No access to a child

Meaning of ‘No Access’

‘No Access’ is a term which describes the following situations, in a context where there are concerns for the physical safety of a child:

  • Admittance to the house is not obtained for a visit that has been made by appointment and there is not a plausible reason for this.
  • There is no response to a visit to the home, whether or not by appointment, and there is reason to believe that the lack of response is due to non-cooperation.
  • Once in the home, access to the child/ren in the house is unreasonably denied.
  • An appointment made to see the children, whether in the home or elsewhere, is not kept.

Practitioners must also be aware of possible attempts to delay or avoid contact, such as requests to re-arrange a planned visit, particularly also when the re-arranged appointment is not kept.

‘No access’ may occur at any point.

‘Closure’

In considering the meaning of any difficulties in making contact or seeing children whose physical safety may be at risk, which includes situations of domestic violence, account should be taken of the work of Reder Duncan & Gray (1993) who identified a process they termed ‘closure’.

‘Closure’ is defined by tightening of boundaries within the family in order to exclude outside intervention and influence. Closure could present, for example, as parental refusal to the child/ren being seen, non-attendance or decreasing attendance at nursery/school, failure to attend or to be available for pre-arranged appointments etc. and can show in physical signs such as curtains being consistently closed.

Closure may be partial, intermittent, persistent or terminal in nature and is due to an attempt to regain a perceived loss of control. It may signal an increase of stress within a family and an escalation of abuse towards the child/ren. Within families where there is domestic violence, no access may be linked to coercion, threats or intimidation by the perpetrator.

Any pattern to indicate that a form of closure is taking place, in a situation where there are concerns for a child’s safety, must be taken seriously, particularly where there is a history of child abuse, as closure can be considered to have potential fatal consequences for the child.

‘No Access’ Visits

There can be a simple explanation for a ‘No Access’ visit which does not indicate any increased concern for the child. On the other hand, such a visit may indicate increased concerns. In each case a careful judgement should be made.

Where there is a ‘No Access’ visit to a child and the appointment had been arranged and there are known indicators of risk, including domestic violence, which give cause for concern for the safety of the child, the Social Worker should:

  • Leave a note/letter giving a further early appointment i.e. the same or next working day and contact details.
  • Attempt to contact the parent by phone.
  • Attempt to find out the whereabouts of the child and parents.
  • Liaise with other practitioners involved to ascertain if they have seen the child or parents.
  • Make the Team Manager aware so that the facts of the case can be judged and a decision made as to whether further action is necessary that day.

Where there is a second ‘No Access’ visit, no plausible reason as to why that should be and there are concerns for the child’s safety, the Social Worker should:

  • Leave a strongly worded note to stress the importance of being able to see the child.
  • Attempt to contact the parents and other family members.
  • Liaise with others involved.
  • Discuss the case further with the Team Manager who should make a decision as to whether further action is necessary.

Depending on the seriousness of the situation, irrespective of whether it is a first or subsequent ‘No Access’ visit, there may be a need to seek Police assistance – see Police Action To Ensure Welfare Of Children: Powers Of Entry.

Where this relates to a child who is subject to a Child Protection Plan, there should also be liaison with the Chair of the Child Protection Conference.