2.1.10 Guidance to Statutory Visits

AMENDMENT

This chapter was updated in September 2017 a new section was added for visits to Children subject to a Supervision Order.


A statutory visit to a looked after child or young person is required under several pieces of legislation:

  • Children Act 1989;
  • Adoption Agencies Regulations 2005 – amended 2011;
  • The Children Act 2004;
  • The Children (private arrangements for fostering) Regulations 2005;
  • The Fostering Service (England) Regulations 2011.

This will therefore include a child in foster care, either with Walsall foster carers or with an Independent Fostering Agency; in Walsall’s children's homes or in agency residential placements inside and outside Walsall; in residential school (52 week, weekly and term-time boarders if Section 20 or 38); when children are placed with parents (Section 31 or 38); in supported lodgings and independent living accommodation if Section 20 or 31; in prisons, secure accommodation and young offender institutions if Section 20 or 31; in pre adoptive placements; in long term hospital placements if Section 20 or Section 31; this guidance also applies to those in private foster care.

The purpose of the statutory visit is to ensure that the child’s welfare is both protected and promoted in his / her current placement and that the standards in the placement, including the child’s bedroom are acceptable. You will need to ensure that the child has a clean and appropriate bedroom, furniture suitable for their needs and where necessary has privacy. For older children permission should be sought before going into their bedroom.

Statutory visits are a priority in their own right and the visiting requirements will not be properly met if these visits are combined with other occasions when the child is seen, such as contact with family or transporting the child. However, if there are any concerns about the child’s welfare in the placement, then you may want to have a discussion with the child at a different location. Frequency of visiting must be consistent with the child’s plan and the duty to safeguard and promote the child’s welfare, so the actual level of visiting could sometimes be well above the statutory minimum. In particular, where children and young people are not in “settled placements” it is expected that visits will take place more frequently. When children are new in placement social workers are expected to visit a child at least once a week for the first month of their placement whatever the type of placement.

Visits during subsequent years must also take place at intervals of not more than six weeks unless the placement has been FORMALLY agreed as permanent (intended to last until the child is 18).

Where a placement has formally been agreed as permanent the intervals between visits in the second and subsequent years of placement must not be longer than 3 months.

Where the child is placed in a long term permanent foster placement after the 1st Year consideration can be given to visits taking place at intervals of not more than 6 months. The child should be of a sufficient age and understanding for this to be appropriate and will need to have agreed to being visited at this minimum frequency. This must be agreed at a Looked After Child Review.

Children subject to a Supervision Order

Each child subject to a Supervision Order must be visited every 4 weeks as a minimum, Depending on the level of concern the frequency of the visits may be increased and this is discussed and agreed with the manager. The child/ren must be seen alone and all rooms in the home seen.

Placed with Parents while subject to an Interim Care Order and children placed with temporarily approved connected persons.

The child should be visited weekly until 1st review.

Subsequent visits should take place at intervals of not more than 4 weeks until the carer is approved or the final hearing has been completed.

Placed With Parents under s31 Children’s Act 1989.

The child should be visited within 1 week of the care order being made, weekly until the 1st review and then at intervals of no more than 6 weeks.

It is important that children and young people are seen alone whatever their age in order to ascertain their wishes and feelings with regards to the placement and allow them to express any worries they might have. It is also an opportunity for workers to reaffirm to the child and young people why they are being looked after and future plans. It is expected that on each statutory visit the social worker will see the child alone unless there is an exceptional reason not to do so.

If there is a sibling group, each child must been seen alone and their separate needs should be explored. If a child is not available when siblings are seen, this will necessitate a further visit to be made to see that child in their placement, in order for the criteria for a statutory visit to be met for that child.

Children and young people should be seen on their own, but each child is an individual and it may be stressful or distressing for a child to be seen without their main carer. For younger children, and those who are not of sufficient understanding to give their views directly, observations should be made of the child’s demeanour, confidence in their environment, their behaviour and interactions with the carer/s to determine the child’s perspective and the quality of care provided. For some disabled children there may be a need to consider the use of communications tools to enable the expression of their views. Use an interpreter if the child’s first language is not English and they are not proficient in spoken English.

The statutory visit provides an opportunity to observe the child or young person interact with others in the placement. It provides further opportunities to assess and verify the child or young person’s needs and to ensure that the placement is able to meet most of the identified needs and to draw up support plans with colleagues and carers to help meet the needs the placement cannot fully meet.

Some visits should be unannounced and some visits should include all members of the placement family as part of the visit in order to be able to observe interactions between all members of the family in prepared and unprepared conditions. The names of all those present should be recorded.

The carer should be spoken to separately to gain their views.

Recording statutory visits is mandatory. After each visit the record of the visit must be recorded on Mosaic within 72 hours (3 days) and must include whether the child was seen alone (or an explanation if not – this will also require the practice manager to record a Management Decision Record on Mosaic to explain the rationale for this decision), comments on the child's health and wellbeing, and any issues relating to safeguarding. The record should set out the main issues that were raised during the visit, any issues of concern, how these will be addressed, and an overall evaluation. In addition to this the wishes and feelings of the child during the visit should be recorded.

What should be covered when seeing the child:

  • What is it like for them living here?
  • What can you observe from the child’s behaviour and what might the meaning of this be?
  • What is the quality of interaction/attachment relationship you can observe?
  • Do carers speak about the child positively and with affection?
  • What is the evidence of physical standards of care, e.g. dress, whether shoes fit?

Issues to explore with the child:

Their views of the placement, for example:

  • What is it like living here?
  • Are you happy here?
  • How do you get on with the others you are living with?
  • Is there anything that is not OK here…or anywhere else?

Leisure opportunities and hobbies – things they may want to do.

Health – how they are feeling physically and emotionally.

School/college/training/work – is it OK? Do they need support?

Views on the plan for them, including contact arrangements if appropriate.

Ask the child if there is anything else they need you to know.

The outcomes of the visit should:

  • Ensure that arrangements for the child’s education, health and contact with family are proceeding smoothly;
  • Support the child in educational attainments and life chance and leisure experiences;
  • Support the child in understanding what is happening in their life and to make emotional adjustments;
  • Support the carers in looking after the child;
  • Give a degree of child protection by being someone the child can talk to outside of the placement;
  • Make ongoing assessments in order to contribute to review of the Care Plan.

End