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3.1 Key/Linkworker Guidance


Regulation 5 – Engaging with the Wider System to Ensure Each Child’s Needs are Met

The Children’s Views, Wishes and Feelings Standard


The term Keyworker and Linkworker are used to describe the person with key responsibility for a child in the home. This guidance sets out the key responsibilities for that person.


  1. Management of Key/Linkworkers
  2. The Role of the Key/Linkworker - General
  3. Key/Linkworker Guidance
  4. Planning and Recording a Key/Linkworker Session

1. Management of Key/Linkworkers

The Home's Manager is responsible for ensuring that each child has a Key/Linkworker who is able to engage in a positive relationship with the child.

The Home's Manager should ensure that all Key/Linkworkers are suitably trained and fully competent to carry out the duties required.

The Home's Manager may decide that the Key/Linkworker for a child should change if:

  1. The child complains that the relationship is not working;
  2. The member of staff leaves the employment of the home;
  3. The member of staff is unable to establish a positive relationship;
  4. The manager believes that the relationship is not in the best interests of the child or the member of staff.

The Home's Manager should ensure that Key/Linkworkers are properly supervised and/or provided with mentors who may offer them support and guidance.

2. The Role of the Key/Linkworker - General

A Key/Linkworker is a named member of staff who has a central role in respect of a particular child This will include the overseeing of the placement planning and recording systems.

The Key/Linkworker should become the main co-ordinator of services for a particular child in the home. They should help other staff follow the agreed approaches and care strategies set out in the Placement Plan.They should also help to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the services.

The Key/Linkworker should be appointed by the Home's Manager preferably before a place has been offered to the child. Where this is not possible, it should be done on the date of admission.

Wherever possible, the Key/Linkworker should be involved in visits prior to admission. During this period, they should strive to become a familiar face who will be present at the time of admission.

During the early stages of placement, the Key/Linkworker should spend sufficient time with the new child to assist with settling in.

The Key/Linkworker should ensure that all the child's records are adequately set up and recording is taking place.

The Key/Linkworker is responsible for establishing and maintaining an appropriate relationship with the child, and collating information required for Child's Placement Planning Meetings and Looked After Reviews; see the following relevant Chapters:

The Key/Linkworker, supported by the staff team, should assist the child to maintain social, recreational, cultural and religious links through daily living activities inside and outside the home.

Being a Key/Linkworker means working towards meeting a whole range of social, spiritual, emotional and intellectual needs in a way that promotes dignity, choice and independence.

3. Key/Linkworker Guidance

3.1 Being there for the child

Being there each morning

Or making sure someone is doing it for you - with the child checking that the bedroom is tidy, that there are clean and properly ironed clothes to wear, that s/he has had a wash, groomed hair etc.

Talking to the child to make sure that s/he understands what is planned for the day; issues to concentrate on, how best to deal with potential problems etc.

If there are meetings or Court appearances planned, talk through how these will go, possible issues etc. Raise any risks or concerns with your Line Manager or supervisor.

Being there during the day

By taking a regular interest in the child's health - dentist, doctors, and opticians. These need booking and ensuring that regular check-ups occur.

Make sure the child has adequate clothing - bought, cleaned, dried and ironed. Ensure that your child is clean and presentable. It both shows that we care and helps improve their self esteem.

  • Bedrooms - clean, personalised, in good state of repair and well equipped, personal belongings and clothes stored and safe;
  • Bathroom - clean and in good repair, toiletries provided/replaced and child knowing how to maintain a good standard of personal hygiene;
  • Safety - Children often give the impression that they are 'cool', that they are not bothered or that they can cope but the reverse is usually the case. Children can feel vulnerable and frightened. Some are bullied or abused or live in fear of it. Most fear for the future.

Your job is to understand and 'Be There' for them. Don't wait to be told by your Key/Linkchild that s/he is afraid; assume that it is the case and do all you can to make them feel safe and supported.

Know your key/Linkchild, their file, background and family details; know their interests and hobbies; encourage them to take part, join clubs etc; what makes them happy, sad and angry; what frightens or worries them. Then try to ease or reduce their concerns by offering advice, guidance or direction. If necessary get help but don't leave the child alone.

Plan at least one individual session with your Key/linkchild each week as an opportunity for you to talk about how s/he is doing, issues to address, possible ways to behave differently, planning for the short and medium term etc.

Being there at night

Bed or night times are potentially the worst time for children. You must spend time with your Key/linkchild doing practical things like making sure s/he has clean clothes for the next day, toiletries and a clean towel, that s/he knows what is going on the next day or is planned in the short term. But you must do what you can to ease or reduce fears or worries. Do this by talking to the child - in a positive and supportive way; and also by warning colleagues what might happen and give advice about how to deal with potential problems.

  • Planning for the future by remembering birthdays and anniversaries and making them special;
  • Spot and plan ahead for other dates that may have a relevance to the child such as anniversaries of significant events in their lives;
  • Keep all the other staff informed and up to speed about what is happening in the child's life;
  • Advocate on your child's behalf;
  • Keep your key/linkchild informed about what changes are happening in their lives, here at the unit, in their overall plan, with the social worker and at home with their family.

You are responsible for the child even when you aren't there! If issues need to be dealt with when you are off duty make sure you inform the Home's Manager or colleagues. If you are likely to be away on leave plan ahead; don't leave the child alone wondering what is going to happen in your absence.

3.2 Health Care

The Key/Link worker must actively promote the health care of each child and enable child to learn about healthy living.

In doing so they should liaise with key health professionals, including the Clinical Nurse specialist, the child's GP and dental practitioner.

The /Key/Linkworker should ensure that the physical, emotional and health needs of the child are identified and appropriate action is taken to ensure the medical, dental and other health services needed to meet them.

Children should be provided with guidance, advice and support on health and personal care issues appropriate to their age, needs and wishes, e.g. see:

The Link/Key/Linkworker must ensure that relevant health care procedures in this manual are adhered to, in particular, that the child is registered with a GP and has access to a Dentist; and that the child has an up to date Health Care Plan. See the following procedures:

3.3 Education Achievement

The Link/Key/Linkworker must be responsible for promoting the educational achievement of the child and liaising with key professionals including the designated teacher and LAC Education Co-ordinator. This may include ensuring that the child is:

  • Provided with facilities conducive to study and to homework and actively encouraged and supported in doing so;
  • Given help with homework if they wish;
  • Provided with reading support where needed;
  • Encouraged to participate in extra-curricular activities;
  • Encouraged to discuss any problems they may have at school in privacy;
  • Encourage attendance.

This may include attending parent's evenings and other school events in the absence of the child's parents.

3.4 External Contacts

Key/Linkworkers need to keep themselves and their key/linkchild in touch with interested parties outside the home.

Family contact - is the child calling or writing to their family? Are there restrictions on contact; who they call or the frequency of calls? Build a relationship with the family where appropriate.

Home visits - should they be planned/accompanied?

Social Workers - keep them regularly (weekly) informed of good news as well as bad and again build up a working relationship. Ensure social workers visit frequently.

Education - even when this is 'on site' they should be seen as an external relationship needing the attention you would give to the social worker. They need to be informed and aware of issues and you should be equally aware of how the child is getting on at school (Also see Section 3.3, Educational Achievement)

Specialist/expert support and guidance: If the key/linkchild needs additional support or guidance from specialists or experts (e.g.: on drug misuse, budgeting, sexual health), talk to your supervisor/manager or the social worker about how it can be obtained.

3.5 Complaints

The Key/Linkworker must ensure the child understands how the complaints procedures work, that s/he has a copy of the authority's complaints procedure and is confident enough to use the procedures if necessary.

Also ensure the key/linkchild has an up to date copy of the Children's Guide and other information produced by the home for children; ensure the child is fully conversant with the Fire Precautions and is aware of fire exits. If there are particular requirements/needs emanating from the key/linkchild's Care Plan or Placement Plan (e.g.: information on drug misuse, budgeting, sexual health), make sure this is obtained and provided - in a form which is accessible and understandable to the child.

3.6 Paperwork, Files, Placement Plans and Daily Records

Ensure that records and the children's files are current and well organised. Although many other people will have input to the paperwork overall responsibility lies with the Key/Linkworker.

Make sure the child's Placement Plan is kept up to date and relevant to the child's interests and needs; make sure the child has a copy.

The Key/Linkworker must ensure that the Child's file is kept up to date, in particular, that relevant/up to date copies of the following records are contained in it:

4. Planning and Recording a Key/Linkworker Session

Key/Linkworking sessions provide you with a chance to observe, assess, develop your relationship, identify and resolve problems etc.

You must arrange weekly Key/Linkworker sessions with your key/linkchild as soon as possible after s/he is placed and then weekly thereafter.

The overall purpose of Key/Linkworker sessions is to discuss progress, problems and achievements.

There are various ways to do this: formally in a meeting or informally whilst undertaking an activity.

PLAN AHEAD: It is not exhaustive, but this is a list of things you should do in planning a Key/Linkworker session:

  • Plan ahead, talk to the child and build time into your week when it will be suitable to conduct a Key/Linkworker session;
  • It is important that the child feels comfortable so consider which is likely to be better: a formal meeting or informal i.e. during an activity;
  • Plan the meeting or activity in advance, arrange for petty cash etc.
  • Inform the child of the date, time and where you will be having the meeting;
  • Ask the child to think about issues s/he wants to talk about;
  • What is the purpose of the session: Progress Chasing; Dealing with specific issues, behaviours or problems, Planning for a Review or Court Appearance, Developing ideas for the future, Talking about the past;
  • Think through (with your supervisor, or Line Manager) what you need to deal with or talk about and how you can make it work;
  • If planning a first session, as soon as possible after the child's placement, make sure all the basics are in place: that the child understands why s/he has been placed, the timescales for the placement, that a Placement Plan has been completed or a date for completion is set (go through the Placement Plan with the child, identify any areas of concern), that the child has a copy of the home's Children's Guide or other information provided for children, that the child is fully aware of the Fire Precautions, that s/he has necessary toiletries, clothing, bedding, towels etc.
  • At the first meeting or soon after, agree or set some boundaries or rules about how you will conduct your sessions. For example: That you will meet once a week, that you can't offer confidentiality but you will keep information safe, that you will be keeping a record, that you will be on time, what sort of meeting would suit: formal or activity based (if so what activities);
  • If you need to deal with negative behaviours or issues think carefully about how to present them. Don't forget you need the young person to accept the negatives and be prepared to change;
  • Relationships take time and change is always difficult so don't try to do too much too soon;
  • The child may try to reject or avoid you. Don't let this get to you; keep at it but talk to your supervisor or Line Manager if you need support or guidance;
  • Start small, concentrate on the positives;
  • If you are unsure about your own or the child's safety talk to your supervisor or manager and ensure you plan to reduce or avoid your concerns;
  • Afterwards talk to your supervisor or manager - Do this immediately if you have any concerns or you feel uncomfortable about what has happened.