Failure to Gain Access


All Children and Young People's staff, other professionals and volunteers who visit or call on children and families in their own homes are covered by this policy.

Organisations who are commissioned through Children's Services to provide services must have their own policy which should be consistent with this policy.

1. Purpose

The policy aims to give clear guidance on the actions that those working with children, young people and their families must take when there is no response to a visit to see a child, including those children who have a Child Protection Plan. By taking a consistent approach, it should help to ensure that other agencies are alerted and asked to assist when appropriate.

2. Definitions

Failed Access - A planned or unannounced visit, where the child/young person was expected to have been seen, but upon arrival, contact was unsuccessful.

3. Mandatory Procedure

  1. Fieldwork Staff

    It is normal practice for fieldwork staff to make a mutually convenient appointment with children and their families before visiting. However there will be occasions when unannounced visits are carried out.

    If a fieldworker calls at a house at a pre-arranged time or on an unannounced visit and is unable to gain entry, staff should check the windows to establish if there is any movement within the house. If possible staff should phone the family to see if they can obtain a response. It is not acceptable to simply leave a calling card. Interpreters should be used where the family do not speak or read English competently.

    If the child or family cannot be seen or traced, fieldwork staff should use their professional judgement, taking into account the family's past history and level of vulnerability, as to what action they should take. If there is any cause for concern they must discuss the situation with their Line Manager (or other appropriate manager). The Line Manager should consider telephoning any known contacts e.g. family, Health Visitor (dependent on the age of the child) and other professionals.

    The Line Manager/ Duty Manager and fieldworker may consider approaching the Police if the degree of concern is felt to be high.

    Any missed visits must be recorded in ICS or appropriate recording system.

    If there are three 'no access" visits then a Planning Meeting/Strategy meeting/discussion should be considered by the line manager and the outcome of this decision should be recorded.

  2. If there are no known causes for concern:
    • Check the address is correct - if not ascertain the correct address and send a new appointment;
    • A card will be left at the child/family's home requesting the family contact the professional within a specified time e.g. one day, or a letter sent to alert them of the failed access, and an opportunity given to rearrange a mutually convenient appointment. When leaving/sending a written communication staff should be aware of families who are non literate in their first language;
    • If no contact is received from the family within the timescale specified on the card or in the letter, the professional will attempt to make further contact to arrange a convenient time to visit;
    • A second failed access visit may necessitate discussion with the wider relevant agencies associated with the child/family. All decisions must be recorded;
    • As a result of failed access a child/family may be identified as a cause for concern. It is the responsibility of the Team Manager to consider if a Strategy Meeting should be convened;
    • All actions must be clearly documented in the child's records in ICS.

  3. If there are causes for concern:
    • Check the address is correct. If not ascertain the correct address and arrange a further urgent appointment;
    • A letter should be left requesting that the family contact the writer before the end of working day. Staff should be aware of families who are non-literate and should consider language issues;
    • If no contact is received from the family/parent during the working day the Social Worker or other professional must attempt further contact as a matter of urgency to arrange a to visit.

      On the day of the failed access visit this fact must be documented in the child's records;
    • A second failed access will necessitate the Social Worker or other professionals to discuss with their Line Manager and the other agencies associated with the client/family what action should be taken. Record all discussions and any action plans;
    • If there are clear child protection issues, child protection procedures just be followed (see Gloucestershire Safeguarding Children Board South West Child Protection Procedures);
    • All actions must be clearly documented in the child's records.

  4. Failure to see a child who is on a Child Protection Plan
    • Where a professional is prevented from seeing a child on a Child protection Plan in circumstances causing concern they should inform their Line Manager and the relevant Lead Social Worker or if not available the Case Supervisor or duty Social Worker immediately;
    • Professionals may be prevented from seeing a child in a variety of ways such as deliberate refusal of entry, excuses regarding the child's alleged unavailability through sleep, out playing etc or the family's real or apparent absence from the home;
    • Where a Key Worker is notified of a difficulty in seeing a child they should notify their line manager;
    • A decision should be made regarding the urgency for a visit to take place by the Lead Social Worker or duty Social Worker with possible further action if that visit results in failure to see the child;
    • Delay should not occur as a result of a line manager not being available; other appropriate managers should be contacted. The responsibility remains with the Lead Social Worker or duty Social Worker;
    • Should a visit prove unsuccessful, the Lead Social Worker or duty Social Worker must liaise with an appropriate manager to consider whether a S47 Strategy Meeting is required.