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- / Children living away from home
- / Looked After Children and Leaving Care
- / Independent visitors
An independent visitor must be considered for all children where:
- there is little and sporadic contact with their parents (or those with parental responsibility); or
- there have been no visits from their parents (or those with parental responsibility) for the last 12 months, and
- it is felt to be in the child's best interests.
Discussions around whether an independent visitor should be appointed are usually held in the child's looked after review.
Other factors to be taken into account when deciding whether to appoint an Independent Visitor...
Factors to consider when deciding whether and Independent Visitor should be appointed:
- Distance child is placed from home (i.e. does this prohibit regular contact with friends?):
- Level of independence (i.e. is the child able to go out by themselves and build relationships?):
- Level of risk the child may be at (i.e. will the relationships the child forms be appropriate and will the child be safe?):
- Nature of placement (i.e. are they in a residential setting where there is less chance of individualised relationships?):
- Level of contribution and Independent Visitor would make (i.e. would having a visitor make a positive contribution to the child?):
Who can be an independent visitor?
Independent visitors are usually volunteers provided through a local charity or other organisation who will have provided the volunteer with the necessary training and undertaken the required checks (e.g. Disclosure and Barring Service check). As with all safeguarding practice, these checks must be completed on anyone who is likely to be alone with a child.
An independent visitor can however also be someone who is already known to the child, as long as they are completely independent of the Local Authority (i.e. do not work for them or live with someone who works for them) and able to provide impartial support to the child.
Involvement of the child
An independent visitor is there for the child, and it is therefore imperative that the child is consulted about the involvement of an independent visitor. If the child disagrees with either having an independent visitor altogether or to a particular independent visitor then the issue should be reviewed.
My child is in a secure unit
Children in secure units are often the most vulnerable children in the authority and need as much support as possible. If you have a child who is in a secure unit for more than 72 hours then a referral can be made for an independent visitor without waiting for a looked after review (i.e. as soon as possible after placement).
If a child is in a secure unit and has an independent visitor then the independent visitor must be informed of any intention to renew the secure order.
What does an Independent Visitor do?
An Independent Visitor should make regular visits to the child, as well as keeping in contact through other means (e.g. telephone, email, as appropriate).
The Independent Visitor befriends the child and will look to provide advice and support wherever possible, providing an independent ear for the child to talk to about their wishes and feelings. The Independent Visitor will also be able to provide support to the child around how to talk with others if, for example, there is something the child wants but doesn't know how to ask.
An Independent Visitor will also look to encourage the child to be involved in decision making about their life in care, as well as ensuring that the child feels that all of their needs are being met.
They can also attend looked after reviews if invited by the child.
What should an Independent Visitor not do?
- Not be anything other than child focused, whatever they may think about other's points of view
- Not replace parents or carers
- Not allow their own prejudices to take over
- Not accept what those responsible for the child (i.e. social workers, carers, parents) tell them without asking questions and remaining open-minded and sceptical
- Not provide intensive counselling for the child
- Not take on the role of skilled advocate (e.g. the child reports that they are being abused) such issues should be reported to the social worker or someone more senior where necessary.
Reviews of appointment or non-appointment of an Independent Visitor
Each looked after review should consider whether it is appropriate for the Independent Visitor to remain involved with the child.
The reviews should also consider the continuing validity of any previous decision for the child not to have an Independent Visitor.
In making this decision the child's wishes and feelings should be paramount.
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Information for parents
It is important that parents are aware of the role of an Independent Visitor and that they feel comfortable with a volunteer seeing their child. This leaflet can be printed and given to parents to provide them with initial information that they can refer to at their own pace.Read more
Information for carers
Carers are an important part of engaging the child with an Independent Visitor and it is therefore important that they are fully informed of what Independent Visitors can do. The document below can be printed and given to the carers to provide more information.Read more
Information for young people
For young people to have an Independent Visitor they need to be consulted and agree. The document below can be printed and given to the young person to allow them to have information that they can read at their own pace in order to aid the decision. It is likely that they will have many more questions, but this provides a starting point.Read more
Independent Visitor Referral Procedure
In order for a good quality match to happen between a child and their Independent Visitor, there is a need to complete a referral process which allows the needs, interests and personality of the child to be considered against the volunteers available. Therefore once a decision about the need for an Independent Visitor is made, the referral process below should be followed.Read more
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