Social Visits (including Overnight Stays)

Untitled Document

REGULATIONS AND STANDARDS

The Positive Relationships Standard
Regulation 11

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

These procedures apply to all unsupervised, social visits or overnight stays between children and relatives, friends (including neighbours and visitors); within or outside the home.

RELEVANT CHAPTERS

Holidays and School Trips Procedure.

Contact with Parents / Carers and Siblings Procedure.


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Social Visits / Overnight Stays
  3. Parental Consent


1. Introduction

Decisions about social visits and overnight stays should be delegated to children’s homes staff. The arrangements for making such decisions should be written into the Placement Plan in line with the Care Plan taking account of any relevant court directives.

When the child's placement is made, information regarding significant relationships and friendships should be obtained as part of this process and should be reviewed as appropriate.

The parents’ views on social visits and overnight stays should also be obtained. For procedures on Parental Consent, see Section 3, Parental Consent.

The Placement Plan should include the parameters within which visits or stays away from the home with friends may be agreed by the children’s home staff without prior consultation with the social worker, and whether agreement to such visits requires the staff to obtain parental consent. The Plan may state that the social worker and/or parent must always be consulted.

The guiding principle is That Looked After Children should as far as possible be given the same permission to take part in normal and acceptable age appropriate activities, such as staying with friends, as would reasonably be granted by parents of their peers. Judgment should depend on the assessed risks to and needs of the child.

Where there are exceptional reasons to require staff to seek the permission of the social worker, a manager or a parent, or place specific restrictions on permitting a child to stay overnight with friends, this should be because of reasons necessary to safeguard the child’s welfare. The child’s wishes should be taken into account in reaching any such decision.

Any such restriction, together with the reasons, should be clearly recorded in the Placement Plan, and explained to the child where appropriate. Restrictions should be reviewed regularly to ensure they remain relevant.


2. Social Visits / Overnight Stays

Social visits and overnight stays are a regular part of most children/young people’s experience and often occur at short notice. Children should be helped to develop and benefit from positive relationships. Staff should endeavour to help the child understand about personal, sexual and social relationships, and how those relationships can be supportive or harmful in a way appropriate to the child’s age and understanding.

Where children wish to stay overnight with friends, staff should carry out the same kind of checks that responsible parents might make in similar circumstances to seek reassurance that the child will be well cared for and safe.

Considerations may also include:

  1. Are there any relevant restrictions in the child’s Placement Plan?
  2. Are there any factors in the child’s past experiences or behaviour to preclude overnight stays?
  3. Are there any grounds for concern that the child may be at significant risk in the household concerned or from the activities proposed?
  4. Is the child staying with another child or children, rather than staying solely with an adult?
  5. The age and level of understanding of the child;
  6. What is the purpose and length of the overnight stay?
  7. How well is the friend or family known to the child?

Where the children’s home staff proposes to agree to the child’s stays away, before allowing them to go ahead, certain enquiries should be made; for example the name of the adult who will be responsible for the child, the means of contacting the adult and the child during the visit/stay and the arrangements for the child’s return. There should be clarity about the sleeping arrangements and what the arrangements are.

Prior to the child’s stay away, staff should arrange to meet the adult who will have responsibility for the child unless he or she is already known in which case the prior arrangements may be made over the telephone.

The arrangements for supervising or caring for the child must not compromise the safety of the child or that of any one else; and the following considerations should apply:

  1. Have the arrangements been confirmed with the parent of the friend or the adult who will have responsibility during the visit?
  2. What are the arrangements for the child returning to the home?
  3. Is there a contact number for the household in which the child will stay?
  4. Is the child aware of what to do if he or she wants to return to the home earlier than planned?
  5. Does the child have a contact number for the carers where they can be reached at any time?
  6. Does the child have access to a mobile phone?

In all cases, discussions should be held with the child, dependent on his or her age, as to what, if any, information should be shared with other adults to enable them to look after the child appropriately.

This might include:

  • Any specific health care needs of the child;
  • Any established routines for the child;
  • Any behaviour management problems which, if the adult is unaware of, could lead to difficulties during the visit, for example the child may be over familiar with adults or over assertive with younger children.

Any decision to share information should be on a ‘need to know’ basis and recorded.

If the child refuses to allow appropriate information to be shared, then he or she needs to be made aware that this could affect the decision to allow the child to stay away from home.

If satisfied that it is appropriate to allow the child’s stay away, a decision to allow it to go ahead may be made. If not, it may not be allowed.

The decision and the arrangements agreed should be recorded in full.

Even if it has been agreed that the social worker does not have to be consulted in making these arrangements, s/he must still be informed as soon as practicable.


3. Parental Consent

Wherever possible, parents' views and consent to contact with relatives and friends including any overnight stays away from the home should be obtained at the time of the placement. These views should be recorded including an indication of whether the parent wishes to be notified or their consent obtained every time an overnight stay takes place and if so, whether such consultation and prior consent is required before the contact can go ahead.

It should also be clearly recorded if parents do not consent to any continuing relationships or short stays away from the home, and the reasons for their lack of consent should be obtained.

If it is considered that contact is appropriate despite the parents' views, legal advice may be required by the placing authority and any decision to allow such contact needs to be clearly recorded together with reasons and explained to the parents.