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Children (Leaving Care) Act (Northern Ireland) 2002

Article 34C – Additional functions of the responsible authority in respect of relevant children

Article 34C sets out the duties of the responsible authority towards “relevant children”. Some of the duties towards relevant children will in practice be continuations of those already delivered to them as eligible children.

Paragraph (1) places a duty on the responsible authority to take reasonable steps to keep in touch with a relevant child, whether the young person lives within its area or not.

Paragraph (2) requires the responsible authority to appoint a personal adviser for each relevant child, should it not already have done so when the child was being looked after as an eligible child.

Paragraph (3) requires the responsible authority to carry out a needs assessment and to prepare a pathway plan for each relevant child if this has not already been carried out when the child was being looked after as an eligible child.

Paragraph (4) enables the responsible authority to carry out an assessment of a young person’s needs at the same time as his or her needs are being assessed under the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons (Northern Ireland) Act 1978, the Disabled Persons (Northern Ireland) Act 1989, the Education (Northern Ireland) Order 1996 or any other statutory provision. This allows for joint assessments of the needs of young people whenever this is practicable.

Paragraph (5) enables the Department to make regulations about needs assessments.

Paragraph (6) provides that the regulations made under paragraph (5) may cover the same matters as are specified in Article 34A(9) in relation to needs assessments for eligible children.

Paragraph (7) requires the responsible authority to keep a pathway plan under regular review.

Paragraph (8) imposes a duty on the responsible authority to safeguard and promote the welfare of a relevant child unless it is satisfied that his or her welfare does not require it. The authority must provide the child with maintenance and suitable accommodation and such other support as may be prescribed in regulations. When a young person leaves care it may not be possible for them to return to their family: they may have none, or they may be estranged. The Act aims to ensure that children leaving care can expect to receive the same sort of support from their responsible authority as a child might expect from his or her parents. This might be moral support or practical support.

Paragraph (9) makes it clear that support for relevant children may be given in cash as well as in kind.

Paragraph (10) enables the Department to make regulations about the meaning of “suitable accommodation”. The regulations may also make provision about the suitability of potential landlords or other providers in the light of the vulnerability of young care leavers.

Paragraph (11) places a duty on the responsible authority to take reasonable steps to keep in touch with a relevant child. Where contact is lost, the authority must immediately take reasonable steps to re-establish contact and to continue doing so until it succeeds in making contact. This duty applies until the child reaches his or her 18th birthday and so ceases to be a relevant child.

Paragraph (12) applies Article 18(7) to (9) of the Children Order to assistance which may be given under this Article. Paragraphs (7) to (9) of Article 18 require an authority to have regard to the means of the child concerned and each of his or her parents, and permits the authority, depending on their means, to require some or all of this assistance to be repaid.

Paragraph (13) provides that paragraphs (2) and (3) of Article 26 of the Children Order apply to decisions taken under Article 34C. This means that the authority must, so far as is reasonably practicable, ascertain and give due consideration to the wishes and feelings of the child concerned, his or her parents and anyone else whom the authority considers to be relevant. The authority must also give due consideration to the child’s religious persuasion, racial origin and cultural and linguistic background.

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Explanatory Notes

Text created by the Northern Ireland Assembly department responsible for the subject matter of the Act to explain what the Act sets out to achieve and to make the Act accessible to readers who are not legally qualified. Explanatory Notes accompany all Acts of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

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