Independent visitors

Independent Visitors can provide vital support to children, particularly where they are far from their home area and have little or no contact with family and friends. As the name suggests, Independent Visitors are completely independent of the process and there for the child, with few requirements to report back to others. Through remaining child focused they are able to provide a critical friend and form of support for the child outside of the system that provides day to day care for the child.

An independent visitor must be considered for all children where:

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:



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?



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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