3.12.1 Social Worker Visits to Looked After Children

AMENDMENT

This chapter was updated in February 2016 to reflect the revised visiting requirements in respect of long term foster placements as set out in The Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations - Volume 2: Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (2015).


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Frequency
  3. Exceptions
  4. Who Should be Seen
  5. What Should be Covered When Seeing the Child
  6. Purpose
  7. Outcomes
  8. Recording


1. Introduction

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;
  • The Care Planning and Fostering (Miscellaneous Amendments) (England) Regulations 2015.

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.

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.


2. Frequency

Normally, social workers must visit Looked After Children at the following intervals:

  • Within one week of the start of any placement;
  • Then at intervals of no more than six weeks during the first year of any placement;
  • Thereafter, at intervals of not more than 6 weeks (or 3 months if the placement is intended to last until the child is 18);
  • Only where a child is in a designated long-term foster 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.

This applies to all new placements where, for example, a child moves from one placement to another.

Frequency of visiting must be consistent with 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.

Visits to a child in any placement should be made more frequently if circumstances require and whenever reasonably requested by the child or the staff/carer regardless of the status of the placement.

Some visits should be unannounced.


3. 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 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.


4. Who Should be Seen

Wherever possible, the child must be seen in private and alone (unless the child is of sufficient age and maturity and refuses, or the social worker, in conjunction with their Manager considers it inappropriate to do so). 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/carer.

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.

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.


5. 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? Need for 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.


6. Purpose

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.

In particular:

  1. To give the child the opportunity to express his or her wishes, feelings and views;
  2. To advise, assist and befriend the child;
  3. To observe the child with the staff/foster carer/parent;
  4. To monitor the standard of care offered by the placement;
  5. To monitor how the contact arrangements are working;
  6. To provide support to the placement;
  7. To identify any areas where additional support is required;
  8. To evaluate whether the placement is helping to achieve the objectives of the child’s Care Plan.

Placement Planning Meetings can be undertaken during social workers visits.


7. Outcomes

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.


Recording

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 team 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.

A written report on each visit must be made by the social worker within Case notes on Mosaic. The social worker must state clearly:

  1. Who was seen;
  2. Whether the child was seen and if not why not;
  3. Whether the child was seen alone;
  4. Any comments made by the child or the staff/carers/parents;
  5. Any matters of concern or difficulties.

End