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7.3.1 Social Worker Visits to Looked After Children


Please note 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 Remands to Local Authority Accommodation and Youth Detention Accommodation Procedure, Care Planning for Young People on Remand.


The Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations Volume 2: Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (2015)


Section 2, Exceptions, was revised in August 2018 to set out more clearly the circumstances where visiting requirements differ from those set out in Section 1, Normal Frequency.


  1. Normal Frequency
  2. Exceptions
  3. Who Should be Seen?
  4. Purpose
  5. Visiting Checklist
  6. Recording
  7. Consequences of Visits

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 child's 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;
  • Then at intervals of no more than four weeks during the first year of the placement;
  • Thereafter, at intervals of no more than 6 weeks;
  • The frequency of visits should be agreed within the Care Team and following discussion with the Independent Reviewing Officer. It should also be written into the Care Plan. The visiting plan should be subject to regular review at Care Team Meetings and LAC Reviews and the visiting plan could mean that visits take place more frequently when required.

The child's social worker should 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 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.

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, for example LAC Reviews and contact sessions, do not in themselves constitute a visit, unless time is taken outside of the meeting or contact session to talk with and spend time with the child individually and to see the care and placement.

The child's social worker should on occasion take the child out from the placement for example for a snack or a visit to a park as this can strengthen the relationship between the child and the social worker. This 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 away from the placement.

2. Exceptions

2.1 Children Placed with Parents

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 or until the final hearing has been completed in the care proceedings.

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

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 LAC Review, thereafter at intervals of no more than every four weeks or 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 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), within a week of the start/any change of living arrangements, at intervals of no more than every four weeks.

2.4 Notice of Concern by the Registration Authority

Where a Registration Authority notifies a local authority in respect of a children’s home, a fostering agency, a voluntary adoption agency, or adoption support agency, 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?

Whatever the placement arrangements and irrespective of where the child is placed, 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 having regard to the child’s age and understanding). If this is not possible, a further visit must be made at short notice in order that the child can be seen alone and observed with the staff/carer.

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 children who are not able to verbally communicate their views, the social worker should ensure that observations of the child are made in their placement and also in other settings, such as, school. Information and opinion should also be gathered from other professionals about the child’s 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.

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 staff/carers and with children during a statutory visit. The social worker must prioritise their time with the child as opposed to the staff/carer. Issues raised by staff/carers can be discussed when a child is not present on a separate visit.

Social workers should provide feedback to staff/carers regarding their visit.

4. Purpose

Most visits to the child should be planned and agreed with the child and their carer where appropriate. The purpose of the visit is to ensure the placement continues to promote the child's welfare.

The visit also enables social workers to ensure that information about the following is recorded:

  • Education needs are being met;
  • Health needs are being met;
  • Dental checks and treatment are being actioned;
  • Immunisations are complete;
  • Child is registered with a GP;
  • For 16 plus cases that the young person's EET needs are being met and progressed.

This information is all recorded on page 2 of the form: please see below for screen shots of the ICS form for guidance.

The visit should also ensure the placement continues to promote the child’s welfare, 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 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 (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;
  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/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;
  9. To identify whether there are toys or games to play with and the access that the child has to them;
  10. To monitor how the contact arrangements with family members and friends are working and to discover whether these are promoted within the home;
  11. 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?
  12. To identify any areas where additional support is required;
  13. To evaluate whether the placement is helping to achieve the objectives of the Child 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;
  14. To carry out specific casework tasks with the child, for example carrying out a programme of life story work;
  15. 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;
  16. 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?
  17. To identify whether the child knows about the complaints procedure and the availability of advocacy services;
  18. 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 practices that are being employed are appropriate and do not compromise the child's safety, for example, the method of lifting a disabled child;
  • Does the carer have sufficient equipment such as a bath chair / hoist?
  • 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 about the administration of medication?

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.

When visiting children in residential settings the social worker should read the daily recording sheets, to gain an understanding of recent events and also to identify any themes highlighted in the recording for example, behaviour and staff strategies for managing situations.

5. Visiting Checklist

The following checklist should be used to ensure all aspects of the visit are recorded:

  • Describe Living And Sleeping Arrangements - commenting on adequacy and appropriateness;
  • Health - include arrangements for health care, recent illness and contacts with GP or other medical practitioner since last visit. Comment on growth and development and any action needed, comment on appropriateness of current position;
  • Education - include school attended, contact with child's key teacher, progress, attendance and any particular educational services needed or being given. Comment on appropriateness of current arrangements;
  • Religious Observance - give child's religion and describe arrangements for religious observance, including any difficulties or conflicts that are arising;
  • Relationship With Carers And Household - describe and comment upon relationship of child with carers and child with other members of the carer's household. The social worker must ensure that they are aware of any changes in the household, either within the birth family or any other children placed since the previous visit;
  • Contact Arrangements - include contact that has occurred since last visit with whom and where it occurred. Comment on child's views of contact arrangements;
  • General Observations - evaluate child's overall progress and appropriateness of placement.

6. Recording

All SUCCESSFUL visits to a child should be recorded on ICS using the “Statutory Visit” form and the Care First activity which is embedded within this form. The ICS form must be completed in order for the activity to be completed and appear within the child’s Care First activities.

Workers should not record stand alone activities in Care First to evidence statutory visits, even those these can subsequently be pulled into the ICS form. Please see below for guidance in completing the Statutory Visit form.

The tick box should be used to indicate 'Child Seen' and if the 'Child is seen alone'. The record should contain:

  • Date of visit;
  • Purpose of visit;
  • What was observed/what work was undertaken?
  • What is your assessment/analysis of the situation?
  • What happens next?
  • Views of child;
  • Comments by staff/carers/parents;
  • Any significant changes;
  • Date of next visit.

The record of the Statutory Visit must be completed as soon as possible and within 48 hours of the visit being undertaken.

  • If a visit was planned but was not successfully carried out or a visit has been carried out and the child was not present, an 'Unsuccessful Statutory Visit” observation should be completed. The recording of an unsuccessful visit should include:
    1. The reason the visit was unsuccessful i.e. was this due to worker reasons (cancellation) or family reasons (family not at home);
    2. Attempts made to rearrange the visit. Efforts to re arrange the visit could include; telephone calls to the carers to arrange another date/time, note left for the carers at the placement address with a different time/date to visit, telephone calls to members of the Care Team to establish if the child(ren) have been seen and when, arrangements to see the child(ren) in a different environment e.g. at school;
    3. An “Unsuccessful Statutory Visit “observation should be recorded on each occasion that a visit was attempted but was unsuccessful;

      Click here to view a screenshot.
    4. Any pattern of unsuccessful visits or where visits are not completed with timescale should be discussed with the Care Team/Core Group and within social workers’ supervision with their team managers;
    5. If the Statutory visit is not completed within timescale a record of unsuccessful visits should be referenced within the Child’s Statutory Visit form (please see screen shot below) which will be completed when a successful visit takes place.

      Click here to view the screenshot.

Guidance to completing the ICS form

  • This is the ICS document that is to be used to record statutory visits. This ICS document is to be used for all statutory visits instead of using observations;
  • The document is accessed by using the ‘Find Assessment’ icon.

    Click here to view a screenshot;
  • Then click ‘Add’.

    Click here to view a screenshot;
  • Enter the questionnaire type as ‘Child/YP Statutory Visit’, enter your ID, date and then click ‘Save'.

    Click here to view a screenshot;
  • The document has a number of sections contained in the ‘Details of the Visit’ tab. The first (1.1.1) must be completed. This allows a statutory visit activity to be added.

    Click here to view a screenshot;
  • The other sections are to be used to record the specific details of the visit. It is also possible to enter the next scheduled statutory visit (1.1.10).

    Click here to view a screenshot;
  • The ‘Other Details’ tab allows for any additional information to be recorded for the child. See below for screen shot of information requested. This information should be added as necessary/relevant;
  • The document needs then to be completed as until this is done the activity is not activated on the system and will not be picked up for data collection.

    Click here to view a screenshot.

7. 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. 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.