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4.2 Overnight Stays and Social Visits


The Positive Relationships Standard
Regulation 11


These procedures apply to all significant, unsupervised, contacts or overnight stays between children and relatives, friends (including neighbours and visitors); within or outside the home.

Section 2, 'Arrangements by the Home' set out the arrangements that may be made by the home for children to have contact or overnight stays up to four days without having to seek the approval of social workers. These procedures also apply to holidays or school trips within the UK, up to four days. For Holidays or school trips outside the UK or within the UK over four days.

For procedures covering contact with Parents and Siblings, see Contact with Parents / Carers / Siblings and Others Procedure.


For Holidays or School Trips Outside the UK or within the UK over four days see: Holidays and School Trips Procedure.

Also see: Sanctions Procedure.


This chapter was slightly amended to include the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).


  1. Normal Arrangements
  2. Social Visits / Overnight Stays
  3. Parental Consent
  4. Changing the Arrangements
  5. Review of Contact Arrangements

1. Normal Arrangements

Section 1 of this procedure applies to contact arrangements, including Overnight Stays, of more than four days.

Procedures relating to contact or Overnight Stays away of four days or less are set out in Section 2, Overnight Stays / Social Visits.

NOTE: No contact may be permitted between Children and their parents, friends or relatives without the approval of the Social Worker and, preferably, outlined in the Child's Placement Plan (or, at least, in writing).

When the child's placement is made, information regarding relationships with relatives and friends should be obtained from the social worker and arrangements for contacts (including overnight stays) with those people included in the Placement Plan.

The parents' views on contact with relatives and friends should be obtained.

See: Section 3, Parental Consent

Any such contact arrangements set out in the Placement Plan must be consistent with the child's Care Plan and any Contact Order in force.

Such contacts and stays should not normally be arranged without the social worker's agreement; and that agreement should not be given unless the social worker has arranged for the following assessments and checks:

  • All members of the relevant household aged 16 or over have been checked through the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS), the Children's Services records for the relevant area and the NSPCC;


  • An assessment of any risks which the contact would pose to the child has been made having regard to the results of the checks and any other relevant factors, including the need for the contact to be supervised.

Where the child makes new friends (including neighbours) whilst placed, significant unsupervised contact and overnight stays should not normally be made unless the social worker has been consulted and has arranged for the checks and assessments outlined above to be undertaken. The arrangements should then be set out in the Placement Plan.

2. Social Visits / Overnight Stays

The following procedure applies to social visits or overnight stays away from the home, of up to four days. For normal contact arrangements e.g. over 4 days, see Section 1, Normal Contact Arrangements.

Normally, significant unsupervised contact and overnight stays with relatives and friends should be subject to the agreement of the social worker, having made certain assessments and checks as described above.

However, short contacts/stays - up to four days - including holidays and school trips, can be agreed 'locally' by the Manager of the home if the social worker and, preferably, parents have delegated this authority, in writing.

Local authorities may have their own procedures on this matter; if so Home Managers must adhere to them.

In the absence of such procedures, the Home Manager should seek the agreement of social workers on the basis of those procedures outlined below.

  1. If no agreement has been reached, social workers must approve all contacts and stays with relatives, friends and neighbours;
  2. If the social worker does agree, it should be put in writing and any arrangements in relation to the child must be set out in the Placement Plan;
  3. The circumstances in which these situations arise include the following:
    1. Sleepovers with friends;
    2. Unplanned visits to the home by friends after school;
    3. Invitations to go out for the day with a friend's family where the family are unlikely to be back until late;
    4. Invitations to join a friend's family who are going away for a weekend;
    5. Holidays or school trips in the UK;
    6. A child's authorised day visit with a friend or family being extended if the child cannot return due to bad weather or a car breaking down where there are no known restrictions to an overnight stay taking place.
  4. Before authorising stays away, certain enquiries must be made by the Home Manager (or someone delegated to do so); for example the name of the adult who will be responsible for the child, the means of contacting the adult and the child during the contact and the arrangements for the child's return. There should be clarity about the sleeping arrangements, whether the child will be sharing a bedroom and, if so, what the arrangements are;
  5. Prior to the contact/stay, the adult who will have responsibility for the child must be seen, unless he or she is already known in which case the prior contact arrangements can be made over the telephone;
  6. The arrangements for supervising or caring for the child must not compromise the safety of the child or of anyone else;
  7. The following considerations should apply:
    1. How well is the friend or family known to the child?
    2. Have the arrangements been confirmed with the parent of the friend or the adult who will have responsibility during contact?
    3. What are the arrangements for the child returning to the home?
    4. Is the child aware of what to do if he or she wants to return to the home earlier than planned?
    5. Does the child have a contact number for the staff where they can be reached at any time?
    6. Does the child have access to a mobile phone?
  8. In all cases, discussions should be held with the child, dependent on his or her age, as to what, if any, information should be shared with other adults to enable them to look after the child appropriately. This might include:
    1. Any specific health care needs of the child;
    2. Any established routines for the child;
    3. Any behaviour management problems which, if the adult is unaware of, could lead to difficulties during the visit, for example the child may be over familiar with adults or over assertive with younger children.
  9. Any decision to share information should be on a 'need to know' basis and recorded;
  10. If the child refuses to allow appropriate information to be shared, then he or she needs to be made aware that this could affect the decision to allow the child to have contact and/or stay away from home;
  11. If satisfied that it is appropriate to allow the contact, a decision to allow the contact to go ahead may be made. If not, the contact may not be allowed. The decision and the contact arrangements, if agreed, should be recorded in full in the child's Daily Record;
  12. Even if it has been agreed that the social worker does not have to be consulted in making these arrangements, s/he must still be informed as soon as practicable afterwards and the social worker should inform the parents as appropriate.

3. Parental Consent

Wherever possible, parents' views and consent to contact with relatives and friends including any overnight stays away from the home should be obtained at the time of the placement. These views should be recorded including an indication of whether the parent wishes to be notified or their consent obtained every time an overnight stay takes place and if so, whether such consultation and prior consent is required before the contact can go ahead.

It should also be clearly recorded if parents do not consent to any continuing relationships or short stays away from the home, and the reasons for their lack of consent should be obtained.

If it is considered that contact is appropriate despite the parents' views, legal advice may be required and any decision to allow such contact needs to be clearly recorded together with reasons and explained to the parents.

4. Changing the Arrangements

Where the arrangements have to be changed or contact has to be cancelled or postponed, the child's social worker should be consulted or informed as soon as possible afterwards. It will also be necessary to consult/inform the relative/friend and make a new arrangement if possible.

Contact arrangements must not be withdrawn as a Sanction imposed on a child.

See: Sanctions Procedure

5. Review of Contact Arrangements

All contacts with relatives, friends and neighbours should be discussed at Placement Planning Meetings.

Any contact arrangements which are agreed as a result of new friendships formed during the child's placement should be included in the Placement Plan when it is reviewed.

The reasons for any change in the contact arrangements must be clearly recorded.

Where contact arrangements are contained within a Contact Order, legal advice should be obtained before the changes are implemented. An application to the Court will be required where the changes are not agreed.