Key Worker 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 Key Worker is used to describe the person who has key responsibility for a child in the home. This guidance summarises the key responsibilities for that person.


  1. Management of Key Workers
  2. The Role of the Key Worker - General
  3. Key Worker Guidance
  4. Planning and Recording a Key Worker Session

1. Management of Key Workers

The home's manager is responsible for ensuring that each child has a dedicated Key Worker who will build a positive and constructive relationship with the child (preferably the key worker should be appointed prior to admission for pre-admission visits, or certainly upon admission for the child’s introduction to the home).

The home's manager should ensure that all Key Workers are suitably trained and fully competent to carry out the duties required of them.

Ideally, the Key Worker should remain consistent throughout the child’s time at the home; however, the home's manager may decide that the Key Worker 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 or is likely to be on a long term absence;
  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 Workers are properly supervised and offered support and guidance.

2. The Role of the Key Worker - General

All staff have a duty to each young person living in the home regardless of their role.

A Key Worker is a named member of staff who has a central role in respect of a particular child.

A Key Worker ‘s areas of responsibility are broad, and involve getting to know the young person in an enhanced way including their case history and the details of their file. It is also important to get to know other individuals and service providers involved with the wider care of the child.

Responsibilities of the Key Worker include:

  • Acting as a positive role model;
  • Assessing the needs of the child;
  • Supporting children’s links with their families and local community, and promoting continued contact;
  • Establishing guidelines for behaviour;
  • Providing emotional support;
  • Creating a safe and happy environment in which to live;
  • Helping children to access education, health and leisure services;
  • Providing advice on independent living to young people who are about to leave care;
  • Overseeing the placement planning and recording systems for the child;
  • Collating information required for child's Placement Planning Meetings and Looked After Reviews.

The Key Worker should be the main co-ordinator of multi-agency services for the child. 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 each of the services.

Wherever possible, the Key Worker should be involved in visits prior to admission, so as to become a familiar face who will be present at the time of admission.

During the early stages of placement, the Key Worker should help the new child settle in and make sure they have a copy of the Young Person’s Guide and understand the house rules.

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

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

3. Key Worker Guidance

3.1 Being there for the child

Being there each morning (or making sure someone is doing it for you); checking that the bedroom is tidy, that there are clean and properly ironed clothes to wear, that s/he has had a wash, brushes their hair and are fully ready for the day ahead.

Talking to the child to make sure that s/he understands what is planned for the day.

If there are meetings, appointments 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 needs, including appointments with the dentist, doctors, and opticians.

Make sure the child has adequate clothing - bought, cleaned, dried and ironed. Ensure that your child is clean and presentable.

Bedrooms should be kept clean, personalised (the child should have an input into the personalisation of their room), in a good state of repair and be well equipped, there should be adequate facilities for personal belongings and clothes to be stored away and kept safe.

Safety - Children in residential care can feel vulnerable and frightened. Some are bullied or abused. Your job is to 'Be There' for them.

Know your key child- their file, background and family details; know their interests and hobbies; encourage them to take part, join clubs etc; find out what makes them happy, sad and angry; what frightens or worries them. Try to ease or reduce their concerns by offering advice, guidance or direction.

Plan at least one individual session with the child each week, (see Section 4, Planning and Recording a Key Worker Session below) and use this as an opportunity for you to talk about how s/he is doing, address and issues, talk through possible ways to behave differently and plan for the short and medium term etc.

Being there at night:

Bed or night times are potentially the worst time for all children, not just Looked After Children, as it is a time when children will reflect and show anxiety about what has happened that day or in the past, or when children will show anxiety about what lies ahead in the morning or in plans for the future. You should spend time with the child helping them to identify and come to terms with their feelings and emotions. You must do what you can to ease or reduce fears or worries by talking to the child - in a positive and supportive way, and also by alerting colleagues to the child’s feelings, identifying how this might affect the child’s behaviour and give advice about how to deal with potential problems.

When settling down for bed it is also useful for 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 and any plans that have been put in place for the short term.

Being there day-to-day:

Plan for the future by remembering birthdays and anniversaries or special occasions and make them special for the child.

Help the child to maintain positive links with their family, significant people in their lives and friends by planning ahead for important dates that may have a relevance to the child such as birthdays, anniversaries and other 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.

Get to know the Independent Reviewing Officer who is allocated to the child.

Keep the child informed about any changes which are happening in their lives, both at the home, in education, 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 Worker must actively promote the health care of each child and enable them to learn about healthy living.

In doing so they should liaise with key health professionals, including the Named Nurse for Looked After Children, the child's GP and dental practitioner.

The Key Worker 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 are in place.

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

The Key Worker 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 Key Worker is responsible for promoting the educational achievement of the child and liaising with education professionals See the following chapter:

This may include ensuring that the child is:

  • Provided with facilities conducive to study / complete homework;
  • Given help and encouragement with homework;
  • 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;
  • Encouraged to attend.

Key Workers may be required to attend parent's evenings and other school events with or without the child. The Key Worker should ensure that they are receiving all the necessary information and literature regarding events that effect the child’s education. These duties should be carried out with the purpose of strengthening home/school links and improving the child’s educational outcomes.

3.4 External Contacts

Key Workers need to keep themselves and their key child in touch with interested parties outside the home.

Family contact - Are there restrictions on contact? Is the child calling or writing to their family? Build a relationship with the family where appropriate.

Home visits - Are there restrictions? Should they be planned/accompanied?

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

Education - even when this is 'on-site' it should be seen as an external relationship needing your attention. The child’s school 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 child needs additional support or guidance from specialists or experts (e.g. on substance misuse, budgeting, sexual health), talk to your manager or the social worker about how it can be obtained. When support has been identified the Key Worker needs to ensure that arrangements are made for the child to  access this support. It is the Key Worker’s role where necessary to ensure a review takes place and to ensure any changes to the child’s care are agreed with relevant others and to make the necessary amendments to the child’s records.

3.5 Complaints

The Key Worker 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 it is the Key Worker's responsibility to ensure the child has an up to date copy of the Young Person’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 child's Care Plan, Health Care record or Placement Plan (e.g. information on substance 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 / electronic record is up to date and well organised.

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 Worker 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 Worker Session

Key working sessions provide you with a chance to observe the child, assess their progress, develop your relationship and identify and resolve problems etc.

You must arrange a Key Worker session with your key child as soon as possible after s/he is placed and then weekly thereafter.

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

There are various ways to do this, either 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 Worker session:

  • Plan ahead, talk to the child and build time into your week when it will be suitable to conduct a Key Worker session;
  • It is important that the child feels comfortable so consider which they might prefer: 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? 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 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 Young Person’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 take this personally; keep at it but talk to your manager if you need support or guidance;
  • Start small, concentrate on the positives;
  • If you have any concerns about child's safety or well being talk to your manager.