Children, young people and families told us it was important we worked with them in a timely way and that they understood the different timescales we work to in social care practice.  

Therefore, we have produced a helpful table below to outline some of the minimum expectations of national and legal timescales you can expect to see in social work practice:  

Social work practice Timescales Who is responsible
Visiting Children Timescales for visiting children are driven by the child’s plan, urgency of their situation or level of concern. Decisions about when/how often practitioners visit are taken in supervision, with these decisions recorded on the child’s record and in the child’s plan Manager
Early Help The frequency of visits is set out in the child’s early help plan (minimum expectation, child is visited every 20 working days), enough to enable assessment and intervention to be effective and to allow for a strong review of the child’s progress. Intervention work should aim to be completed within a 12–16-week period. Family and Professionals
Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) The decision about the type of response the child needs and suggestions / feedback to the referrer is made within two working days of a contact being received by the MASH team. If a serious child protection concern is raised (section 47), the child is visited within 1 working day. Social Worker
Single Assessment Timescales Single assessments are carried out within a maximum of 63 (45 working) days Social Worker
The Manager will review the progress of the single assessment within 10 working days (deciding whether no further action is required, and the assessment can be closed, or whether further work is needed; again at 20 working days; and signed off with appropriate comment / action to meet good standards by 45 working days. Manager
The single assessment should be updated: As a minimum once every 12 months. Prior to a child becoming cared for. When any significant change or incident requires updated assessment and planning. Prior to a young person’s Pathway Plan being started. Where there is a proposed significant change to a care plan. Where progress is not seen to be made. When a manager with clear reasoning considers it necessary. Social Worker
Child In Need (section 17) As set out in the Child In Need Plan (agreed with a manager) Child is visited at least every 4 weeks (20 working days). Social Worker
Child subject to a Child Protection Plan (section 47) Child is visited within a maximum of 48 hours, thereafter, as set by the initial Child Protection Conference & Core Group Child is visited at least every 2 weeks (10 working days) Social Worker
Cared for Child On the day that the child is placed, then within 1 week of the beginning of the placement1 Post new placement visiting should take place on a weekly basis for the first four weeks or until the first cared for review (whichever is sooner) A child should then be seen every six weeks during the first year of any placement During subsequent years a child should be visited every six weeks unless permanent matching of that placement has been formally agreed at this point visiting frequency will reduce to 12 weekly. A child or foster carer regardless of placement status can asked to be visited as and when required. Where the child has a series of short breaks, they are seen as a minimum twice a year in that setting (at least one is unannounced) Social Worker
Immediately on the day if 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 safeguarding concern.  These are minimum requirements and the cared for review or a child’s needs may recommend more frequent visits than stated above.
Children with disabilities Timescales for visiting children with disabilities is completed every four weeks (20 working days). Children open to the disabilities team (held within the non-statutory pathway) are visited every 12 weeks Social Worker
Children and young People who are placed in a series of short breaks (short break care arrangements, or short stays with relatives): Within the first seven placement days then within 3 months of the first placement day. Intervals of no less than six months after the first visit. Unannounced at least once a year if placements interval is more than six months. At least annually the child’s sleeping arrangements will be seen. Social Worker
We understand the word placement is a term cited in national government publications and guidance. We know through research that children have told us the use of this word can be negative to their experience of care. We therefore support the exploration of using a term that best supports the language used by a child/young person to describe where they live when working with them.
Children placed in adoptive placements: Within the first week of the placement and weekly thereafter until the first review Thereafter, the frequency of visits is determined at the child’s Adoption Review or, if not specified, every six weeks for the first year and after this, three-monthly. Additional visits are arranged where there are any concerns. Social worker visits as per Placement Plan, until Adoption Order made, or placement ended. Social Worker
Children who are privately fostered: Within 9 days (7 working days) from the date of notification to the local authority Intervals of not more than six weeks during the first twelve months Intervals of not more than 12 weeks in any 2nd or subsequent year Social Worker
Children with temporarily approved foster carers or parents under Interim Care Order: Weekly until the first review Every four weeks thereafter until the carer is approved or final hearing completed Social Worker
Children subject to a Care Order and placed at home with parents Within the first week The child should be visited weekly until the first review or the first four weeks which ever is sooner. Intervals of no more than six weeks thereafter. Social Worker
Children who are reported as missing The ‘Torbay children missing from home or care’ procedures are followed – on the Torbay Safeguarding Children Board and Southwest Child Protection Procedures website. Return Home conversations expected within 72 hours of the child’s return, referring to the above procedures. Social Worker
Children in more than one placement – residential school and foster care or residential home Visited in each living situation, at least every 12 weeks Social Worker
Cared Experienced young people aged 18-25 At least every 2 months by their personal advisor. In addition, keeping in touch by phone, text or email based on the Young Person’s preference Frequency and type of communication agreed with the Young Person and set out in their Pathway Plan Social Worker

For further support, or to give feedback, please contact our Learning and Development department on: learning&