Social Worker Visits to Looked After Children
SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
In order to ensure that Looked After Children are safeguarded and their welfare is promoted, the following Good Practice Standards should be applied wherever children are placed, including foster care, residential care, with Connected Persons or with their parents.
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 or Youth Detention Accommodation.
1. Prior to Placement
|1.1||When a placement has been identified, the child's social worker should provide the child/young person with age appropriate information regarding the proposed placement and who they will be living with. Wherever possible, the child's social worker should arrange for the child/young person to meet with the proposed carers and have the opportunity to speak with them privately. It may be helpful for the child to identify someone who they would wish to come with them on this visit, possibly a family member or a close friend.|
|1.2||The child's social worker should provide information to the fostering service/home's Manager and to the carer(s) to enable them to safely care for the child/young person. In the case of an emergency or unplanned placement, essential information and risk factors should be considered and discussed with the carer(s) and their fostering social worker or home's manager. A minimum expectation is that the child's social worker should complete the Referral Child's Profile and Referral Risk Assessment. Medical consent and consent to the child being Accommodated (if placed under Section 20 Children Act 1989) should also be provided.|
|1.3||A Placement Plan should be drawn up before a child/young person moves into their placement. In circumstances where this is not possible, the Placement Plan should be in place within 5 working days of the child/young person's move. To facilitate this, a planning meeting should be arranged by the child's social worker in order to clarify and agree the arrangements for the day-to-day care of the child/young person. This process should usually involve consultation with the child/young person (subject to age and understanding), their parents, anyone else with parental responsibility, the proposed/current carers and for children in foster care, the carers' fostering social worker.|
|1.4||This Placement Plan replaces the previous Foster Placement Agreement and Placement Plan and forms part of the overarching Care Plan for the child/young person.|
2. Duty to Visit a Looked After Child
|2.1||The child's social worker, as a representative of the local authority, has a duty to visit the child wherever they are living in order to supervise their placement and ensure that their needs are being met, they are being safeguarded and their welfare is being promoted.|
|2.2||In exceptional circumstances, arrangements can be made for someone other than the child's social worker to undertake these visits - this should be agreed by a Team Manager and recorded on Liquidlogic.|
3. Purpose of Visits
|3.1||To build a relationship with the child/young person that is reassuring and supportive and enables the child to share their experiences and views.|
|3.2||The child's social worker or their representative must see and speak to the child/young person in private unless they are unable to do so, consider it inappropriate or the child (being of sufficient age and understanding) refuses.|
|3.3||If more than one visit has been undertaken and the social worker has not been able to see the child alone this should be brought to the attention of the social worker's supervisor to consider whether any further action is required (this decision should be recorded on Liquidlogic).|
|3.4||To observe the child's living arrangements (including the child's/young person's bedroom) - this applies wherever the child is living and should be undertaken as a minimum every 3 months.|
|3.5||To monitor the progress of the Care Plan and Placement Plan and any recommendations from the most recent review.|
|3.6||To identify any difficulties being faced by the child or their carer and to provide advice, additional support and services as appropriate.|
|3.7||To ensure that the child understand the plans in place for them and the implications of any proposed changes. To ensure that the child is aware of their rights, including their right to make a complaint, to have an advocate and to access legal advice.|
|3.8||These visits should also be used to promote good communication with the carer(s) and build a positive, professional relationship.|
4. Frequency of Visits
|4.1||The child's social worker should consider who would be the most appropriate person to accompany the child to their new placement. In most circumstances, this should be the child's social worker, however, it may be appropriate for another person to be with the child at this time, for example the current carer, a close friend or a family member.|
|4.2||A visit should then be made to the child, in any placement, by the social worker within 1 week of the child being placed. This applies to every placement that child experiences and is not restricted to the first placement.|
|4.3||Subsequent visits to the child during the first year of placement must be at intervals of not more than 6 weeks.|
|4.4||Visits at intervals of not more than 6 weeks must continue until it has been agreed, at a Looked After Child Review, that this placement is permanent i.e. intended to last until the child is 18 years of age. Where it has been agreed that the placement is permanent, the frequency of visits during the second and subsequent years must be at intervals of not more than 3 months.|
|4.5||These requirements apply to children placed in residential care, as well as children in foster care.|
|4.6||Visiting the child/young person in placement should continue to be at a frequency that meets the needs of the child/young person and allows the child's social worker to fulfil their duties under Section 3, Purpose of Visits.|
|4.7||A visit must be arranged whenever reasonably requested by a child or carer.|
|4.8||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 6 months. The child, being of sufficient age and understanding, has agreed to be visited at this minimum frequency.|
|N.B. These are minimum requirements and the Looked After Review may recommend 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.|
5. Additional Visiting Requirements
Children who are placed with a Connected Person foster carer or with parents under an Interim Care Order (Section 38 Children Act 1989) - the child's social worker must visit the child at least weekly until the first Looked After Child Review and subsequently at intervals of not more than 4 weeks until:
|5.2||Children placed with parents pending assessment - social work visits must take place at least once a week until the first Looked After Child Review, thereafter at intervals of not more than 6 weeks.|
|5.3||Children who are placed with parents under an Interim Care Order - visits must take place at least once a week until the first Looked After Child Review, thereafter at intervals of not more than 4 weeks.|
|5.4||Children who are placed with parents, where a Care Order (Section 31 Children Act 1989) is in place - the child/young person must be visited within 1 week of the making of the Care Order then at intervals of no more than 6 weeks. If the assessment of parents (under Regulation 17) has not been completed, the child must be visited at least weekly until the first Looked After Child Review and subsequently at intervals of not more than 6 weeks.|
Children who are placed in accommodation that is not provided by the local authority (e.g. secure accommodation, YOI) - the child must be visited within 1 week of the start of this placement and within one week of any change to those living arrangements. Subsequent visits must take place every 6 weeks for the first year and at intervals of no more than 3 months in any subsequent year.
|See also: Leaving Care and Transition Procedure, Personal Advisers in relation to Personal Adviser visits to 'Relevant' or 'Former Relevant' young people.|
Children receiving short breaks - must be visited within the 3 months of the first placement date with subsequent visits or at intervals of not more that 6 months. The frequency of visiting should be agreed with the IRO and the child's parent(s) and be recorded in the Short Break Plan before the start of the placement.
(Reference: Short breaks, statutory guidance on how to safeguard and promote the welfare of disabled children using short breaks).
|5.7||The child's social worker must visit the placement if there is any proposal to remove the child from that placement where there are concerns about the welfare of the child/young person.|
6. Recording of Visits and Sharing of Information
All visits should be recorded on Liquidlogic.
Note: Looked After Child Visits and the visiting requirements detailed above refer specifically to visits to the child in placement (where the child is living) and it is not adequate to only see the child in other venues.
|6.2||Recordings should specify who was present at the time of the visit, whether the child was seen alone, observations of the living arrangements including the child's bedroom and the presentation of the child. They must include the child's views and an assessment of their welfare.|
|6.3||Recordings should evidence the main issues raised during the visit (see Section 3, Purpose of Visits) any issues of concern, how these will be addressed and an overall conclusion.|
|6.4||If the social worker or their representative has concerns about whether the placement is adequately promoting the child's welfare, the IRO should be informed. A Looked After Review must be convened if it is concluded that the placement is NOT promoting the child's welfare, and actions must be taken to address the problems within the placement or consider alternatives.|
|6.5||It is expected that information from the visit will be shared appropriately with the child's parents, the child's carers and others who may need to know. Subject to the child's age and understanding the social worker should discuss with whom the information should be shared and why.|