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11.1.4 Section 20 Accommodation Decisions


Ceasing to Look After a Child Procedure


In January 2016, this chapter was extensively updated and should be re-read throughout.


  1. Process
  2. Accommodation Decision-Making Process
  3. Preventative Work Checklist
  4. Escalation Process

1. Process

  1. The social worker or Team Manager seeks approval from their Children’s Service Manager for a child to become accommodated under s.20. Having considered the request, the Children’s Service Manager records their decision on FWi;
  2. If accommodation under s.20 is agreed, the Children’s Service Manager makes contact with the nominated Children’s Service Manager for s.20 decisions, and a discussion takes place to establish the rationale for accommodation and if any other services or resources could enable the child to remain at home, if appropriate. It is also expected that preventative work will have been undertaken, where appropriate;
  3. The nominated Children’s Service Manager for s.20 decisions will record their decision making on FWi;
  4. A placement request will be sent by the social worker to the Service Manager for the child’s / young person’s case as a task on FWi. This will require approval by that Service Manager before action being taken;
  5. Children and young people subject to legal planning will also be covered by this process, unless the level 4 threshold has been met and care proceedings are being issued immediately;
  6. All other children who are not the subject of a Care Order are subject to the s.20 decision-making process, including those accommodated by the Emergency Duty Team (EDT), subject to police protection or emergency protection (and care proceedings have not been issued immediately), and ‘relevant’ children and young people who return to the Local Authority for accommodation prior to the age of 18.

2. Accommodation Decision-Making Process

The nominated Children’s Service Manager for s.20 decision-making provides scrutiny of s.20 requests and admissions. The aim of this “critical friend” role is one of checks and balances which can also add challenge to the decision making process. The nominated CSM and CSM for the child/young person will come to a mutually agreed decision regarding accommodation.

The CSM for the child/young person must satisfy themselves that preventative work has been completed and they must be clear on what is needed from accommodation, type of placement required and care plan for child/young person.

This process will be complemented by a complex cases forum which is designed to provide social workers a place to explore and resolve entrenched, complex pieces of work and build on reflective practice.

In the event that the nominated Children’s Service Manager for s.20 decisions is unavailable, the duty Children’s Service Manager can fulfil this role.

3. Preventative Work Checklist

  1. Completed Child and Family Assessment;
  2. Referral to Family Service;
  3. Referral to CAMHS;
  4. Evidence of social work intervention with extended family;
  5. Evidence of early help/targeted support services;
  6. Complex cases forum discussion.

The above list is not exhaustive and it is not expected that all of the above will have been necessarily completed on every case but there must be evidence that services have been provided to the child/ young person and their family aimed at keeping them within their family unit.

4. Escalation Process

It is expected that the nominated CSM and CSM for the child/young person will come to an agreement regarding s.20 accommodation. In cases where there is on-going disagreement then this will be escalated to the Group Manager for the child who will make the final decision.