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


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


Section 2, Exceptions was revised in June 2019 to include a link to the Leaving Care and Transition Procedure in relation to Personal Adviser visits to 'Relevant' or 'Former Relevant' young people.

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 allocated social worker must visit the child in the placement at the following intervals, subject to the exceptions in Section 2, Exceptions:

  • Within one week of the start of any placement and then at intervals of not less than every four weeks;
  • Where a child is in an agreed long-term / permanent foster placement, there will need to be discussion with the child / young person's carer, Supervising Social Worker and IRO about the appropriateness of reducing the frequency of scheduled visits by the social worker (see Procedure Regarding Reviews for Children Looked After (CLA) and Schedule of Social Work Visits). The child should be of sufficient age and understanding, and 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.

In addition, the child's social worker should visit:

  • Whenever reasonably requested to do so by 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; or
  • If there is any proposal to remove the child from placement where concerns have been raised about his/her welfare.

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

2.1 Children Placed with Parents

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 agreed in the review but not more than four 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.

2.2 Children Placed with Connected Persons

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.

2.3 Children Placed in a Young Offenders' Institution or Health Care Setting (etc.)

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, Hospital or Other Medical Provision), Social Work visits should take place within a week of the start/any change of these living arrangements and then at intervals of not more than four weeks.

See also: Leaving Care and Transition Procedure, Personal Advisers in relation to Personal Adviser visits to 'Relevant' or 'Former Relevant' young people.

2.4 Notice of Concern by the Registration Authority

Where a Merton child is placed in a children's home, a fostering agency, a voluntary adoption agency, or adoption support agency, and a Registration Authority notices the local authority that the Registered Manager:

  • Has had their Registration withdrawn, suspended or notice of this extended;
  • Has proceedings brought against them by the Registration Authority for an offence which it alleges has been committed in respect of the establishment or agency;
  • Has had notice served upon them by the Registration Authority to ensure no child is further accommodated (excepting a child that is already accommodated or continues to be accommodated);
  • Has served a Penalty Notice for allegations in respect of an alleged offence which the Registered Manager has then paid.

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).

3. Who Should be Seen?

It is important to be clear that the exceptions set out in Section 2, Exceptions apply only to the placement. Whatever the placement arrangements and irrespective of where the child is placed, the child should be seen during social work visits 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 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.

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.

6. Consequences of Visits

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.