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5.12.1 Social Worker Visits


Young people can be placed in variety of settings i.e. foster placement, kinship placements and residential establishments. There have been many case reviews which have highlighted the seeming lack of understanding of the purpose and the role of social workers undertaking visits to children. Lord Laming’s report into the death of Victoria Climbié recommended that social workers need to be ‘clear about the purpose of the visits, and the information to be gathered during the course of it'.


The Children Act 1989 guidance and regulations Volume 2: care planning, placement and case review June 2015


This chapter was reviewed and amended in December 2016 to ensure the visiting schedule for children in a variety of care settings is clearly available, (see Section 1, Normal Frequency). The Update also provides a ‘template’ of headings / issues to be covered when the visit is recorded, (see Section 4, Recording).


  1. Normal Frequency
  2. Who should be seen
  3. Purpose
  4. Recording

1. Normal Frequency

All Looked After children in Knowsley will have an allocated social worker.

Wherever a Looked After Child is placed (foster placement, residential unit or placed with birth parents or relatives), the child’s social worker must visit the child in the placement to undertake a Statutory Visit; the allocated worker should always carry out the visit unless in exceptional circumstances they are not available.

Statutory Visits will be completed to all Looked After Children by their social worker in line with statutory requirements, minimum visiting frequencies are as follows:

  1. A child in an approved foster care placement (or adoption placement);
    • On the day the child is placed, to assist in the placement process;
    • Within one week of the start of any placement;
    • Then at intervals of no more than six weeks during the first year of any placement;
    • In the second and subsequent years, at intervals of not more than 6 weeks (or 3 months if the placement has been ratified as permanent - intended to last until the child is 18);
    • A child placed with adoptive parents should be visited once a week until the first Child Looked After Review and thereafter (until the making of an adoption order) at a frequency agreed at the first review, which may be revised at subsequent reviews.
  2. Child subject to an Interim Care Order and or in Placement with a temporary approved foster carer (Reg 24 placement) or child remaining living with a parent subject to Section 38 (6) of the Children Act 1989;
    • On the day the child is placed, to assist in the placement process;
    • Weekly until the first Child Looked After Review;
    • Then at intervals of not more than 4 weeks until the carer is approved as fully approved as a Connected Persons foster carer, or until the final has been completed in Care Proceedings.
  3. Child placed back at home with parents following the making of a Section 31 Full Care Order;
    • On the day the child is placed, to assist in the placement process;
    • Within the first week of the Final Care Order being granted;
    • Then at intervals of no more than 4 weeks.(statutory guidance requires a minimum of six weekly but in Knowsley all Children on care orders placed with parents should be visited at a minimum for 4 weekly;
    • Where the assessment has not been completed, (see Regulation 19) then visits should continue on a weekly basis or until the first review and subsequently at no less than 6 weekly or until the completion of the assessment under Regulation 17. (See also Schedule 3.)
  4. A child placed in secure accommodation or a Young Offenders Institution;
    • A visit must take place within a week of the child first being placed in the accommodation, and within one week of any changes to the placement;
    • Thereafter visits should continue at least every six weeks for the first year and then at intervals of not more than 3 months.

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 i.e. 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.

Further guidance and information regarding statutory visits can be found in the Care Planning Regulations 2010 (updated in 2015).

2. Who should be Seen

The child must be seen in private and alone (unless the child is of sufficient age and maturity and refuses or the social worker considers it inappropriate to do so. This should be noted in the file with any reasons provided).

The social worker should be aware of who else lives in the placement and they should know about changes in structure and composition as well as the relationships within the household or unit.

For young people who are not able to verbally communicate their views. The social worker should ensure that observations of the young person are made in their placement and that if a child has particular communication difficulties then, the social worker will be required to use specialist resources to ensure that the child is able to express their wishes and feelings and also use this to request a visit. This should be identified in the care and Placement Plans from the outset. also in other settings for example, school, and Information and opinion to be gathered from other professionals about their presentation.

On some occasions, the social worker should also arrange to visit at times when all members of a household can be seen; or for children’s homes, a significant number of adults and children.

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

Social Workers should provide feedback to carers regarding their visit unless it is not in the interest of the child placed.

3. Purpose

It may not be possible for a social worker to gain all the information listed below in one visit but they must try to obtain a holistic view of the placement. The purpose of the visit is to ensure the placement continues to promote the child’s welfare, contributes to the Care Plan and in particular:

  1. To give the child the opportunity to express his or her wishes, feelings and views;
  2. To advise, assist and befriend the child and to ascertain who they would turn to in times of difficulty;
  3. To promote an effective casework 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;
  4. To identify daily routines including getting up and going to bed. Meal times and whether the they all eat together. What are the arrangements for washing and is the child provided with privacy and support that is relevant to their stage of development;
  5. To identify arrangements for holiday and leisure time including playing games, access to clubs, cultural and sporting activities;
  6. 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;
  7. To observe the child with the staff/foster carer/parent and to analyse parenting styles and the promotion of the child's self esteem;
  8. 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;
  9. To monitor how the contact arrangements are working and to discover whether these are promoted within the unit or home;
  10. 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;
  11. To identify any areas where additional support is required;
  12. 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 placement, the social worker should observe whether there are signs that the child is an integral part of the family such as photographs;
  13. To carry out specific casework tasks with the child, for example carrying out a programme of life story work;
  14. To identify whether older children and young people are encouraged to play an increasing part in their self care such as laundry, food preparation and the purchase of food, clothes and budgeting;
  15. To identify the arrangements for the young person to get support with school work, do homework (including where appropriate, access to a computer), visit a library and where appropriate, have contact with friends. Do the carers attend parent's evenings?
  16. To identify whether the child has access to complaints procedures and are supported appropriately;
  17. 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:

  • Practices that are being employed do not compromise a carers or a young person’s safety i.e. lifting a disabled child;
  • Does the carer have sufficient equipment i.e. bath chair/hoist etc?
  • Who arranges a young persons health appointments and who will attend. For young people in residential placement is this a named person. If they have complex health needs does thought need to be given to ensure that there is consistency of worker due to the young person’s health concerns;
  • For young people with complex health needs to ensure that there is clear written information re medication.

Placement Planning Meetings can be undertaken during social workers visits.

When visiting children in residential settings the social worker should read the daily log, Incident book/record, Restraint book/record (evidence of notification), Complaints book/record to gain an understanding of recent events in the child's life and also to identify any themes highlighted in the recording for example, issues of concern for the child, how this impacts on those concerns, impact on their behaviour and staff strategies for managing situations and/or the over/inappropriate use of restraint.

In addition they should review and agree with the Unit staff the child’s respective ‘holistic plan’.

4. Recording

The Social worker should record the visit on a statutory visit case note and include the headings listed below. Once the statutory visit case-note is completed an alert should be sent to the Team Manager via ICS. The Team Manager should finalise the note, this will confirm that it has been checked and signed off.

Headings to be used when a statutory visit is recorded on case notes:

  • Setting;
  • Voice of the child;
  • Observation of the child and/or young person;
  • Discussion with parents / carers;
  • Culture and Identity;
  • Health;
  • Education;
  • Contact;
  • Leisure activities and Social development;
  • Any significant events;
  • Risks or protective factors identified in visit;
  • Analysis / Progress of the plan.
  • Actions.