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3.7.5 Spending One-to-One Time Alone with Children  (Residential)


This guidance examines the interaction between residential social workers and the young people for whom they care. Spending one to one time alone with children and young people is a sensitive issue and the aim of this guidance is to help residential workers in their task.


  1. Background
  2. Preparation for the Meeting
  3. Key Principles for Spending One to One Time Alone with Children
  4. Positive Reasons for Spending One to One Time with a Young Person

1. Background

Lincolnshire County Council is committed to the provision of safe and welcoming Homes for its children in residential care. The task of caring for children who are not able to live with their families is a challenging one, with the need for constant adaptation and flexibility. It is recognised that Lincolnshire is fortunate in the skill and commitment demonstrated by its residential staff, upon whom so many young people depend.

This guidance is not intended to be a substitute for contact between the child/young person and their family or relatives where this is possible and part of their care plan. Whilst there are many appropriate reasons for an adult to spend one to one time with a young person, these must be clear and not open to misinterpretation.

In preparing the guidance, recognition has been taken of the following:

  • The need for flexibility;
  • The ever changing nature of the task;
  • The inherent difficulties in the job;
  • The high standards consistently displayed by those within the job;
  • The very difficult balance necessary in being the front face of a corporate parent, dealing with the varied and sometimes challenging needs of the young people looked after;

The guidance is not intended to be entirely prescriptive. The support needs for the child and young person will vary according to their circumstances, care needs, history and vulnerability. There will inevitably be some processes that are dependant on professional judgement at the time the decision must be made.

Where staff considers they should make a liberal interpretation of procedural/guidance issues, the ultimate judgement as to appropriate action will be the responsibility of the residential homes manager or service manager.

The details for the action, and reasons for it, should be appropriately recorded and made available for inspection purposes.

2. Preparation for the Meeting

Before an admission to the residential home, residential social workers should ascertain, through discussion with the child, other professionals and previous carers, the significance of the child being alone with adults. This applies especially in circumstances where there have been allegations of abuse. If the young person has a history of making allegations this should also be taken into account before or on admission.

If it is found that the young person is not comfortable being alone with adults, this should be taken into account throughout their stay at the home. Cultural, religious and racial factors may also be crucial in determining acceptable one to one time.

A pre-admission risk assessment should look at all of the respective factors before producing a strategy for staff to provide appropriate one to one time for each individual resident.

3. Key Principles for Spending One to One Time Alone with Children

The following principles should underpin meetings with children and young people:

  • The age, gender and individual case history should be taken into account before spending one to one time with a child  or young person. Record the outcome of all risk  assessments;
  • Choose an appropriate setting for the one to one activity, not usually a bedroom. If a bedroom is used the door must;
  • One to one time should not be in response to or intended to arouse sexual feelings or expectations;
  • If a worker is going to spend one to one time with a young person they should make this clear to colleagues, the reasons for the action, where the contact will take place and the expected time to be spent with the young person;
  • At different times it will be appropriate to spend one to one time with a child or young person both outside and inside the home;
  • Staff taking young people to their home is generally not  allowed, but in special circumstances could be authorised by a Homes Manager or Service Manager if in line with the Care Plan (e.g. to facilitate an activity such as horse riding);
  • Staff should generally not provide young people with their mobile phone numbers;
  • Where a residential worker feels it would be inappropriate  to spend one to one time with resident, this should be sensitively explained to the young person and recorded;
  • Staff should take care to avoid showing favouritism towards individual young people in planning one: one activities;
  • Whilst discussing life experiences can be useful, staff should not share intimate personal information about their private lives with young people;
  • All staff should be familiar with individual case histories and care plans.

4. Positive Reasons for Spending One to One Time with a Young Person

Spending quality one to one time with a young person engenders trust and helps them to (re) build positive relationships with adults.

A one to one setting is appropriate for keywork/direct work, such as life stories, assessment and action records or help with homework etc.

Time in the community; for shopping trips, local cafes or a walk in the woods will also be considered positive for young people at different times, and an excellent opportunity for the member of staff to be in a role model for behaviour outside the home.

One to one time alone with children and young people is often closely associated with physical contact with young people. The relevant guidance should be read in regard to this.