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Visits to Children and Young People

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

The guidance is concerning visits to children and young people and applies to visits to Looked After Children and Care Levers, as well as to visits to those children living at home.

This chapter was added to the manual in December 2016


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Who the Guidance Applies to
  3. Key Legislation and Guidance
  4. Frequency of Visits
  5. Exceptions for visits to Looked After Children
  6. Purpose of Visits to Children and Young People
  7. Guiding Principles of Visits to Children or Young People
  8. Conducting a Visit to a Child or Young Person
  9. Statutory Visits to Looked After Children
  10. Recording


1. Introduction

The guidance is concerning visits to children and young people and applies to visits to Looked After Children and Care Leavers, as well as to visits to those children living at home. The professional must make every effort to understand the child, their needs, wishes and experiences. The visit should include seeing the child on their own as well as with their parent/carers and siblings. The child should have the opportunity to see the professional away from home. The professional should be clear about the purpose of the visit, and the preparation for the visit must include meeting the child's needs in terms of age, understanding, preferred communication, culture, ethnicity and wishes. An interpreter should be used when necessary.


2. Who the Guidance Applies to

  • Children with a Child in Need plan;
  • Children with a Child Protection plan;
  • Looked After Children with a Care Plan;
  • Relevant and Former Relevant Care Leavers;
  • Children with an Adoption Plan;
  • Children/young people who have been referred or transferred to the service which results in actions and planned outcomes.

2.1 Who it does not apply to

The requirements for these visits are within the specific individual procedures.


3. Key Legislation and Guidance

  • Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations 1 - 4;
  • Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000;
  • Adoption and Children Act 2002;
  • Fostering Regulations 2003;
  • Children Act 2004 Section 11;
  • The UN Convention on the Rights of the child;
  • National Minimum Standards - Regulation of Children's Homes (2002);
  • The Mental Capacity Act 2005;
  • Data Protection Act;
  • Working Together 2015;
  • Frazer competence;
  • Children and young people's involvement strategy.


4. Frequency of Visits

4.1 Visits following a referral to the Assessment Team

  • The date for the initial visit is to be agreed in allocation between the Team Manager and Social Worker;
  • The visit to the child must always be within the first 5 working days;
  • If appropriate, and contact details are available, a telephone call is to be made to the family to arrange a visit;
  • Postal letters to make an appointment should only be used if no other means of contact is possible and must be agreed with the Team Manager. The postal letters are to be sent first class;
  • If no one is in when the Social Worker visits, they must leave a card advising of the visit and when they will either call back and/or their contact details (unless there are reasons not to e.g. Domestic Violence and Abuse);
  • Visit must be recorded within 2 working days. Visits should only be recorded on a child seen form where the child was seen. If the child was not seen, the visit or missed appointment should be recorded in an observation.

4.2 Wherever a Child is subject to a Child in Need Plan the child's social worker must visit the child and see the child at the following intervals detailed below;

  • At intervals of once every six calendar weeks at a minimum/in accordance with the timescale specified in the CiN plan;
  • Prior to each review of the plan;
  • The child/young person seen on their own where this is appropriate for their age and understanding at least once between reviews. 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 team manager;
  • If no one is in when the Social Worker/Practitioner visits, they must leave a card advising of the visit and when they will either call back and/or their contact details (unless there are reasons not to e.g. Domestic Violence and Abuse);
  • Visit must be recorded within 2 working days. Visits should only be recorded on a child seen form where the child was seen. If the child was not seen, the visit or missed appointment should be recorded in an observation.

4.3 Wherever a Child is subject to a Child Protection Plan the child's social worker must visit and see the child adhering to the following standards and intervals as detailed below:

  • At intervals of once every four calendar weeks at a minimum/in accordance with the timescale specified in the CP plan;
  • Prior to each core group and review conference;
  • The child/young person seen on their own if this is appropriate for their age and understanding at least once between core groups. 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 team manager;
  • If no one is in when the Social Worker/Practitioner visits, they must leave a card advising of the visit and when they will either call back and/or their contact details (unless there are reasons not to e.g. Domestic Violence and Abuse);
  • Visits must be recorded within 2 working days. Visits should only be recorded on a child seen form where the child was seen. If the child was not seen, the visit or missed appointment should be recorded in an observation.

4.4 Wherever a Looked After Child is placed, the child's social worker must visit the child in the placement at the following intervals, subject to the conditions below:

  • On the day the child is placed, to assist the placement process;
  • Within one week of the start of any placement;
  • Prior to each review of the Care Plan;
  • Visits at intervals of no more than six calendar weeks during the first year of any placement;
  • Thereafter, at intervals of not more than 6 weeks, (or three calendar months if the placement is intended to last until the child is 18). Frequency of visits should be increased to reflect the child/young person's needs and in accordance with the Care Plan;
  • 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;
  • Within 24 hours if there is a placement change;
  • Once weekly if it is an emergency placement until the Care Plan and Placement are both complete;
  • The child/young person must be seen alone at each visit if this is appropriate for their age and understanding. 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 team manager;
  • If no one is in when the Social Worker visits, they must leave a card advising of the visit and when they will either call back and/or their contact details (unless there are reasons not to);
  • Visits must be recorded within 2 working days. Visits should only be recorded on a child seen form where the child was seen. If the child was not seen, the visit or missed appointment should be recorded in an observation;
  • The child’s social worker should also visit the child immediately a complaint is received from the child or from another person relating to the child concerning the standard of care they are receiving;
  • Some visits should be unannounced. (The foster carers, parent or residential unit should be informed by the child’s social worker at the time of placing that there will be occasional unannounced visits and the reason for this 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 child’s social worker should on occasion take the child out from the placement (for example for a snack or a visit to the park) as this can strengthen the relationship between the child and the social worker and is also in the interests of child protection in that the child may feel more able to discuss issues that are of concern to him/her.

For children who are placed for adoption, see Monitoring and Supervision of Adoptive Placements Procedure.

4.5 Young people leaving care

Relevant Children: When a Relevant Child moves from regulated to unregulated accommodation the leaving care Personal Adviser (PA) must see them at their new accommodation within 7 days of the move. Subsequently they must be seen no more than 28 days later, and then at intervals of no greater than 2 months. Visiting arrangements should be included in the young person’s Pathway Plan.

  • Former Relevant Children: The local authority has a duty to continue to keep in touch with former relevant children. The specified interval for visits is no longer than 2 monthly. Where the young person moves to new accommodation the PA should visit in line with visits to relevant children, i.e. at their new accommodation within 7 days of the move and subsequently no more than 28 days later, and then at intervals of no greater than 2 months. Again, visiting arrangements should be included in the young person’s Pathway Plan;
  • The regulations recognise that the local authority should respect the privacy of a former relevant child and their right to decline support. However, the local authority remains under a duty to attempt to remain in contact with a young person in the same way that a reasonable parent might try to resume contact with an estranged adult child;
  • Where a young person is unwilling to meet with a PA, or because of distance visiting within the specified limits is not possible (for example where a young person attends a distant university) the regulations suggest keeping in touch between visits by a range of communication methods, for example email, phone and text message contact;
  • All such contacts with a Former Relevant Child should be recorded using the Keeping In Touch (KIT) form. Where a young person id reluctant or unwilling to be in contact with the PA, any actions taken should be recorded as evidence that the PA is maintaining efforts to establish or retain contact.


5. Exceptions for visits to Looked After Children

If the child is placed with parents pending assessment, 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 more than 4 weeks.

If the child is placed with parents under a Care Order, visits must take place within one week of the Care Order, thereafter at intervals of not more than 6 weeks.

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 or a health care setting), visits must take place within a week of the start/any change of 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.


6. Purpose of Visits to Children and Young People

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

  1. 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;
  2. To advise, assist and befriend the child/young person, as appropriate;
  3. To get to know the child/young person and to understand their experiences;
  4. To support and safeguard the child/young person;
  5. To observe the child/young person with the carer/parent(s);
  6. To monitor the standard of care offered by the placement/carer(s);
  7. To monitor how the contact arrangements are working;
  8. To provide support to the placement;
  9. To identify any areas where additional support is required;
  10. To evaluate whether the placement is helping to achieve the objectives of the child’s Care Plan/Adoption Plan or Plan;
  11. Review of the child’s plan for a Looked After Child/Adoption Plan can be undertaken during social workers visits;
  12. Identify what their future needs might be, and plan what needs to be undertaken to meet their needs.


7. Guiding Principles of Visits to Children or Young People

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 have 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 way the visit is conducted takes in to account the child/young person's developmental level, age and understanding, their language, communication style and any additional needs that they have;
  • The professional should make every effort to gain knowledge and understanding about the child/young person and what their level of understanding is;
  • The use of child centred tools that help engage children and support the purpose of the visit should be encouraged. Signs of Safety tools should be used as a minimum. Practitioners and teams should access a variety of tools to help them. See also Listening to and Evidencing the Voice of the Child;
  • 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.


8. Conducting a Visit to a Child or 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, 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;
  • The child/young person should be seen on their own if this is appropriate for their age and understanding. If a child/young person refuses to be seen alone this must be recorded and another opportunity offered;
  • The decision as to whether a child has the age and understanding to be seen on their own relies on professional judgement. More information can be gathered from seeing a baby with their main carer that on their own and it is usually not appropriate to separate them. However, even young children should be offered opportunities to speak openly away from their main carer. The decision not to see a child on their own should be discussed with a supervisor;
  • If a child/young person requires assistance to communicate, part of the planning must involve identifying who is the most appropriate person to support at home and away from home;
  • 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.


9. Statutory Visits to Looked After Children

In addition, the following requirements will be addressed and recorded for statutory visits to Looked After Children;

  • The child/young person will be seen alone and occasionally outside the home if appropriate with their age and understanding. If the child refuses to be seen alone this must be recorded;
  • 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 social work assessment is up to date, including any assessment of risk or emerging risk;
  • 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/access NYAS;
  • 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 Team Manager, who will read the record.


10. Recording

Visits should be recorded onto the child/young person's record/file within 2 working days of the date of the visit.

The record of all visits should include:

  1. Purpose of the visit;
  2. Who was present;
  3. Whether the child/young person was seen alone, if not the reason for this;
  4. A brief summary of what happened during the visit, including the child/young person’s views, wishes, feelings and presentation;
  5. Any matters of concern or difficulties;
  6. Observations of the child's welfare and the success of the placement;
  7. Practitioner analysis of the visit, including any resulting decisions, future plans or action points with timescales.

N.B. If a young person was not seen, this should be recorded in an observation. The observation should include how the visit will be rearranged, what safeguards are in place and what information has been gained from other agencies. If a young person is not seen on 2 sequential visits, the practitioner must make their manager aware and a discussion of circumstances must take place to agree appropriate actions.

End