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1.5.7 Notification of Children living Away From Home (Section 85 of Children Act 1989)


Section 85 of the 1989 Children Act places a duty on local authorities to check on the safety and welfare of children living in residential education or hospital provision for any continuous period exceeding and/or likely to exceed 12 weeks.

The intention behind the legislation is to provide a ‘safety net’ for vulnerable children living away from home where the child is not accommodated under section 20 and where the child is not subject to the usual processes of Care Planning and review by an Independent Reviewing Officer.

The legislation is aimed particularly at ensuring the safety and support needs of disabled children and their families. These children are at increased risk of Significant Harm within every category of abuse due to their increased level of dependency on others. The families of disabled children also experience enormous demands upon their parenting capacity in trying to meet a child’s additional needs.

The institutions required to comply with this notification policy include:

  • Residential ‘special needs’ schools either joint or single agency funded both ‘in’ and ‘out’ of borough, including maintained and non-maintained boarding schools;
  • Hospitals, including small ‘local’ hospitals and independent/private hospitals;
  • Psychiatric units including private and voluntary sector units including those that treat young people for dependency on drugs or alcohol.

Note: The Children and Young Persons Act 2008 amends Schedule 2 Part 1 of the 1989 Children Act and clarifies the sort of services appropriate for ‘accommodated’ children away from home (Section 85) including financial help to promote contact, advice, counseling and help for children to holiday with their family as well as the provision of advocacy services.


Section 3, Action Following Referral was revised in December 2014 and should be re-read.


  1. Content and Timing of Notifications
  2. Section 85 Referral Process
  3. Action Following Referral

1. Content and Timing of Notifications

1.1 Notifications to Children’s Social Care will typically contain the following information:
  • Child's name;
  • Child's date of birth;
  • Child’s address immediately prior to admission (or that of mother immediately prior to delivery);
  • Date of admission to hospital;
  • Ward/Department;
  • Name and contact details of parents/carers.
1.2 The notifying authority will also inform the parents/carers that the information has been disclosed to Children’s Social Care.
1.3 Best practice dictates that notifications should be received at least three weeks before a child has been away from home for the statutory period 12 weeks so that Children’s Social Care interventions remain within timescales.

2. Section 85 Referral Process

2.1 All Section 85 notifications should be passed to the Operational Manager responsible for the independent reviewing service for Looked After Children.
2.2 Notifications are required when a child is likely to be resident within an institution for 12 weeks or more and also when a child is discharged after a 3 month period.

3. Action Following Referral


Where Children’s Social Care have been notified under this section, they shall:

  1. take such steps as are reasonably practicable to enable them to determine whether the child’s welfare is adequately safeguarded and promoted while he is Accommodated by the accommodating authority; and
  2. consider the extent to which (if at all) they should exercise any of their functions under this Act with respect to the child.

In cases where children are not known to the Local Authority an e-CAF is sent to Children’s Social Care Team who notify the Safeguarding and Quality Assurance Team

Initial enquiries will be undertaken by an IRO and will include a meeting with the child and family to assess the need for any intervention.
3.3 Where such a need is identified it will be the responsibility of the IRO to organise a case transfer to the appropriate team within Children’s Social Care.
3.4 In cases where a child is already known to the Children’s Social Care it is expected that a Child and Family Assessment (Single Assessment) will be undertaken by an allocated social worker. This will then be reviewed by an IRO. This review will include a meeting with the child and the family to assess any need for further intervention.