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5.2.1 Social Worker Visits to Looked After Children


This chapter was updated in September 2015 to reflect the revised visiting requirements in respect of long term foster placements as set out inThe Children Act 1989 guidance and regulations - Volume 2: care planning, placement and case review, June 2015. (See Section 4, Placements in Foster or Residential Care).


  1. Introduction
  2. Purpose
  3. Seeing the Child
  4. Placements in Foster or Residential Care
  5. Placements With a Temporarily Approved Foster Carer or a Child Living with Parents Under an Interim Care Order
  6. A Child Placed Back with Parents
  7. Short Term Placements
  8. A Child in Care Where Accommodation is Not Provided by Wirral Council
  9. Children Placed for Adoption
  10. Additional Visiting Requirements
  11. Reports of the Visits
  12. Consequence of the Visits
  13. Advice and Support and Assistance for the Child

    Appendix 1: Guiding Principles of Statutory Visits

1. Introduction

The Social Worker is a significant person for a child in care as they are the link between their home and their placement and between their past, present and future. The Social Worker will also help maintain and monitor contact between a child/young person and their family as agreed in their Care Plan.

Social Workers have a duty to make regular statutory visits which will form the minimum level of support to the child/young person, but Social Workers are expected to visit and support children and young people more regularly, depending on their needs.

The Social Worker must undertake a risk assessment and other safeguarding arrangements at the appropriate level for each visit.

2. Purpose

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

  • 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;
  • To advise, assist and befriend the child/young person as appropriate;
  • To get to know the child/young person and to understand their experiences;
  • To support and safeguard the child/young person;
  • To observe the child/young person with the carer/parent(s);
  • To monitor the standard of care offered by the placement /carer(s);
  • To monitor how the contact arrangements are working;
  • To provide support to the placement;
  • To identify any areas where additional support is required;
  • To evaluate whether the placement is helping to achieve the objectives of the child's Care Plan/Adoption Plan;
  • Review of the Child's Plan for a Child in Care/Adoption Plan can be undertaken during Social Workers visits;
  • Identify what their future needs might be, and plan what work needs to be undertaken to meet their needs.

3. Seeing the Child

Statutory visits give the Social Worker an opportunity to observe the standard of care within the placement and provide a measure of child protection. The Social Worker should carry out some visits unannounced, check the child’s bedroom and where possible visit when all the members of the household are at home.

On each visit the Social Worker must speak to the child alone unless:

  • The child refuses (subject to age and understanding);
  • The Social Worker considers it to be inappropriate to do so;
  • The Social Worker is unable to do so.

If it is not possible to speak to the child alone a further visit must be made within a short timeframe 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 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 Practice Manager.

If the child/young person is not seen on two sequential visits the Social Worker must make their Practice Manager aware and a discussion and an analysis should take place of the circumstances, to agree appropriate action.

If a child has communication difficulties or requires specialist communication support the Social Worker will need to use specialist resources to ensure the child has the opportunity to express his/ her wishes and feelings. The Care Plan and the Placement Plan for the child should identify where this is a consideration from the outset.

The Social Worker must visit the placement if there is a proposal to remove the child from the placement where there are concerns about welfare.

4. Placements in Foster or Residential Care

The 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 placement;
  • Prior to each review of the Care Plan;
  • Within 24 hours if there is a placement change;
  • Once weekly if it is an emergency placement until the Care Plan and Placement Plan (recorded on the Placement Information Record) are both complete;
  • Where the placement is for a series of short-term placements, the child's Social Worker must visit the child within the first 7 placement days (being days when the child is placed) and thereafter every six months;
  • At intervals of not more than six weeks calendar weeks for the first year of any placement and each placement change;
  • In subsequent years or where the placement is intended to last until the child is 18, the child should be visited at least every three calendar months after the first year. Frequency of visits should be increased to reflect the child/young person's needs;
    • Where a child is in a long-term foster placement (i.e. intended to last until their 18th Birthday) visits after the first year may take place at intervals of not more than six months. where the child, being of sufficient age and understanding, has agreed to be visited at this minimum frequency.

      NB: 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 any other case, at intervals of not more than six weeks;
  • Visits should be made more frequently if circumstances require and whenever reasonably requested by the child or the staff/carer for example when there is a significant event or ongoing difficulties e.g. relationship difficulties;
  • Visits should be recorded onto the child's record within two working days of the date of the visit.

5. Placements With a Temporarily Approved Foster Carer or a Child Living with Parents Under an Interim Care Order

Where temporary approval of a friend, relative or other person connected with the child has been given or where an Interim Care Order has been made in relation to the child under Section 38 and the child is living with a parent, the Social Worker must visit the child:

  • At least once a week until the first Looked After Review;
  • Thereafter at intervals of not more than four weeks until the carer has been approved or the final hearing has been completed in care proceedings. Following approval by panel the visiting requirements are as for all other approved Foster Carers.

6. A Child Placed Back with Parents

Where a Care Order has been made in relation to the child under section 31 (Care and Supervision Orders) and the child is living with the parent the Social Worker must visit the child:

  • Within one week of the start of the making of a Care Order;
  • Thereafter intervals of not more than six weeks.

A child placed back home with parents before the assessment is completed must be visited at least weekly until the time of the first review and subsequently at intervals of not more than six weeks or until the completion of the assessment.

7. Short Term Placements

The frequency of Social Worker visits depends on the legal status of the child’s short break placement.

If the short break placement is under Section 17 Children Act 1989, there is no statutory requirement for visits.

If the short breaks are of not more than 17 days each in the same setting (where the total number of placement days does not exceed 75 in any 12-month period), under Regulation 48 of the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010, visits should take place at regular intervals to be agreed with the Independent Reviewing Officer and parents/person(s) with Parental Responsibility and recorded in the Short Break Care Plan before the start of the first placement.

In any event:

  • The first visit must take place within 3 months of the first placement day or as soon as practicable thereafter;
  • Subsequent visits must take place at intervals of no more than 6 months for as long as the short breaks continue.

If the short breaks exceed a total of 17 days per placement/75 days per 12-month period and/or take place in more than one setting visits must take place:

  • Within one week of the start of the placement;
  • Thereafter, at intervals of no more than six weeks for the first year.

8. A Child in Care Where Accommodation is Not Provided by Wirral Council

Where the child is in care but is in living arrangements made by another person such as a sentenced child in secure accommodation or a young offender institution he/ she must be visited by the Social Worker:

  • Within one week of the start of the child’s living arrangements;
  • At intervals of no more than six weeks for the first year thereafter;
  • At intervals of not more than three months in any following year.

9. Children Placed for Adoption

Research evidence indicates that Adoption placements are most at risk of disruption during the first few weeks. This is a critical time during which the placement must be supervised intensively and the child must be seen alone on each visit. The Social Worker should ensure:

  • Child and Prospective Adopter are visited within one week of the placement and at least once a week for the following six weeks. The frequency of following visits is then to be decided at the first and each subsequent placement review and through supervision and noted on the Adoption Placement Plan;
  • Written reports are made of these visits;
  • Advice and assistance are provided to the Prospective Adopter;
  • Child and Prospective Adopters are kept informed about birth family;
  • Ongoing support is given to the child regarding their past experiences.

The child’s Social Worker and the adopter’s Social Worker have different roles and duties, therefore their visits will not usually be shared. The child’s Social Worker continues to be the link between birth family and Adoptive Family once a child is placed for Adoption. The adopter’s Social Worker is not required to see the child when they visit and would not be expected to see them on their own. It is essential that both Social Workers write reports of their visits and share these with the other Social Worker.

As part of the visit, the child’s Social Worker should see the child without the Prospective Adopters being present, unless the child is of sufficient age and understanding and refuses to see the Social Worker.

10. Additional Visiting Requirements

The Social Worker must visit the child outside the statutory minimum intervals wherever reasonably requested to by:

  • Child;
  • Parent;
  • Person responsible for the child’s living arrangements.

A visit must also be made within one week of first receiving notification under section 30A of the Care Standards Act 2000, where the children’s home in which the child is placed for the time being is referred to in that notification.

11. Reports of the Visits

The content and outcome of each statutory visit should be carefully recorded within the individual case record in a way which enables a continuing assessment of the progress of the child in the placement to be made, even when there is a change of Social Worker. The record should set out the main issues that were raised during the visit, any issues of concern, how these will be addressed and an overall conclusion.

The Social Worker should appropriately share the information from the visit with parent’s carers and others who may need to know. It is expected that the Social Worker will discuss with the child what information should be shared by whom and why.

12. Consequence of the Visits

If a Social Worker has concerns about whether the placement is not adequately promoting the child’s welfare they should inform the child’s Independent Reviewing Officer and the child’s case must be reviewed. Careful consideration should be given to the child’s Care Plan and Placement Plan and actions identified to ensure the placement is able to meet the needs of the child and if not to consider alternatives.

13. Advice and Support and Assistance for the Child

The Social Worker must ensure that advice, support and assistance are made available to the child between visits and that:

  • The arrangements are appropriate to the child’s age and understanding;
  • Due consideration has been given to the child’s religious persuasion, racial origin, linguistic background and to any disability the child may have;
  • The child knows how to seek appropriate advice, support and assistance from them (subject to age and understanding).

For further guidance see Appendix 1: Guiding Principles of Statutory Visits.

Appendix 1: Guiding Principles of Statutory Visits

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 has 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 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;

Conducting a visit to a child/ 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 and 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;
  • 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;
  • In addition the following requirements will be addressed and recorded for statutory visits to Children in Care;
  • 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;
  • 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 Practice Manager, who will read the record.