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7.10 Alternative, Respite and Constellation Carers

This chapter was added to the manual in February 2022.


  1. Policy, Purpose and Definition
  2. Procedure

1. Policy, Purpose and Definition


Manx Care will ensure that any alternative placements for a child or young person are assessed as safe options for a short-term period.


In accordance with the requirements and guidelines in respect of:


Respite care/sleepovers are a form of planned short-term substitute care that is usually provide by another approved foster carer. An alternative carer is an individual who forms part of a foster carers’ support network and is a regular visitor to the carers’ home. For those in a Mockingbird Constellation, support will be provided in the form of a sleepover. This will be provided either by the Hub Home Carer or another carer within the constellation (satellite carer).

2. Procedure

If it is part of the child’s care plan to have regular planned respite/sleepovers, these placements would be recorded as part of the care plan and would be monitored and reviewed by statutory visits and the Looked After reviewing process.

Planned respite carers are approved foster carers and a planning placement meeting must be held, prior to any respite placement being made. This will also require a placement plan, to include delegated authority. Please see Placement and Matching Policy.

Any alternative carers need to be a familiar person to the child or young person and could provide care for the child in their current foster home or in the alternative carers’ home. This would need to be agreed by Manx Care, upon a risk assessment being undertaken.

If the child or young person is currently residing in a home that is part of the Mockingbird Constellation and it has been agreed that there is a need for a sleepover or period of care, then this will be arranged between the Hub Home Carer and the primary carer. The Hub Home Carer must make the child’s Social Worker and the Liaison Worker aware of such arrangements. The child’s Social Worker will need to ensure that this is reflected on the child’s electronic file.

When children/young people are placed in a foster placement, the foster carer may require an alternative carer to care for the child/young person on an emergency/temporary basis. This could happen for a variety of reasons, for example:

  • To attend a personal appointment, training or prior engagement;
  • A sudden change in the carers’ circumstances.

Ideally, it is good practice for these individuals to be assessed as part of the fostering assessment that is undertaken by the assessing social worker. If it is determined that the alternative carer will be a regular support to the primary carer, a DBS check must be completed as part of that process. This will prevent delay in the future, if the child/young person is required to have overnights with them for more than four days.

However, if this has not been assessed as part of the fostering assessment, an assessment of risk will need to be completed jointly by the child’s Social Worker and the Supervising Social Worker.

The risk assessment will need to be authorised by the Social Worker’s Team Manager and the Fostering Team Leader, and a copy placed on both the child’s and the carers’ electronic file. The risk assessment will need to cover the following:

  • The reasons why the child will be looked after by the alternative carer and how long for?
  • Where will the child be residing during this time?
  • What support and frequency of visits will be needed to maintain the child’s care plan?

If the child will be required to stay with the alternative carer frequently or for a prolonged period of time (over 4 days), a DBS check will need to be undertaken and the outcome documented within the risk assessment. This risk assessment will then need to form part of the foster carer’s annual review and will need to be presented at the next available Fostering Panel.

If the foster carer needs to utilise their alternative carer, they must make their supervising social worker and child’s social worker aware as soon as possible. The carer will need to confirm how long the child/young person will need to be cared for and the parents/those with parental responsibility will need to be consulted with by the child’s social worker and this must be recorded on the child’s electronic file.

In addition, consideration needs to be given as to how the child/young person will remain in contact with their foster carer and their birth family during their stay with the alternative carer. It is also important to consider how a child/young person may be prepared for this short-stay, especially if it will be for a prolonged period of time.

If the child/young person requires a prolonged stay with the alternative carer, this will need to form part of an updated Placement Plan. During the child/young person’s stay with the alternative carer, the foster carer is responsible for providing the practical support. For example, providing the alternative carer with a detailed overview of the child’s routines, social activities and providing any necessary financial assistance from the child’s fostering allowance to cover expenses.

If the child is part of the Mockingbird Constellation, then the primary carer will also be responsible for providing practical and financial support. This financial support will only be in relation to pocket money and any reasonable extra-curricular activities.