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.
This chapter was updated in June 2018 to set out more clearly the circumstances where visiting requirements differ [the Exceptions] from those as set out in Section 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 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.
In addition, the child's social worker should visit:
This applies to all new placements where, for example, a child moves from one placement 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. looked after 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 should on occasion 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 is also in the interests of child protection in that the child may feel more able to discuss issues that are of concern to him/her.
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 agreed 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 Looked After Review, thereafter at intervals agreed in the review but, as a minimum, four weekly until the final hearing has been completed in the care proceedings.
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 agreed in the review but, as a minimum, four weekly until the carer is approved as a foster carer.
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), 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.
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:
then a visit must also be made within one 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).
It is important to be clear that the exceptions set out in section 2 above 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 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 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 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 placement and also in other settings, for example, school. Information and opinion should also be gathered from other professionals about their presentation.
If the child has particular communication difficulties, or if he/she requires 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 his/her 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.
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. 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.
The purpose of the visit is to ensure the placement continues to promote the child's welfare and in particular:
Social workers visiting children with disabilities and/or complex health needs should also consider the following:
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 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:
Where a social worker has concerns about whether a placement 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 plan and identifying actions which must be taken to ensure that the placement is able to meet his/her needs appropriately and, if not, to consider alternatives.