dentist?
You should visit a dentist every six months for a regular dental check-up. Your carer or social worker will arrange for you to see the dentist.
How often will I need to see an optician?
Your carer will arrange for you to see the optician once a year. You should have your eyes tested any time you think you are unable to see as well as you need to.
What if I am worried about my emotional or mental health?
Emotional and mental health is about the way we think and feel, and the ability to cope with difficult things in life. Sometimes when we feel low or stressed it can be difficult to get back on track. In these times talking to someone can really help such as:
- your carer
- a trusted adult
- your social worker
- your nurse for children looked after
If you need further services then they can help you access them. You can also find support from your GP, or by accessing the NHS 111 helpline at 111.nhs.uk
I have a lot of good ideas about how services could be improved – who can I tell?
You can get involved with Reach Out! Slough Children First Children in Care Council or contact them to share your ideas. Reach Out! is unique as only Slough’s children in care and care leavers can get involved. Reach Out! will provide you with the opportunity to get involved in different activities, meetings and groups so you can tell Slough Children First how services can be made better for the future. You will also meet new friends and have lots of fun. To find out more about getting involved in Reach Out! you can:
Call: 01753 477333
Text: 07776 461845
Website: www.sloughchildrenfirst.co.uk and look for the Reach Out! tab.
Reach Out! Update
The Reach Out! Update was created by children and young people in care to:
- Share experiences with one another
- Find out about the different activities, groups and meetings that children and young people take part in
- Provide information on ways children and young people can have their say.
Pledge to Children in Care
The Pledge is a list of promises made to all of Slough’s children and young people in care. It is made by all of the services and adults who have a responsibility in supporting you through your childhood and early adult life.
Your care and wellbeing is important and we will do everything possible to help and support you. We want to make sure that you receive every chance to explore and achieve all you need to enjoy a fulfilled and successful life.
All of our children and young people in care were involved in deciding which promises should be made in the Pledge. You should have your own copy of the Pledge card in your pack.
I am unhappy. What can I do?
Tell someone you trust. This might be your social worker or support worker, foster carer, friend, teacher or independent reviewing officer. We know it can be hard to talk about your worries, but if you tell someone they can start to make it better. You might feel that you can’t talk to your social worker or carer, or maybe feel that you have tried to but things still aren’t getting sorted. If this is the case, you can contact Slough Children First’s complaints manager on the details below.
How can I make my feelings known, make a compliment or complaint?
You can get in touch with the Trust in the following ways:
Call: 01753 875825
If you’re making a complaint, the complaints manager is here to listen to you and will pass on whatever is bothering you to the right person. You can read our complaints policy to learn more about the process. If you do make a formal complaint and are not happy with the result, you can take your complaint to Ofsted and explain your situation:
Write to: Ofsted, Piccadilly Gate, Store Street, Manchester M1 2WD
Helpline: 0300 123 1231
Who can help me to complain?
You could ask your social worker, teacher or friend to help you. You do not have to do this by yourself. As well as contacting us, there is an ‘Advocacy Service’ which helps young people in care to have their voice heard. It is called the National Youth Advocacy Service (NYAS). They can provide someone to visit or meet with you to help you write your complaint and support you while your complaint is being looked at. To find out about having an advocate please speak to your social worker, independent reviewing officer, foster carer or you can contact the complaints manager.
Useful support services
Office of the Children’s Commissioner
The Children’s Commissioner for England is responsible for promoting and protecting the rights of children and young people, and making sure their voices are listened to. The Office of the Children’s Commissioner can provide help and advice to children and young people who are in care, leaving care, living away from home or working with children’s services.
Call: 0800 528 0730
Lines are open Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm.
(look for the ‘help at hand’ tab on the website).
NYAS (National Youth Advocacy Service) helpline
The NYAS support children and young people by helping them to be heard. NYAS gives confidential and independent advice, information and representation.
Call: 0808 808 1001
Lines are open Monday-Friday, 9am-8pm, and Saturday 10am-4pm
Become is a charity which can provide children in care and young care leavers practical, helpful information and advice about anything to do with being in care and leaving care.
Call: 0800 023 2033
Lines are open Monday to Friday 10.30am-3pm
A free, private and confidential service where you can be you. Whatever your worry, whenever you need help, however you want to get in touch, Childline is available for you online, on the phone, anytime.
Call: 0800 1111