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 Remand.
The Children Act 1989 guidance and regulations Volume 2: care planning, placement and case review, Social Work Visits
This chapter was amended in July 2019 to include a link to the Leaving Care and Transition Procedure in relation to Personal Adviser visits to 'Relevant' or 'Former Relevant' young people.
- Normal Frequency
- Who Should be Seen?
- Consequences of Visits
- Quality Assurance
1. Normal Frequency
It is good practice that when Our Children are moving to their homes they should be accompanied by their social worker. Following this the child's social worker must visit the child in the placement at the following intervals, subject to the exceptions in Section 2, Exceptions:
- On the day the child is placed, to assist with the move;
- Within 1 week of the start of any home arrangement;
- Then at intervals of no more than 6 weeks during the first year of the placement;
- Thereafter, at intervals of not more than 6 weeks (or 3 months if the arrangement is intended to last until the child is 18);
- Where the child's Care Plan has been identified and ratified as their long term home, after the first year visits may take place at intervals of not more than 6 months. The child should be of sufficient age and understanding, and agree to be visited at this minimum frequency. A decision to move to 6 monthly visits must be taken by the social worker in conjunction with the Team Manager and agreed through the Our Children's Review process with the IRO.
N.B. These are minimum requirements and the need's of the child may require more frequent visits. The frequency of visits should always be determined by the children, their needs 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 a complaint is received from the child or from another person relating to the child concerning the standard of care they are receiving; or
- If there is any proposal to remove the child from their home where concerns have been raised about their welfare.
This applies to all new placements where, for example, a child moves from one home to another. For children who are placed for adoption, see Monitoring and Supervision of Adoptive Placements Procedure.
Some visits should be unannounced. (The foster carers, parent or residential unit should be informed by the child's social worker at the time of placing that there will be occasional unannounced visits and the reason for this explained.)
Meetings involving a child e.g. Our Children's 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 will be building and maintaining a relationship with the child and therefore will agree how they will be visiting and spending time with them. This could include activities outside of the home 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. Visits to the home should also be undertaken and regular communication with carers must be maintained. See Section 3, Who Should be Seen?
2.1 Children Placed with Parents
If the child is placed with their parents pending assessment, social work visits must take place at least once a week until the first Our Children's Review, thereafter at intervals agreed in conjunction with the child's needs and discussed 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 Our Children's 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, within 1 week of the Care Order, 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 Our Children's Review, thereafter agreed in the review but, as a minimum, 4 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 Youth Offenders' Institution or a health care setting), visits should take place within a week of the start/any change of living arrangements, and then at intervals of not more than 6 weeks for the first year; and at intervals of not more than 3 months in any subsequent year. The frequency of the visits will be agreed in line with the children's views, needs and agreed within the review meeting.
See also: Leaving Care and Transition Procedure, Personal Advisers in relation to Personal 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.
(See Reg 28 (7)(b), The Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010).
3. Who Should be Seen?
It is important to be clear that the exceptions set out in Section 2, Exceptions apply only to the home setting. Whatever the home setting arrangements and irrespective of where the child is living, 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 carers.
The social worker should be aware of who else lives in the home setting and they should know about changes in structure and composition as well as the relationships within the household or unit.
For children who are not able to communicate their views verbally, the social worker should ensure that observations of the child are made in their home environment and also in other settings, for example, school. Information and opinion should also be gathered from other professionals about the child to continue to build an understanding of the child's lived experience.
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 Plans.
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.
Social workers must consider the balance of time spent with staff/carers and with children during a statutory visit. The social worker must prioritise their time with the child as opposed to the staff/carer.Social workers should provide feedback to staff/carers regarding their visit.
The purpose of the visit is to ensure the home setting 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 and to ascertain who they would turn to in times of difficulty;
- To promote an effective relationship between the child and social worker with particular reference to the role of the social worker as a link with the child's history and birth family;
- To identify daily routines including getting up and going to bed, meal times (including whether the children in the home all eat together), the arrangements for washing and whether the child is provided with privacy and support that is relevant to their stage of development;
- To identify arrangements for holiday and leisure time including playing games, access to clubs, cultural and sporting activities;
- To identify what special arrangements are made to meet any needs that arise from their culture, religious or heritage including communication, diet and skin/hair care;
- To observe the child with the staff/carer/parent and to analyse parenting styles and the promotion of the child's self esteem;
- To monitor the standard of care offered by the placement including the physical standards, house rules and behaviour management strategies;
- To identify whether there are toys or games to play with and the access that the child has to them;
- To monitor how the family time arrangements with family members and friends are working and to discover whether these are promoted within the home;
- To consider the child's sleeping arrangements such as room sharing, display of personal belongings and the physical state of the room. Has the child got clean clothes that are stored appropriately?
- 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, with particular reference to whether the placement is meeting the educational, health and social development needs of the child. Where it is a long-term/permanent home setting, the social worker should observe whether there are signs that the child is an integral part of the family such as whether they are included in photographs on display;
- To carry out specific casework tasks with the child, for example carrying out a programme of life story work;
- To identify whether older children are encouraged to play an increasing part in their own care such as laundry, food preparation and the purchase of food, clothes and budgeting;
- To identify the arrangements for the child to get support with school work, do homework (including where appropriate, access to a computer)and visit a library. Do the carers attend parent's evenings?
- To identify whether the child knows about the complaints procedure and the availability of advocacy services;
- To monitor that the Child Health Record is stored safely, is up to date and is accessible to the child as appropriate to the child's age and understanding;
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 compromise the child's safety e.g. the method of lifting a disabled child;
- Does the carer have sufficient equipment i.e. bath chair / hoist etc.?
- 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 re the administration of medication?
It may not be possible for a social worker to gain all the information listed in one visit but they must try to obtain a holistic view of the home setting.
When visiting children in residential homes 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 for example, behaviour and staff strategies for managing situations.
The social worker should record each visit stating clearly:
- Who was seen;
- Whether the child was seen and if not why not;
- Whether the child was seen alone;
- The child's view;
- Any comments made by the child or the carers and parents;
- Any matters of concern or difficulties;
- Any observations on the child's welfare and the home setting is meeting the child's needs;
- Any requirements for action;
- Visits should be written up and be available on the integrated case management system within 2 working days of the visit.
6. Consequences of Visits
Where a social worker has concerns about whether a home 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 Plans 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.
7. Quality Assurance
The social worker's Team Manager should review visits with the social worker as part of the case monitoring process that forms part of each supervision session, particularly around the timeliness of visits and note that standards for visiting are being met.
Similarly, the IRO should appraise social work visits as part of the Our Children's Review process and make recommendations if visits need to be made or recorded. In exceptional cases, when a visit is significantly out of timescale, this should be escalated to the Team Manager under the Issues Resolution protocol. The IRO also completes a Monitoring Form after each review that includes a section on social worker visits.
Weekly reports on social worker visits around the timeliness of visits are provided by the Performance, systems and Intelligence team and circulated to the Children Services' Management Team. They are reviewed across all areas of management.