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3.12.1 Visits to Children

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

The guidance is concerning visits to children and young people and applies to visits to Looked After Children, as well as to visits to those children living at home. For friends and informal visitors of young people in a residential care setting please refer to the Friends and Visitors Procedure - Children's Homes Procedure.

RELEVANT GUIDANCE

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

AMENDMENT

This chapter was updated in October 2016 to reflect the revised visiting requirements in respect of children in designated Long Term Foster Placement as set out in The Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations - Volume 2: Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (June 2015). (See Section 4.4, Wherever a Looked After Child is placed, the child's social worker must visit the child in the placement at the following intervals, subject to the conditions below.)


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Who the Guidance Applies to
  3. Key Legislation and Guidance
  4. Frequency of Visits
  5. Conditions
  6. Guiding Principles of Visits to Children or Young People
  7. Conducting a Visit to a Child or Young Person
  8. Statutory Visits to Looked After Children
  9. Who Should be Seen
  10. Purpose
  11. Recording


1. Introduction

The guidance is concerning visits to children and young people and applies to visits to Looked After Children, as well as to visits to those children living at home. The professional must make every effort to understand the child, their needs, wishes and experiences. The visit should include seeing the child on their own as well as with their parent/carers and siblings. The child should have the opportunity to see the professional away from home. The professional should be clear about the purpose of the visit, and the preparation for the visit must include meeting the child's needs in terms of age, understanding, preferred communication, culture, ethnicity and wishes. An interpreter should be used when necessary.


2. Who the Guidance Applies to

  • Children with a Child in Need plan;
  • Children with a Child Protection plan;
  • Looked After Children with a Care Plan;
  • Children with an Adoption Plan;
  • Children/young people who have been referred or transferred to the service which results in actions and planned outcomes. These are known as 'cases'.

2.1 Who it does not apply to

  • Children who are privately fostered;
  • Children in receipt of direct payments only;
  • Children in receipt of short breaks.

The requirements for these visits are within the specific individual procedures.


3. Key Legislation and Guidance

  • Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations 1 - 4;
  • Adoption and Children Act 2002;
  • Fostering Regulations 2003;
  • Children Act 2004 Section 11;
  • The UN Convention on the Rights of the child;
  • National Minimum Standards - Regulation of Children's Homes (2002);
  • The Mental Capacity Act 2005;
  • Data Protection Act;
  • Working Together 2015;
  • Frazer competence;
  • Children and young people's participation strategy;
  • Health & Safety Policy.


4. Frequency of Visits

4.1 Visits following a referral to FAST

  • The date for the initial visit is to be agreed in allocation between the Practice Supervisor and Social Worker;
  • If appropriate, and contact details are available, a telephone call is to be made to the family to arrange a visit;
  • Postal letters to make an appointment should only be used if no other means of contact is possible and must be agreed with the practice Supervisor. The postal letters are to be sent first class;
  • If concerns in the referral or any concerns from past history suggest issues or Neglect or poor home conditions, the Social Worker should make an unannounced visit;
  • If no one is in when the Social Worker visits, they must leave a card advising of the visit and when they will either call back and/or their contact details (unless there are reasons not to e.g. Domestic Violence and Abuse);
  • Visit must be recorded within 2 working days.

4.2 Wherever a Child is subject to a Child in Need Plan the child's social worker must visit the child and see the child at the following intervals detailed below;

  • At intervals of once every six calendar weeks at a minimum;
  • Prior to each review of the plan;
  • The child/young person seen on their own (in accordance with their age and understanding) at least once between reviews. If the child/young person is not seen alone this must be recorded. Where the child/young person is not seen alone and the social worker has concerns this should be reported to the team manager;
  • If no one is in when the Social Worker/Practitioner visits, they must leave a card advising of the visit and when they will either call back and/or their contact details (unless there are reasons not to).

4.3 Wherever a Child is subject to a Child Protection Plan the child's social worker must visit and see the child adhering to the following standards and intervals as detailed below;

  • Children are to be visited by a qualified and registered Social Worker and seen within one week of a conference at home;
  • The initial visit must be recorded onto the case management system under the' CP Visit' heading in the case note drop down list within Mosaic, but only if the child is seen;
  • If no one is in when the Social Worker visits, they must leave a card advising of the visit and when they will either call back and/or their contact details (unless there are reasons not to e.g. Domestic Violence and Abuse);
  • After the initial visit the child must be visited by a qualified and registered Social Worker at intervals of once every three calendar weeks at home. The visit must be recorded onto the child's record under the 'CP Visit' heading drop down list within Mosaic, but only if the child has been seen;
  • If the qualified and registered Social Worker does not see the child, they or another qualified and registered Social Worker, must undertake the visit to ensure that this is carried out within the timescale;
  • This is a minimum requirement and if the individual Child's Protection Plan requires qualified social worker visits more frequently, they must be carried out as directed in the plan;
  • This could include visits to see the child at school or away from the home;
  • The child must be visited prior to the first review of the plan;
  • Visited prior to subsequent reviews of the plan;
  • Visited prior to core group meetings;
  • The child/young person must be seen alone at each visit (in accordance with their age and understanding) and must be seen at home at least every other visit or at internals specified by the child protection plan. If the child/young person is not seen alone this must be recorded and a subsequent visit undertaken within the timescale. Where the child/young person is not seen alone and the social worker has concerns this should be reported to the team manager.

See also LSCB Policies and Procedures.

4.4 Wherever a Looked After Child is placed, the child's social worker must visit the child in the placement at the following intervals, subject to the conditions below:

  • Within one week of the start of any placement;
  • Prior to each review of the Care Plan;
  • Visits at intervals of no more than six calendar weeks during the first year of any placement;
  • Thereafter, at intervals of not more than 6 weeks, (or three calendar months if the placement is intended to last until the child is 18). Frequency of visits should be increased to reflect the child/young person's needs;
  • 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. The child, being of sufficient age and understanding, must agree to be visited at this minimum frequency;
  • If it is agreed that the minimum visiting intervals may become of not more than six months then careful planning and liaison needs to take place with other professionals who are required to visit the child or their placement. This is to ensure that visiting schedules are appropriately timetabled to meet the needs of the child and their placement. Those other professionals include, but are not limited to, Supervising Social Workers and Independent Reviewing Officers;
  • Within 24 hours if there is a placement change;
  • Once weekly if it is an emergency placement until the Care Plan and Placement are both complete;
  • The child/young person must be seen alone at each visit (in accordance with their age and understanding). If the child/young person is not seen alone this must be recorded. Where the child/young person is not seen alone and the social worker has concerns this should be reported to the team manager;
  • If no one is in when the Social Worker visits, they must leave a card advising of the visit and when they will either call back and/or their contact details (unless there are reasons not to).

4.5 Non Specialist Services only

Wherever a child/young person has been referred or transferred to the service which results in an action and outcome the professional allocated to undertake the work must visit the child/young person and see the child/young person at intervals;

  • The frequency of which will be set at allocation;
  • The frequency will be reviewed and where appropriate changed at case supervision or review of the child's plan;
  • The child/young person should be seen on their own (in accordance with their age and understanding) at least once between reviews. If the child/young person is not seen alone this must be recorded and include the reason for not being seen. Where the child/young person is not seen alone and the professional has concerns this should be reported to the Team Manager;
  • If no one is in when the professional visits, they must leave a card advising of visit and when they will either call back and/or their contact details (unless there are reasons not to).


5. Conditions

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.


6. Guiding Principles of Visits to Children or Young People

The guiding principles that inform visits to children and young people include;

  • Establish a dialogue with the child/young person, based upon trust and mutual respect to ensure that the child/young person is meaningfully involved and have the opportunity to fully participate in discussion and decisions concerning them;
  • The visit is child/young person focused rather than meeting the needs of the parent/carer;
  • The visit is not just a routine matter, but an opportunity to properly hear the child/young person's views, wishes, observations and beliefs;
  • The visit is a separate activity to routine information gathering;
  • The way the visit is conducted takes in to account the child/young person's developmental level, age and understanding, their language, communication style and any additional needs that they have;
  • The professional should make every effort to gain knowledge and understanding about the child/young person and what their level of understanding is;
  • The child/young person should have the opportunity to gain knowledge about the professional and know what happens to the information that they give;
  • Professionals should take in to account that child/young people have choices about what they say and who they say it to;
  • Professionals should share information in ways that facilitate the child/young person to make an informed choice and response, and to choose who is the best person for them to hear their views;
  • Children/young people should be informed in good time and in a planned way when their case is going to be closed, and given information about who to contact if their situation regresses.


7. Conducting a Visit to a Child or Young Person

  • Visits to the child or young person should be planned and structured taking into account the wider involvement and knowledge about the family, the child/young person's age, understanding, ability and communication style, where the visit will take place and its purpose, the child/young person's understanding of the purpose of the visit, the anticipated outcome;
  • Knowledge of the child/young person and their circumstances should inform the planning, for instance if it is known a child/young person uses drugs/alcohol - contingency plans need to be in place;
  • The observations of the child/young person's physical and emotional presentation as well as what they say are of equal importance;
  • The preparation and planning of a meeting applies equally to announced and unannounced visits;
  • Transporting a child/young person should not be classed as a visit unless it is planned that way;
  • The visits can be a combination of visits to the home of the child/young person and meeting at alternative venues. This includes setting of the visits to the child to complete any specific work for example in the school, youth centre, health centre or children's centre;
  • A distinction must be drawn between an unplanned and coincidental contact and a planned visit;
  • A casual meeting or encounter is not a 'visit';
  • A distinction must be drawn between an interactive meeting which engages with the child/young person, and a child observation;
  • The child/young person should be seen on their own in accordance with their age and understanding. If a child/young person refuses to be seen alone this must be recorded and another opportunity offered;
  • If a child/young person requires assistance to communicate, part of the planning must involve identifying who is the most appropriate person;
  • Where visits take place in the child/young person's private space such as a bedroom the worker should pay attention to issues of safety. To enable a child/young person to speak about matters that may concern them at home, some visits should be conducted at neutral venues;
  • Each visit must have due regard to the child/young person's ethnicity, sexuality, culture, language and ability;
  • Ensure the visit reflects and takes into account the changing needs of the child/young person, and changes in their level of understanding in terms of age and experience;
  • Consideration should be given to who is involved in the meeting, for instance a CAHMS worker, youth worker, etc.


8. Statutory Visits to Looked After Children

In addition, the following requirements will be addressed and recorded for statutory visits to Looked After Children;

  • The child/young person will be seen alone and occasionally outside the home (in accordance with their age and understanding). If the child refuses to be seen alone this must be recorded;
  • The child/young person and carers' views must be recorded in response to all questions that are recorded in the child/young person's record;
  • The child/young person's bedroom will be seen;
  • The conditions of the living accommodation;
  • The child/young person's education and employment progress;
  • Discussion with the child/young person and carer(s) about the child/young person's health and well-being and any safeguarding issues;
  • Confirmation that the risk assessment is completed and relevant;
  • Discussion of the social and leisure activities;
  • Discussion of child/young person's identity in the community;
  • How are the racial, cultural, religious, communication and special needs being met;
  • Contact arrangements;
  • Child/young person's relationship with own family;
  • Sometimes all household members will be present;
  • Details of any residents who have recently left the placement;
  • Discussion with the carers' around the support they are receiving and if any other needs are identified;
  • Advice and assistance to the carer(s);
  • Ensure that the child/young person knows how to make a complaint;
  • Confirm the child/young person knows how to request an independent visitor/access NYAS;
  • Discussion with the child/young person and carer(s) around the preparation for independence;
  • Is this the preferred placement that matches the child/young person's needs? If not, what is being done to address this?
  • If the Lead Social Worker is not undertaking the visit, the practitioner who has visited and recording the visit must ensure that the Lead Social Worker is able to read it within two working days. If this is not possible the recording practitioner must inform the Team Manager, who will read the record.


9. Who Should be Seen

Wherever possible, the child/young person must be seen in private and be seen alone (unless the child/young person is not of sufficient age and maturity or refuses or the social worker considers it inappropriate to do so). If this is not possible, a further visit must be made within the set timescales in order that the child/young person can be seen / seen alone and observed with the parent/staff/carer, and with siblings. If the child/young person is not seen on two sequential visits the professional must make their manager aware and a discussion and an analysis shall take place of the circumstances, to agree appropriate action.

On some occasions, the professional 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.


10. Purpose

The purpose of the visit is to ensure the child/young person's welfare is promoted and in particular;

  1. To give the child/young person a good opportunity to express his or her wishes, feelings and views and to actively participate in the meeting;
  2. To advise, assist and befriend the child/young person s appropriate;
  3. To get to know the child/young person and to understand their experiences;
  4. To support and safeguard the child/young person;
  5. To observe the child/young person with the carer/parent(s);
  6. To monitor the standard of care offered by the placement/carer(s);
  7. To monitor how the contact arrangements are working;
  8. To provide support to the placement;
  9. To identify any areas where additional support is required;
  10. To evaluate whether the placement is helping to achieve the objectives of the child's Care Plan/Adoption Plan or Plan;
  11. Review of the Child's Plan for a Looked After Child/Adoption Plan can be undertaken during social workers visits;
  12. Identify what their future needs might be, and plan what work needs to be undertaken to meet their needs.


11. Recording

Visits should be recorded onto the child/young person's record/file within two working days of the date of the visit.

For Looked After Children the visit should be titled LAC visit or LAC statutory visit. The child and foster carers records should be kept separately.

The record of all visits should include:

  1. Purpose of the visit;
  2. Whether the child/young person was seen and if not why not;
  3. The child/young person's views, wishes and feelings;
  4. The parent/carers views;
  5. Whether the child/young person was seen alone if not the reason for this;
  6. Any matters of concern or difficulties;
  7. Decisions/action points/roles/responsibilities/timescales;
  8. Observations of the child's welfare and the success of the placement;
  9. If a visit did not take place the reasons why must be recorded;
  10. If a young person has not been seen what safeguards are in place to ensure they are still engaged and what information has been gained from other agencies.

End