These Regulations come into force on 1 September 2006 and replace, in relation to England, the Representations Procedure (Children) Regulations 1991 (the 1991 Regulations) (SI 1991/894) and regulate the procedure which local authorities are to follow in the consideration of representations made to them about the discharge of certain functions under the Children Act 1989 (the Act) and under the Adoption and Children Act 2002 (the 2002 Act). The Regulations specify some of the matters about which a person may make representations using this procedure. They also apply the procedure, with modifications, to representations made to voluntary organisations providing accommodation for children and about fostering limits.
Part 2 is concerned with the subject matter of representations. As well as providing a procedure for making representations about the discharge by a local authority of its functions under Part 3 of the Act, the Regulations provide a procedure for considering representations about specified local authority functions under Parts 4 and 5 of the Act (reg 3), functions under the 2002 Act (reg 4), and functions to do with special guardianship support services (reg 5).
Part 3 makes general provision about representations. Regulation 8 allows a local authority not to consider representations, in whole or in part, if the local authority decide that to do so might prejudice any of the proceedings falling within para (1). By reg 9 a complainant may make his representations to the local authority no later than one year after the grounds to make the representations arose. But if the representations are made outside that time limit the local authority may still consider them if they think that it would not be reasonable to expect the complainant to have made the representations within a year, and that it is still possible to consider the representations effectively and fairly.
Local authorities have to give complainants information about the representations procedure when they first make representations and they must also give information about advocacy services (reg 11) where relevant, that is where the complainant is a looked after child or a child in need and so is entitled to an advocate under s 26A of the Act.
Regulation 12 sets out how local authorities are to deal with representations which are made by persons falling within s 26(3)(e), (3B)(b) or (3C)(c) of the Act. Each of those sections requires local authorities to consider representations from persons whom the local authority consider to have sufficient interest in the child concerned to warrant their representations being considered. Local authorities must decide whether to consider the representations and are required to take into account the views of the child if they think it appropriate to do so.
Part 4 sets out the procedure for considering representations. Unless the complainant and the local authority agree otherwise, the first stage will involve an informal attempt at resolving the problem (regs 14 and 15). This stage usually begins when the local authority receive the representations, when they decide to consider representations from someone falling within s 26(3)(e), (3B)(b) or (3C)(c) of the Act, or when, in appropriate cases, an advocate has been appointed for a child. The complainant may ask for the start date to be a later date as agreed with the local authority. This stage should be concluded within 10 working days of the start date but that period can be extended where the local authority consider that the representations are complex.
Before going to the second stage, whether the representations have been considered under stage one or not, they must be set down in writing where they have only been made orally. Regulation 16 makes provision for this.
The second stage of the procedure is governed by reg 17 and involves consideration of the representations with an independent person. The local authority must consider the representations and send a notice of response within time limits set out in paras (3) to (5).
The third stage of the procedure involves consideration of the representations by a panel of three (reg 19), which can be requested by the complainant or his advocate in accordance with reg 18. All three members of the panel must be independent. The panel has to make recommendations within 5 working days of considering the representations and the local authority have 15 working days to consider the recommendations and decide what to do (reg 20).
Part 5 is concerned with representations to voluntary organisations and about fostering limits. Regulation 21 requires voluntary organisations who are providing accommodation for a child to have a procedure (set out in reg 22) for considering representations made to them by the persons specified in paras (a) to (d).
Under para 6 of Sch 7 to the Act, every local authority are required to establish a procedure for considering any representations made to them about the discharge of their functions under para 4 of that Schedule which allows a local authority to exempt people from the limit on the number of children they may foster. Regulation 23 sets out the procedure local authorities must follow in carrying out consideration of such representations.
Part 6 revokes the 1991 Regulations saving them only for the purpose of the transitional provisions. These provide that where a representation is being considered under the 1991 Regulations at the time these Regulations come into force then the representation will continue to be considered under the 1991 Regulations. If they can be resolved under that procedure then the matter is concluded; if they cannot and there are further stages for consideration under the 1991 Regulations, then they should be considered under the equivalent stage in the procedure established under these Regulations.