9.8 Visits by a Child to High Secure Hospitals and Prisons
High secure (formerly known as special) hospitals have a duty to implement child protection policies, liaise with their local safeguarding partnership, provide safe venues for children’s visits and provide nominated officers to oversee the assessment of whether visits by specific children would be in their best interests.
Many prisons now operate a similar system in relation to sex offenders and other dangerous offenders.
Children’s social care must assist staff in high secure hospitals to carry out their responsibilities in relation to the assessment (LAC (99) 23 amended by LAC (2000)18).
With respect to visits by children to patients who have mental health difficulties and are in local non-special hospitals (including those detained under the Mental Health Act 1983), the onus for risk assessments lies with the Mental Health Trust.
Patients who pose a risk or those found unfit to be tried, or not guilty by reasons of insanity, in respect of murder, manslaughter or one of the offences listed in Home Office Circular 16/1 2005 will only be eligible for a visit if within the permitted categories of relationship.
The nominated officer of the relevant hospital must contact a person with parental responsibility for the child to:
A clinical assessment of the patient must be undertaken by the hospital.
If the clinical findings are supportive of the visit and the person with parental responsibility is in agreement, the local authority must be asked to undertake an assessment about whether the visit is in the child’s best interests. The clinical assessment will be provided to the local authority.
Assessment with Respect to High Secure Hospitals
On receiving the request for an assessment, the social worker must:
The children’s social care assessment provided should establish:
The assessment must be completed within 1 month of the referral and the report sent to the nominated officer at the high secure hospital stating whether, in the opinion of children’s social care, the visit would be in the best interests of the child.
The decision should take account of the:
If the person with parental responsibility refuses to co-operate with the assessment and no information is known about the child, the nominated officer must be informed that a report cannot be provided.
Where the child is known to children’s social care, information from records may be supplied with the agreement of the person with parental responsibility.
If the social worker concludes that the visit would not, or may not, be in the child’s best interests then the hospital must not allow the visit.
If the social worker advises that the visit would be in the child’s best interests, then the hospital nominated officer should make the decision, following discussion with the social worker and after taking account of all available information.