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


Section 85 of the Children Act 1989 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, counselling and help for children to holiday with their family as well as the provision of advocacy services.


This local procedure was updated in October 2018 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 Services will typically contain the following information:
  • Child's name;
  • Child's date of birth;
  • Child’s address immediately prior to admission (or that of person with parental responsibility immediately prior to delivery);
  • Date of admission to hospital;
  • Ward/Department, lead professional for the child and contact details;
  • 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 Services.
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 Services interventions remain within timescales.

2. Section 85 Referral Process

2.1 All Section 85 notifications should be processed by CSCT and a notification sent to targeted Early Help services.
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 Services have been notified under this Section, they shall:

  1. Such steps as are reasonably practicable to enable them to determine whether the child’s welfare is adequately safeguarded and promoted while (s)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.
3.2 In cases where children are not known to the Local Authority a Request For Service form is sent to Children’s Services Contact Team who will create a contact on the electronic system and notify targeted Early Help services. The contact will be processed and allocated to either Families First or Children’s Centres. The case will then be allocated to a Family Intervention Worker. Initial enquiries will be undertaken by the Family Intervention Worker, who will clarify the issue of consent for s85 and if agreed with the family will include a meeting with the child and family to assess the need for any intervention using the Early Help Assessment.
3.3 Where based on the s85 report, it is identified that the Local Authority must intervene to provide services under Children’s Act 1989 the Family Intervention Worker will refer the case to the appropriate team within Children’s Services.
3.4 In cases where a child or young person is already known to the Children’s Services 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 the Team Manager. This review may include a meeting with the child and the family to assess any need for further intervention.
3.5 In the cases where the child or young person has had more than one episode of living away from home for 12 consecutive weeks and/or more than one Child and Family Assessment completed in the last 24 months, the last assessment needs to be reviewed by the Service Manager to assess any need for further intervention.
  The S85 report needs to be shared with the referrer, the parents and child/young person if appropriate.