Salford Children's Services Procedures Manual Salford City Council website
Greater Manchester SCB Procedures
Greater Manchester SCB Procedures Greater Manchester SCB Procedures

3.4.1 Social Worker Visits

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 Court Remand to Local Authority or to Youth Detention Accommodation, Care Planning for Young People on Remand.

RELEVANT GUIDANCE

DfE, The Children Act 1989 guidance and regulations – Volume 2: Care Pllanning, Placement and Case Review (2015)

AMENDMENT

This chapter was updated in October 2015 to reflect the revised visiting requirements in respect of long term foster placements as set out in DfE, The Children Act 1989 guidance and regulations – Volume 2: Care Pllanning, Placement and Case Review (2015). A link to this statutory guidance has been added.


Contents

  1. Frequency of Visits
  2. Exceptions
  3. Who Should be Seen?
  4. Purpose
  5. Recording
  6. Consequences of Visits


1. Frequency of Visits

The frequency of visits to Looked After Children varies, dependent on the nature of the placement. In most circumstances, the child should be visited within one week of the start of the placement. Thereafter the child must be visited at intervals of not more than 6 weeks for the first year of any placement. Visits during subsequent years must also take place at intervals of not more than six weeks, unless the placement has been formerly agreed as a permanent placement. In those latter circumstances, the intervals between visits in the second and subsequent years of a placement must not be longer than 3 months.

Please note: where a child is in such a formally agreed permanent placement, visits after the first year may take place at intervals of not more than six months. where the child, being of sufficient age and understanding, has agreed to be visited at this minimum frequency.

N.B. These are minimum requirements and frequency of visits can be determined by the circumstances of the case and the social worker should arrange a visit whenever reasonably requested by a child or foster carer, regardless of the status of the placement.


2. Exceptions

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 of 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 of not more than 4 weeks.

If the child is placed with parents under a Care Order, within one week of the Care Order, thereafter at intervals of not more than 6 weeks.

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 of not more than 4 weeks.

If the child is placed for adoption, visits should be weekly until the first review and subsequently at a frequency defined by the IRO but not less frequently than every 6 weeks

If the child is in the care of the Local Authority but another person is responsible for the child's living arrangements (for example where a child is placed in a Youth Offenders' Institution or a health care setting), within a week of the start/any change of living arrangements, at intervals of not more than 6 weeks for the first year; at intervals of not more than 3 months in any subsequent year.


3. Who Should be Seen?

The social worker must see and speak to the child in private and alone (unless the child is sufficient age and maturity and refuses, or where the social worker considers it inappropriate to do so (bearing in mind the child's age and understanding or where this is not possible because the child is not at home).

If the child has particular communication difficulties or requires specialist communication support, the social worker will need to use specialist resources in order to ensure that the child has opportunity to express his or her wishes and feelings, including a request for the social worker to visit. It is also important that the social worker sees the child in the context of their daily life in the placement. Visits should be not neglected because the placement is going well. Regular visiting helps the social worker to be equipped in identifying and helping with any difficulties because care has been taken by them to establish a relationship with a child and foster carer. It may also be useful for visits to be more frequent, particularly when circumstances around the child are changing. There will also inevitably be periods in any placement when a child’s carer or the placement is under particular stress.


4. Purpose

The purpose of the visit is to ensure that the child’s welfare continues to be safeguarded and promoted and in particular:

  1. To support the development of a good relationship between the child and social worker, this can then help the child in sharing his or her experiences, both positive and negative, within the placement;
  2. To provide an opportunity to talk to the child and to offer reassurance if she/he feels isolated and vulnerable while away from family and friends;
  3. To enable the social worker to evaluate and monitor the achievements of actions and targets identified in the Care Plan and Placement Plan and to contribute to the review of the plan;
  4. To identify any difficulties which the child or carer may be experiencing, to provide advice on appropriately responding to the child’s behaviour and identify where additional supports and services are needed;
  5. To monitor contact arrangements, exploring how the child is responding to contacts and to identify any additional supports, which the carers might require to support positive contact arrangements;
  6. To identify daily routines including getting up and going to bed, mealtimes (including whether the children in the placement all eat together), the arrangements for washing and whether the child is provided with privacy and support that’s relevant to his/her stage of development;
  7. To explore what arrangements have been for holiday and leisure time including playing games, access to clubs, cultural and sporting activities;
  8. To ascertain what special arrangements are made to meet any needs that arise from their culture, religious or heritage including communication diet and skin/hair care;
  9. To monitor the standard of care offered by the placement including the physical standards, house rules and behaviour management strategies. The standard of care should be observed and the child’s bedroom sometimes seen. Some visits should be unannounced, in order to provide a balanced perspective of the quality of life where the child is living. Visits should regularly take place when all the members of the household are at home;
  10. Joint activities between the child and their social worker outside the home can support the child in being able to speak more freely. However, where there may be concerns that the child may be suffering Significant Harm, it must be borne in mind that the child may find it difficult to disclose, whilst still living within the environment where abuse is taking place. It is therefore a key responsibility for the social worker to identify other signs that all is not well for the child;
  11. To carry out specific case work tasks with the child, e.g. carrying out a programme of life story work;
  12. To ensure that arrangements for the child to get support with school work, do homework, and visit a library, are available and appropriate. Do the carers attend parent’s evenings?
  13. To identify whether the child knows about the complaints procedure and the availability of advocacy services;
  14. To monitor that the child’s health record is stored safely, is up to date and is accessible to the child as appropriate to the child’s age and understanding;
  15. Social workers visiting children with disabilities and/or complex health needs should also consider the following:
    • Whether practices that are being employed are appropriate and do not comprise the child’s safety e.g. the method of lifting a disabled child;
    • Does the carer have sufficient equipment?
    • Who arranges the child’s health appointments and who attends?
    • For children in residential placements in particular is there consistency of worker?
    • Is there clear written information regarding the administration of medication?
    • When visiting children in residential settings, the social worker should read the running sheets to gain an understanding of recent events and also to identify any themes highlighted in the recording e.g. behaviour and staff strategies for managing situations.


5. Recording

The social worker should record each visit stating clearly:

  1. Who was seen, including the carer (though opportunity for in depth discussion can take place on other visits when the child may be at school);
  2. Whether the child was seen and if not, why not;
  3. Whether the child was seen alone.

The content and outcome of each visit should be carefully recorded in a way which enables the continuing assessment of the progress of the child in the placement to be made, even where there is a change of social worker. The record should set out the main issues that were raised during the visit, any issues of concern and how these will be addressed and an overall conclusion.

There is an expectation that information from the visit will be shared appropriately with parents and the child’s carers and others who may need to know. The social worker should discuss with the child, subject to his/her age and understanding, what information should be shared with who and why.


6. Consequences of Visits

The social worker may have concerns about whether the placement is adequately promoting the child’s welfare. In these circumstances the social worker needs to inform the IRO and consideration be given to whether the child’s care plan and placement plan needs to be reviewed, including identifying actions which must be taken to ensure that the placement is able to meet their needs appropriately and if not to consider alternatives.

End