Supervised Contact Procedure
See also: Contact with Parents/Adults and SiblingsThis chapter was add to the manual in October 2014.
Swindon Borough Council is committed to promoting contact between children who are being Looked After by the Borough and their birth families, where this is safe and appropriate, which promotes the identity and wellbeing of children.
Swindon Borough Council supports contact arrangements that are overseen by the Court in both Public and where relevant, Private Proceedings (when a section 7 or 37 report, have been ordered for children's services to complete).
Contact needs to be meaningful and promote the wellbeing of the child. It needs to take a proper and informed account of the child's diversity, identity and developmental needs, whist ensuring that the child/young person is safeguarded from potential harm.
When providing supervised contact we aim to give a positive experience for those using our service. Contact is important for the child's social and emotional wellbeing. We need to ensure that it is facilitated in a way that normalises the experience for the child.
There is an expectation that wherever it is reasonably possible, the child's foster carer/primary carer will supervise contact and provide transport to and from contact sessions. There will on occasions be good reasons why this is not possible, but starting with this expectation is about giving primacy to children's needs and reducing to a minimum the number of 'handovers' they experience between different carers/professionals.
2. Definition of Contact
For the purpose of this guidance, 'contact' refers to all contact between a Looked After Child and Significant Others, including parents, others with parental responsibility, brothers, sisters and friends.
Direct Contact means any face to face contact.
Indirect Contact means letters, cards, emails, telephone calls, texts, exchange of photographs.
3. The Legal Context
The relevant legislation is The Children Act 1989, which requires the Local Authority 'unless it is not reasonably practicable or consistent with the child's welfare' to 'endeavour to promote contact between the child, his parents, any person who is not a parent of his but who has Parental Responsibility for him and any other relative or other persons connected with him'.
Section 34 of the Children Act 1989 covers restricting and terminating contact.
The Human Rights Act 1989 that enshrines the right to a family life is relevant to all questions of contact.
Contact can be refused if the child refuses to see their parent, sibling or others or if an incident occurs that is not in the child's best interest. The contact will be suspended until the allocated Social Worker has spoken to the person involved in the incident and the risk assessment is updated.
4. Planning for Contact
If alternative primary carers are required, this will generally be because care proceedings have established that the child's mother and father cannot adequately care for and protect the child.
Therefore, whilst contact between the child and his/her parents may well have some benefits; it may also present difficulties in the light of their established inadequate parenting.
Each contact plan needs to be based on a comprehensive and good quality assessment of the individual needs of the child and ensure that those arrangements will minimise negative impact on the child whilst promoting their best interest and healthy development. Whilst it is important to work in partnership with parents, family and friends and to consider their feelings, the primary focus of contact is a child's right to maintain and develop their identity via contact where consistent with their welfare, and not a right to contact by the parents.
Key Factors to consider when making a referral for supervised contact:
- The wishes and feelings of the child in relation to contact;
- The impact of contact on their emotional wellbeing based on any past trauma they may have experienced. Consideration needs to be given to the child's emotional needs. It will be important to think about how the frequency, duration, venue and distance required travelling to contact impacts, both positively and negatively in any assessment of contact;
- The best interest of children must be the primary concern in making decisions that may affect them. Children whose parents do not live together have the right to stay in contact with both their father and mother, providing it is consistent with their emotional and physical welfare to do so;
- The need to think about risk assessment, to be clear with families about any concerns, what the expectations are and what will happen if they are broken;
- The need to think about how we manage important occasions such as 'hair cuts', 'buying presents' and 'celebrating significant occasions'.
The criteria for referrals are:
- Where a child is being looked after by the Local Authority;
- Where the child is assessed by the social worker to be at risk of significant harm, if the contact with a particular adult, is not supervised by a relevant professional;
- The contact needs to be fully observed and managed by a suitably experienced member of staff;
- All cases must have a case accountable worker.
The referral can be taken over the phone with the contact coordinator, who will once agreement has been reached, arrange contact for the child/children.
The agreement will include arrangements to vary or terminate the work if the parent/s do not attend or make themselves available for contact (usually three consecutive times) contact will also be terminated if a parent is 15 minutes late for their contact as this causes distress to the child/ children.
All contact supervised within the team will be reviewed after the first four weeks and again every 12 weeks, in conjunction with the case accountable worker. Where the work no longer fits the team criteria, arrangements will be made for ending the work, this will ensure that the level of contact is meeting the children's needs and wellbeing.
All referrals for contact that are ordered for a s7 or 37 reports will be reviewed regularly and after the court has made a decision, three more contacts will take place that are supervised and then ended and handed back to family members.
Children arrive for contact when parents are in court or appointments have been arranged for parents. This leads to disappointment/ upset for the child, if all are not informed that contact is not required. Cost is also incurred to the contact service. At the reviews please ensure that you give the coordinator dates of court/ appointments so that these do not interfere with contact times or update the coordinator accordingly.
If a contact is to be cancelled by a parent or other person please ensure, the contact coordinator is contacted on 01793 465696.
Supervised contact notes will be put in the child's electronic record (ICS). All urgent records are put on within 48 hours.