Unannounced Visits

  • FosterWiki
  • Author:FosterWiki
  • Published:October 2022
  • Country: United Kingdom

Unannounced Visits

Unannounced visits

A guide to unannounced visits for foster carers

Introduction to unannounced visits

Unannounced visits are a statutory requirement, however, like many things in a devolved foster care sector, you can find them open to interpretation.

The purpose of unannounced visits is to inspect the fostering family home environment the child or young person is living in on a day-to-day basis, at a time when the foster carer or child is not expecting it.

It is a requirement set in National Minimum Standards and statutory regulations and is part of the contractual obligations of the foster carer.

Unannounced visits can feel intrusive to foster carers, but if carried out in accordance with consistent written policies, where everyone is clear about the expectations they can be navigated and understood by all involved.

Unannounced visits are a vital part of safeguarding.

The legal bit about unannounced visits

The requirement for unannounced visits to foster carers is set out in the Statutory Guidance and the National Minimum Standards.

National Minimum Standard 21: Support and Supervision of Foster Carers
21.8 Each approved foster carer is supervised by a named, appropriately qualified social worker who has meetings with the foster carer, including at least one unannounced visit a year.

Fostering Services, Guidance and Regulations (2011)
5.67 Every foster carer should be allocated an appropriately qualified social worker from the fostering service (the supervising social worker) who is responsible for overseeing the support they receive.

It is the supervising social worker’s role to supervise the foster carer’s work, to ensure that they are meeting the child’s needs, and to offer support and a framework to assess the foster carer’s performance and develop their skills.

They must make regular visits to the foster carer, including at least one unannounced visit a year.

3.82 Every foster home must be visited without appointment by a supervising social worker of the fostering service at least once a year, as a check on the standards of care being provided.

National Minimum Standard 10: Providing a suitable physical environment for the Foster Child
10.5 The foster home is inspected annually, without an appointment, by the fostering service to make sure that it continues to meet the needs of foster children Examples of different provider’s policies Each fostering provider, both local authority and private agency, should have an unannounced visit policy, this will be their interpretation of the NMS and Fostering Regulations.

Here are 3 examples of individual provider’s in-house unannounced:

Example of unannounced visits policies

Foster carer’s and birth children’s bedrooms

Unannounced visits can feel very intrusive at times, however, they are part of our contractual agreement with (Fostering Agreement) that we sign with our provider on approval. These visits are underpinned by the National Minimum Standards and Fostering Regulations (2011) and are therefore part of our professional role.

One of the most contentious areas for foster carers is the inspection of their more private spaces, their own bedroom, and their birth children’s bedrooms, and as you can see from the policies above some providers will see these areas as part of the inspection and some won’t.

It can be frustrating when inspections are so different, even varying between workers within the same local authority or agency. Clear concise policies and details of how the inspections will work in practice make all the difference to both the provider and foster carer.

How do unannounced visits work in practice?

  • If you have a review coming up and you haven’t had an unannounced one all year, you will most likely get one on the day before.
  • If there has been any question around standards of care or any issues you will most likely get more frequent ones.
  • You might not be in, but you can not help that, that’s the very nature of an unannounced visit, you don’t know they are coming. You can not be penalised for not being there, even if it happens multiple times.
  • Some providers do them once a year, some twice a year, and many carers fed back to us that they haven’t had one for several years.
  • It varies hugely who carries out these visits, it can be a carer’s own social worker or link worker (the National Minimum Standards/stat regs seem to suggest this is who should do it) however in practice it’s often also carried out by anyone in services.
  • Each Unannounced visit can be different, in terms of what is inspected and what they entail.

Foster carer’s comments

Useful links

foster carers National Minimum Standards NMS Safeguarding statutory requirement Unannounced Visits
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