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Salford Children's Services Procedures Manual Salford City Council website

3.6.3 Looked After Children Contacting their Social Worker


  1. Introduction
  2. How a Child Can Contact their Social Worker
  3. Contact between the Child and the Social Worker

1. Introduction

Salford City Council is committed to improving outcomes for Looked After Children. To fully support this aim, it is believed that Looked After children need care plans which are detailed, involve all the key adults, and have defined, clear roles and responsibilities, for everyone involved. Participation by the young person, in their care planning, is vital and the Authority has explored how communication for every Looked After child can be improved, with young people more able to access the professionals involved in their plans. Commitment has therefore been given that:

  • The child's worker will be a qualified social worker
  • Emphasis will be placed on listening to the child/young person and, using a range of communication skills, establish their wishes and feelings regarding their care plan.
  • The social worker will ensure support is in place, to promote placement stability
  • The social worker will support the child in accessing good schools, and help them to develop after school activities
  • The social worker will ensure the young person has a robust and detailed care plan, reviewed at regular intervals.
  • The social worker will encourage the young person to attend or in some other way, participate in their review

Of central importance, is for the child or young person to have the ability to contact their social worker and for the Directorate to imaginatively consider how we might support the young person with this. We recognise that children and young people are attending education, and indeed out of school activities, and so, they may not be able to contact their social worker during office hours or using land line telephones, (and the Social Work switchboard closes at 5.00 pm). Some may be happy to ask their carer to make contact on their behalf, and social workers are happy to respond to such requests. It is however, also believed that young people should have the ability to contact their social worker themselves.

2. How a Child Can Contact their Social Worker

This guidance is therefore intended to promote accessibility for the young person, in a range of ways:

  1. Whilst there are legal requirements to visit a Looked After child every six weeks in the first year of placement and every three months thereafter, social workers, with their managers will agree on a higher frequency of seeing the child or young person, depending on need.
  2. When working with children and young people, the social worker will need to establish, with that child, how they can contact their worker. With younger children, this might be a piece of work exploring which adults they could ask for help from, to contact their social worker. It might also include exploring, if the child is quite young, who they might speak to, if they were upset. (This would then also support the work in helping youngsters in developing resiliency and a network of people on whom they can rely). Depending on age and understanding, young people need a range of communication tools. It is therefore helpful, if older young people have their social worker's mobile number, e-mail address, as well as the telephone number at the office.
  3. There is an expectation that the carers with whom the child is living will ensure the young person has access to a land line, in order to make calls to their social worker
  4. Social workers can share their mobile numbers with young people, as a means of keeping in touch.
  5. The child's placement will also be offering internet access, to support the young person in accessing e-mail.
  6. The young person may also have a mobile, with which they can telephone or text the social worker. The social worker may also help the young person, if needed, to learn how to send text messages.
  7. Young people may also have access to e-mail facilities, either at school or at home. It is therefore important that they are made aware of their social worker's e-mail address and are informed of how to use this facility. They have the right to a response, within 24 hours, during week days, providing the social worker is in work.
  8. Some young people, particularly those living some distance away from Salford, might prefer to write to their social worker. For these young people, it may be a good plan to offer them some pre-paid, addressed envelopes, to cover the cost of postage/ensure it reaches the correct destination.
  9. Young people will also be advised that there is a duty social worker, whom they may ask to speak to, if their query cannot wait.

For the above to work successfully, there are responsibilities involved:

3. Contact between the Child and the Social Worker

For the social worker, there is a need to provide clear information, to the young person, on the service they can realistically expect from them, including:

  • Explaining why the response may not be immediate e.g. the social worker may be working with another young person, in a meeting, driving their car
  • It will not be a 24/7 service: social workers are expected to switch their mobiles off, if they are not working. The mobile phone will only be switched on, during the worker's working hours
  • The young person can expect a response, providing the social worker is in work (i.e. not on holiday or off sick) as soon as practicable and certainly within 24 hours
  • Explaining the 'ground rules' for the relationship: young people may be angry and they have the right to express anger or frustration.  However, when establishing their working relationship, social workers will need to be clear that it is not okay for the young person to be abusive and to explain what might happen, if they are.

The social worker would also need to ensure a colleague can place their 'out of office' function on their e-mail, if needed e.g. if they are off sick. If out visiting, they would also need to alert their admin colleagues, if they were to be unexpectedly delayed, particularly if they are going to be out of the office for a significant period longer than originally planned.

It will be important to ensure that admin staff facilitate the young person in making contact with their social worker. This will include:

  • Giving clear information about availability and when they might receive a response
  • Responding positively to a request by a young person to make a reverse charge call.

Social workers' experience to date would suggest that if they are clear about the limits of their availability and keep the commitment they have made, young people respond positively. With support from admin colleagues, in implementing this guidance, it is believed we can improve the service offered to Looked After children.