Social Worker Visits to Children Looked After
Note that different provisions apply to children who acquire Looked After status as a result of a remand to local authority accommodation or Youth Detention Accommodation. In relation to those children, please see Remands to Local Authority Accommodation or to Youth Detention Accommodation Procedure, Care Planning for Young People on Remanded to Local Authority Accommodation or Youth Detention Accommodation.
AMENDMENTSection 2, Exceptions was revised in August 2018 to set out more clearly the circumstances where visiting requirements differ from those set out in Section 1, Normal Frequency.
1. Normal Frequency
It is good practice that when a Child Looked After is placed they should be accompanied by the social worker to the placement Following this the child's social worker must visit the child in the placement at the following intervals, subject to the conditions below:
- Within 1 week of the start of any placement and then weekly until the first Looked After Review or for 4 weeks if the placement was planned and no CLA Review required. This applies to all new placements where, for example, a child moves from one placement to another;
- Then at intervals of not more than every 6 weeks until the placement has been approved as long term;
- Following approval a placement being agreed as long term, visiting requirements can be reduced to intervals of no more than 3months within the first year. Following the first year of a placement being approved as a long term, visits may be reduced to intervals not exceeding 6 months;
- The decision to reduce statutory visits to Children Looked After to intervals of 3 or 6 months must be evidenced within the Care Plan and agreed at a CLA Review where the young person and their foster carer agree with the proposed level of statutory visits.
N.B. These are minimum visiting requirements, and the Looked After Review may recommend more frequent visits. The frequency of visits should always be determined by the circumstances of the case and visits should be made whenever reasonably requested by the child or foster carer regardless of the status of the placement.
In addition, the child's social worker should visit:
- Whenever reasonably requested to do so by the child;
- Immediately when a complaint is received from the child or from another person relating to the standard of care the child is receiving or;
- If there is any proposal to remove the child from placement where concerns have been raised about their welfare.
The child's social worker should also visit the child immediately when a complaint is received from the child or from another person relating to the standard of care the child is receiving.
Some visits should be unannounced.
Social workers may on occasion need to visit more regularly, however they must avoid an appearance of over involvement in the life of the child.
Meetings involving a child e.g. Looked After Reviews, do not in themselves constitute a visit, unless time is taken outside of the meeting to talk with and spend time with the child.The child's social worker should on occasion take the child out from the placement (for example for a snack or a visit to a park) as this can strengthen the relationship between the child and the social worker and is also in the interests of child protection in that the child may feel more able to discuss issues that are of concern to them.
2.1 Children Placed with Parents
If the child is placed with parents pending assessment, social work visits must take place at least once a week until the first Looked After Review, thereafter at intervals agreed in the review but not more than 6 weeks.
If the child is living with the parents under an Interim Care Order, visits must take place at least once a week until the first Looked After Review, thereafter at intervals agreed in the review but, as a minimum, 4 weekly until the final hearing has been completed in the care proceedings.
If the child is placed with parents under a Care Order, they should be visited within 1 week of the Care Order, and thereafter at intervals of not more than 6 weeks.
2.2 Children Placed with Connected Persons
If the child is placed with a Connected Person with temporary approval, visits must take place at least once a week until the first Looked After Review, thereafter at intervals agreed in the review but, as a minimum, 6 weekly until the carer is approved as a foster carer.
2.3 Children Placed in a Young Offenders' Institution or Health Care Setting, etc.
If the child is in the care of the local authority but another person / organisation is responsible for the child's living arrangements (for example where a child is placed in a Young Offenders' Institution or a health care setting), they should be visited within a week of the start/any change of living arrangements, and then at intervals of not more than 4 weeks for the first year, and at intervals of not more than 3 months in any subsequent year.
Where the placement is for a series of short-term placements, the child's social worker must visit the child within the first 7 placement days (being days when the child is placed) and thereafter every 6 months.
Visits should be made more frequently if circumstances require and whenever reasonably requested by the child or the staff/carer.
|See also: Leaving Care Procedure, Personal Advisers / Pathway Advisers in relation to Personal Adviser / Pathway Adviser visits to 'Relevant' or 'Former Relevant' young people.|
2.4 Notice of Concern by the Registration Authority
Where a Registration Authority notifies a local authority in respect of a children's home, a fostering agency, a voluntary adoption agency, or adoption support agency, that the Registered Manager:
- Has had their Registration withdrawn, suspended or notice of this extended;
- Has proceedings brought against them by the Registration Authority for an offence which it alleges has been committed in respect of the establishment or agency;
- Has had notice served upon them by the Registration Authority to ensure no child is further accommodated (excepting a child that is already accommodated or continues to be accommodated);
- Has served a Penalty Notice for allegations in respect of an alleged offence which the Registered Manager has then paid.
Then a visit must also be made within 1 week of receiving a notification made under section 30A of the Care Standards Act 2000.
3. Who Should be Seen
It is important to be clear that the exceptions set out in section 2 above apply only to the placement. Whatever the placement arrangements and irrespective of where the child is placed, the child must be seen in private and alone (unless the child is of sufficient age and maturity and refuses or the social worker considers it inappropriate to do so, having regard to the child's age and understanding). If this is not possible, a further visit must be made at short notice in order that the child can be seen alone and observed with the staff.
If the child has particular communication difficulties, or if they require specialist communication support (e.g. a specialist advocacy service), the social worker will need to consider what specialist resources should be utilised to ensure the child is able to express their wishes and feelings, including a request for a visit. This should be considered at the outset and included in the child's care and placement plan.
On some occasions, the social worker should also arrange to visit at times when all members of a household can be seen; or for children's Homes, a significant number of adults and children.
The purpose of the visit is to ensure the placement continues to promote the child's welfare and in particular:
- To give the child the opportunity to express their wishes, feelings and views;
- To advise, assist and befriend the child;
- To observe the child with the staff/foster carer/parent;
- To monitor the standard of care offered by the placement;
- To monitor how the contact arrangements are working;
- To provide support to the placement;
- To identify any areas where additional support is required;
- To evaluate whether the placement is helping to achieve the objectives of the child's Care Plan.
Placement Plan Reviews can be undertaken during social workers visits.
A written report on each visit must be made by the social worker and kept in the child's file stating clearly:
- Who was seen;
- Whether the child was seen and if not why not;
- Whether the child was seen alone;
- Any comments made by the child or the staff/carers/parents;
- Any matters of concern or difficulties;
- Any observations on the child's welfare and the success of the placement;
- Any requirements for action.
6. Consequences of Visits
Where a social worker has concerns about whether a placement is adequately promoting a child's welfare, the IRO should be informed and the Authority must review the child's case in accordance with Part 6 of the 2010 Regulations (Reg 30]. This includes reviewing the child's care and placement plan and identifying actions which must be taken to ensure that the placement is able to meet their needs appropriately and, if not, to consider alternatives.