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What does it mean to be looked after?

The term ‘looked after’ means that Lambeth Council Social Care are involved in, and have a say about, what happens to you.  Some people call this ‘being in care’.  On this website we will use the term ‘looked after’.

Children and young people can be ‘looked after’ by a Council from when they are a baby anytime up until they are 18.  Sometimes if a child has a disability, they could be looked after up to the age of 19. 

There are two different ways you might come into care – this could be where it is decided through the courts or where it is agreed by your parents.

Care Order - decision by the court

Often a court has said that it would be better for you to live away from home.  This is called a Care Order and is part of the law called the Children’s Act 1989.  When the court has made this decision, it is the job of your Social Worker to make sure you are well looked after, safe, and enjoy a good and happy childhood.

If you are looked after under a Care Order, your Social Worker will work with your parents to make very important decisions about your care including where you will live, where you will go to school and how often you will visit your family.  It is your social worker’s job to make the final decisions about this to make sure it is the best thing for you.  You should be involved in all of these decisions made about your life.

Accommodated - Agreed by your parents


Sometimes children and young people become looked after but are not on a Care Order.  This is called being ‘accommodated’.  This means that the Council are helping your parents to look after you.  If this happens, your parents still make decisions about you, including where you live and where you go to school.

Why is Lambeth Council looking after me?

Sometimes children and young people are looked after because people are worried that you were being hurt or were at risk of harm living with your parents/guardian.

There are lots of different reasons why children and young people are looked after!  If you are not sure why you are looked after, you can ask your social worker and they will be more than happy to talk to you about this. 

How long will I be looked after?

Sometimes children and young people only need to be looked after for a very short time.  Sometimes this is a few days, a few weeks or a few months.  Some children and young people are looked after for a much longer time, until they are 18.  It depends why you are looked after and if it is safe for you to go home.  If you don’t know how long you are going to be looked after you can talk to your Social worker or foster carer/key worker so that you know what is happening.

What about how I feel about being looked after?

Going into care for the first time or moving into a new place can be very scary.  There will be lots of new people to meet and you may be moving away from friends and family.  You may be feeling angry, worried, confused or very sad. You are not alone – your Social Worker and new carer/key worker is there to talk to you and to keep you safe.

Moving away from your family can be a very hard thing to do – and you might not want to leave and might not think that you need to go.  Sometimes a Court will make a decision that you will not agree with.  This can make you feel very angry and confused.  Your Social Worker will try to help you understand this.  There are other people you can talk to if you think this might help.

Other things you can do when you feel angry or upset about being in care:

  • Speak to an advocate to help you to have your say
  • Talk to a friend, teacher, Social Worker, or other trusted adult
  • Speak to the mental health service for children looked after (CLAMHS)
  • Keep a diary
  • Write a letter to an adult that knows you and tell them how you are feeling
  • Ring a confidential helpline