SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
This procedure applies to all changes of a Looked After child's forename or surname, formal or informal.
Allowing a child to adopt a new forename and/or surname amounts to a change of name and is therefore covered by this procedure.
Under no circumstances should practitioners and carers agree, condone or act in any way to change a child's name without following this procedure.
- Necessary Consents
- Children Under 16
- Children of 16 and Over
1. Necessary Consents
Where a child is under 16, the written consent of parents and all those who hold Parental Responsibility is required to change a child's name. Where consent is not forthcoming, the child's name cannot be changed without a Court Order.
The local authority can only pursue such a Court application in relation to a child who is subject to a Care Order where they hold Parental Responsibility for the child.
A child of 16 or more can decide to change his or her name without the consent of those with Parental Responsibility.
2. Children Under 16
2.1 Obtaining Consent
If a child under 16 expresses a wish to change his or her name, this should be considered at the child's Looked After Review.
If the Review considers that the child is of sufficient age and maturity to understand the significance of such a step and it is consistent with the Care Plan and the change would lead to an improvement from the point of view of the child's welfare, the review may recommend that the child's wishes should be supported.
The social worker should obtain legal advice as to the appropriate steps to be followed.
It will usually be necessary to seek the parents' written consent to the child's change of name. Even where the father does not have Parental Responsibility and his consent is not strictly required, it may be appropriate that he should be consulted and his views obtained. The legal adviser should be asked to clarify this, particularly where there are unusual circumstances and it is considered undesirable to seek parental consent on this issue.
2.2 Where Parental Consent is Given
If the parents' consent is given, the child's social worker should seek the approval of the Designated Manager (Change of Name) to the change of name. To do so, the social worker should prepare a written request setting out the reasons for the change and attaching a copy of the parents' written consents, the written legal advice, the up to date Care Plan and the minutes of the Looked After Review recommending the change. The written request, together with the supporting documentation, and the Designated Manager's need to specify decision should be retained on the child's case record.
2.3 Where Parental Consent is Not Given
It may be possible in exceptional circumstances to apply to the Court for authority to change the name of a child under 16 who is on a Care Order where the parents' consent is not obtained or they cannot be found.
In these circumstances, where the Looked After Review supports this course of action, the social worker should send a written request to the Designated Manager (Change of Name) with the supporting documentation set out above seeking approval to make the necessary Court application. If the manager agrees, the social worker should contact the legal adviser for an application to be made to the appropriate Court. The legal adviser will advise on the documentary evidence required.
In relation to an Accommodated child, the above Court application will not be available to the local authority and legal advice will clarify whether any further action is possible.
2.4 Changing the Name
If a decision is made that the child's name can be changed either as a result of all those with Parental Responsibility consenting or as a result of a Court Order, legal advice should be sought so that the necessary legal documents to evidence the change of name can be prepared and signed.
Where this necessitates the child obtaining his or her own legal adviser, the Designated Manager (Change of Name) should be requested to authorise the payment of the child's legal fees if legal aid is not available.
The social worker should notify all relevant agencies of the child's new name, the child's record should be updated and the child's Independent Reviewing Officer should be informed.
3. Children of 16 and Over
Where the child is 16 or over, the parents' consent is not required and this should be explained to the child. The child's wish should still be considered at the Looked After Review and unless there is a good reason not to do so, the parents' views should be obtained. Where the review supports the child's wish, the social worker should inform this or her line manager and ask for authority to provide financial support to the child to meet any legal fees.
Even where the change of name is not supported, the social worker should assist the child to obtain the services of an advocate and/or legal adviser if s/he still wishes to pursue a change of name.