View Cambridgeshire LSCB Manual View Cambridgeshire LSCB Manual
View Working Together to Safeguard Children View Working Together to Safeguard Children

4.4.1 Social Worker Visits to Looked After Children

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.

RELATED GUIDANCE

The Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations - Volume 2: Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (2015)

AMENDMENT

This procedure was updated in April 2019 to reflect local practice and requirements.


Contents

1. Normal Frequency
2. Exceptions
  2.1 Children Placed with Parents
  2.2 Children Placed with Connected Persons
  2.3 Children Placed in a Young Offenders' Institution or Health Care Setting (etc.)
  2.4 Notice of Concern by the Registration Authority
3. Who Should be Seen
4. Purpose
5. Recording
6. Consequences of Visits


1. Normal Frequency

It is good practice that when a Looked After Child is placed they should be accompanied by the social worker to the placement. 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:

N.B. These are minimum requirements and the Looked After Review may require more frequent visits. The frequency of visits should always be determined by the circumstances of the case and visits should be made whenever reasonably requested by the child or foster carer regardless of the status of the placement.

  • Within one week of the start of any placement;
  • Then, at intervals of not more than six weeks during the first year of the placement;
  • Thereafter, at intervals of not more than six weeks;
  • Where a child is in a placement intended to last until they reach 18, visits after the first year may take place at intervals of not more than 12 weeks but only where this has been explicitly agreed at a LAC Review. The decision must take account of the stability of the placement and the views of the child (as appropriate to their age and understanding).

The frequency of social worker visits must be discussed / agreed at each LAC review.

The child should normally be seen at their home, though this may include taking them out. Occasionally it may be more appropriate to see them away from the placement, for example at school. The social worker should agree this in advance with their line manager and ensure that the next visit is undertaken at their home.

In addition, the 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 placement where concerns have been raised about his/her welfare.

For children who are placed for adoption, see Monitoring and Supervision of Adoption Placements Procedure.

Some visits should be unannounced. The foster carers, parent or residential Team 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, for example, Looked After Reviews, do not in themselves constitute a visit, unless substantial time is taken outside of the meeting to talk with and spend time with the child.

The child's social worker should on occasions take the child out from the placement (for example, for a snack or a visit to a park) as this can strengthen the relationship between the child and the social worker and helps safeguard the child who may feel more able to discuss issues of concern when away from the placement.


2. Exceptions

The following are, again, minimum visiting requirements:

2.1 Children Placed with Parents

If the child who is the subject of a Care Order is placed with parents pending assessment, social work visits must take place at least once a week until the first Looked After Review and thereafter at intervals agreed in the review that must not exceed 6 weeks.

If the child is living with the parents and is the subject of an Interim Care Order, visits must take place at least once a week until the first Looked After Review and thereafter at intervals agreed in the review but, as a minimum, four weekly until the final hearing.

If the child is placed with parents and is the subject of a Care Order, visits must take place within one 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 Looked After Review and thereafter at intervals agreed in the review but, as a minimum, four weekly until the carer has been to Fostering Panel and has been approved by the Agency Decision Maker.

2.3 Children Placed in a Young Offenders' Institution or Health Care Setting (etc.)

If the child is looked after by Cambridgeshire, but another agency is responsible for the child's living arrangements (for example where a child is placed in a Young Offender Institution or a health care setting), within one week of the start/any change of living arrangements, 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 (subject to agreement at a Looked After Review).

2.4 Notice of Concern by Ofsted

Where Ofsted notifies the local authority in respect of a children's home, a fostering agency, a voluntary adoption agency, or adoption support agency where CCC has someone placed, that the Registered Manager:

  • Has had their Registration withdrawn, suspended or notice of this extended;
  • Has proceedings brought against them by Ofsted for an offence which it alleges has been committed in respect of the establishment or agency;
  • Has had notice served upon them by Ofsted 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.

A visit must also be made within one week of receiving such information, or similar 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 placement. Whatever the placement arrangements and irrespective of where the child is placed, 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 their 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 also observed with the staff/carer.

The social worker should be aware of who else lives in the placement and they should know about changes in structure and composition as well as the relationships within the household or Team.

If the child has particular communication difficulties, or if he/she requires specialist communication support (e.g. a specialist advocacy service), the social worker should observe the child in their placement and also in other settings, for example, school. Information and opinion should also be gathered from other professionals about their presentation. They must 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 Plan.

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 to assess the child's relationships and interaction with those they live with.

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 adult. Issues raised by staff/carers can be discussed when a child is not present, for example when they are at school.

Social workers should provide feedback to staff/carers regarding their visit highlighting any concerns but also making them aware if the child has been distressed or unsettled by the visit.


4. Purpose

The Care Planning Regulations explain that the purpose of the visit is to ensure the placement continues to promote the child's welfare and in particular, to:

  • Give the child the opportunity to express his or her wishes, feelings and views;
  • Advise, assist and befriend the child and ascertain who they would turn to in times of difficulty;
  • Promote an effective relationship between the child and social worker with particular reference to their role as a link with the child's history and birth family;
  • Identify daily routines including getting up and going to bed, meal times (including whether the children/adults all eat together), the arrangements for washing and whether the child is afforded privacy and support appropriate to their stage of development;
  • Identify arrangements for holiday and leisure time including playing games, access to clubs, cultural and sporting activities;
  • 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;
  • Observe the child with the staff/carer/parent and to analyse parenting styles and the promotion of the child's self-esteem;
  • Monitor the standard of care offered by the placement including physical standards, house rules and behaviour management strategies;
  • Identify whether there are age-appropriate toys/games to play with and the access that the child has to them;
  • Monitor how contact arrangements with family members and friends are working and ensure these are promoted within the home;
  • Ensure sleeping arrangements are suitable, such as room sharing, display of personal belongings and the physical state of the room. Whether the child has clean clothes, etc;
  • Identify any areas where additional support is required;
  • Evaluate whether the placement is helping to achieve the objectives of the Care Plan, particularly educational, health and social development needs. The social worker should look for signs that the child is an integral part of the family (e.g. their inclusion in photographs on display);
  • Carry out specific casework tasks with the child, for example life story work;
  • Identify whether older children are encouraged to take increasing responsibility for their own care (e.g. laundry, food preparation and the purchase of food, clothes and budgeting);
  • Identify arrangements for the child to get support with school work, homework (including where appropriate, access to a computer) and visit a library. Whether carers attend parent's evenings and are engaged with the school;
  • Confirm that the child knows about the complaints procedure and the availability of advocacy services;
  • Ensure that the child's emotional and physical health needs are met, including dental and optician checks.

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;
  • Whether the carer has sufficient equipment (e.g. bath chair / hoist, etc);
  • Who arranges the child's health appointments and who will attend. For children in residential placements in particular, whether there is consistency of worker;
  • That there is clear written information regarding 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 placement.

When visiting children in residential settings the social worker should read the case recording to gain an understanding of recent events and also to identify any themes highlighted in the recording, for example challenging behaviour and staff strategies for managing situations.


5. Recording

To ensure that time is well spent and direct work is most effective, it is important to have a plan for what is to be accomplished by each visit. It is also essential that visits are recorded clearly and concisely. There is a template for recording visits on ICS that will also help with their planning. It is not a new exemplar, but a format for recording within the existing exemplar box on ICS to which guidance notes/prompts have been added.

The template comprises five key elements for all visits:

  • Purpose of visit
    • Progressing the requirements of the Care/ Pathway Plan (inc. permanence);
    • That accommodation seen (any issues/concern); Placement suitability;
    • Relationships with carers; Family contact; Social relationships;
    • Education, Health (inc emotional wellbeing), wider welfare; Additional needs, EHC Plan, Care Package, etc;
    • Life Story Work/ progressing child's understanding of reasons for LAC.
  • Observations/significant recent events / discussion (inc carer/keyworker update);
  • Analysis/Reflections (risks, protective factors, complicating factors);
  • Child's voice/views;
  • Future actions (by family/carer/social worker) to progress plan.

All visits must be recorded within five days of the visit taking place.


6. Consequences of Visits

Where a social worker has concerns about whether a placement is adequately promoting a child's welfare, the IRO should be informed and the child's case must be reviewed in accordance with Part 6 of the 2010 Regulations [Reg 30]. This includes reviewing the child's Care and Placement Plan 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.

End