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W3C Compliance

7.3.1 Social Worker Visits to Looked After Children

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 Section 8, Care Planning for Young People on Remand of the Remands to Local Authority Accommodation or to Youth Detention Accommodation Procedure.


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


Procedure Regarding Reviews for Children Looked After (CLA) and Schedule of Social Work Visits


This chapter was reviewed and amended in May 2017 to reflect the current organisational structure and decision-making within the Department and to reflect the updated terminology of Merton’s electronic recording system.


  1. Normal Frequency
  2. Exceptions
  3. Who Should be Seen?
  4. Purpose
  5. Recording

1. Normal Frequency

Wherever a Looked After Child is placed within Merton, the allocated social worker must visit the child in the placement at the following intervals, subject to the exceptions in Section 2, Exceptions:

  • On the day a child is placed, to assist in the placement process; and if seen as appropriate that another identified professional whom the child knows should be approached to support them so this is as seamless as possible;
  • Within one week of the start of any placement;
  • Then at intervals of no less than every six weeks during the first year of the placement;
  • Thereafter, at intervals of no less than six weeks (or 3 months if the placement is intended to last until the child is 18);
  • 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. where 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 if there is a need and assessed on a case by case basis. The frequency of visits should always be determined by the circumstances of the case and visits should be considered whenever reasonably requested by the child or foster carer regardless of the status of the placement.

The allocated social worker should also visit the child immediately a complaint is received from the child. If a complaint has been made by another person relating to the child concerning the standard of care they are receiving. In the absence of the allocated social worker a Duty Social Worker should carry out this visit as a matter of priority to collate a clear picture of the child’s complaint.

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.

The visits to the child should be both announced and unannounced and the foster carer, parent or residential placement should be informed by the allocated social worker that there will be occasional unannounced visits and the reason for this should be clearly 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 allocated social worker should on occasion take the child out away from their placement (for example for a snack, a visit to a park or other) as this can strengthen the relationship between the child and their social worker and it is also in the interests of safeguarding in that the child may feel more at ease and able to discuss any issues that are of concern to him/her.

2. Exceptions

If the child is placed with parents pending any assessments, 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 less than every 4 weeks and will be reviewed on a case by case basis with respect to the needs of the child and the family.

In the exceptional case, where a child is placed with parents under a Final Care Order the visiting intervals will be decided on a case by case basis and risk assessed by the Team Manager/Head of Service, if this is agreed.

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, Hospital or Other Medical Provision), within a week of the start/any change of these 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.

3. Who Should be Seen?

Best endeavours by the social worker must be made to see the child in private and alone (unless the child refuses or the social worker considers it inappropriate or unsafe to do so; if so this must be clearly recorded on the social care information system and shared with the Team Manager). Further attempt’s to visit the child should be encouraged, so that there is a period of reflection and in order that the child can be seen alone and observed with their carer.

The social worker should be aware of who else resides in the placement and they should be aware of any significant changes within the household or residential unit, as this may impact on the child

For children who are not able to verbally communicate their views, the social worker should ensure that regular 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.

It is crucial for the assessment process that Children with a Disability or a Special Educational Need have been provided with opportunities for them to express themselves and the relevant tools are used, as need be.

On some occasions, the social worker should also arrange to visit at times when all residents of the placement are seen; as this will compliment the overall social work assessment.

Social workers must consider the balance of time spent with carers and with children during statutory visits. The social worker must prioritise their time with the child as opposed to /carers. Issues raised by carers can be discussed when a child is not present, for example when they are at school.

Social workers should provide both oral and written feedback to the key worker and other carers regarding their visit.

Written feedback is especially important in the event that there are actions that need to be followed up from a visit and enables transparency working together with other partners in Merton.

4. Purpose

The purpose of the visit is to ensure the placement continues to promote the child's welfare and in particular:

  • To give the child the opportunity to express his or her wishes, feelings and views;
  • To advise, assist and befriend the child and to ascertain who they would turn to in times of difficulty; 
  • To promote an effective relationship between the child and social worker with particular reference to the role of the social worker as a link with the child's history and birth family;
  • To identify daily routines including getting up and going to bed, meal times (including whether the children in the placement all eat together), the arrangements for washing and whether the child is provided with privacy and support that is relevant to his or her stage of development;
  • To identify arrangements for holiday and leisure time including playing games, access to clubs, cultural and sporting activities;
  • To identify what special arrangements are made to meet any needs that arise from their culture, religious or heritage including communication, diet and skin/hair care;
  • To observe the child with the staff/carer/parent and to analyse parenting styles and the promotion of the child's self esteem;
  • To monitor the standard of care offered by the placement including the physical standards, house rules and behaviour management strategies;
  • To identify whether there are toys or games to play with and the access that the child has to them;
  • To monitor how the contact arrangements with family members and friends are working and to discover whether these are promoted within the home;
  • To consider the child's sleeping arrangements such as room sharing, display of personal belongings and the physical state of the room. Has the child got clean clothes that are stored appropriately?
  • 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, with particular reference to whether the placement is meeting the educational, health and social development needs of the child. Where it is a long-term/permanent placement, the social worker should observe whether there are signs that the child is an integral part of the family such as whether they are included in photographs on display;
  • To carry out specific casework tasks with the child, for example carrying out a programme of life story work;
  • To identify whether older children are encouraged to play an increasing part in their own care such as laundry, food preparation and the purchase of food, clothes and budgeting;
  • To identify the arrangements for the child to get support with school work, do homework (including where appropriate, access to a computer) and visit a library. Do the carers attend parent's evenings?
  • To identify whether the child knows about the complaints procedure and the availability of advocacy services;
  • To monitor that the Child Health Record is stored safely, is up to date and is accessible to the child as appropriate to the child's age and understanding.

Social workers visiting children with disabilities and/or complex health needs should also consider the following:

  • Whether the work practices that are being employed are appropriate and do not compromise the child's safety e.g. the method of lifting a disabled child;
  • Does the carer have sufficient equipment to provide care i.e. bath chair /hoist etc?
  • Who arranges the child's health appointments and who attends? For children in residential placements in particular, is there consistency of worker?
  • Is there clear written information re the administration of medication and other treatment plan tailored for the child?

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 and update the assessment of the child from each visit with significant changes, as need be.

When visiting children in residential Placements the social worker should request and read the residential records to gain a better understanding of the day to day operations and any significant events. This will enable a review of any recurring themes evident in the recordings, for example, behavioural management and strategies for managing such situations. In the event that these are not available then these need to be provided by secure email/fax within 48 Hours of the visit being undertaken to minimise any significant information being lost.

5. Recording

The social worker should record each visit on the social care information system stating clearly:

  1. Who was seen and Where;
  2. Whether the child was seen and if not why not;
  3. Whether the child was seen alone;
  4. The Child’s Social Presentation;
  5. The Child's view;
  6. Any comments made /carers or parents and ensuring that these are recorded with their full knowledge and reviewing this so it is representative of their views;
  7. Any reported concerns or difficulties such as complaints and how this will be managed and by whom;
  8. Any observations on the child’s social presentation, well being and any positives from of the placement;
  9. Any barriers to working together with the placement, if relevant and how this will be managed hereon after;
  10. Any actions required and by whom and by when.