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.RELEVANT GUIDANCE
AMENDMENTSection 2, Exceptions was revised in January 2019 to set out more clearly the circumstances where visiting requirements differ from those set out in Section 1, Normal Frequency. A new Section 6, Consequences of Visits was added to acknowledge that where there is concern over a placement meeting the needs of a child, the local authority must review the care plan in line with Regulation 30 (2010 Regulations).
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Then a visit must also be made within one week of receiving a notification made under section 30A of the Care Standards Act 2000.
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.
The purpose of the visit is to ensure the placement continues to promote the child's welfare and in particular:
Social workers visiting children with disabilities and/or complex health needs should also consider the following:
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.
The social worker should record each visit on the social care information system stating clearly:
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.
Only valid for 48hrs