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Pupil welfare – When should you make a house call?

January 1, 2024, 0:27 GMT+1
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  • Daniel Jarrett looks at what ought to happen when concerns over a pupil’s welfare prompt a visit to their home...
Pupil welfare – When should you make a house call?

There are myriad reasons that could warrant the need for a home visit by school representatives and practitioners, and every school will respond to such concerns differently.

There will usually be professionals with responsibility for different areas, such as an attendance lead, a pastoral lead or family support worker.

Depending on the situation, conversations will need to be had as to which member of staff is most suited to undertake a particular home visit. Sometimes it might be a member of staff who’s had a previous working relationship with the family in question.

Some practitioners might arrange a series of home visits with families. One example might be to ensure that children are ready in the mornings and perhaps even walk them to school, thus establishing a routine that the family may later be able to take on themselves.

There needs to be a thorough awareness of the possible risks when undertaking a home visit. These might include inaccessible entrances; any hazards associated with the property; pets that could be dangerous or particular relatives and individuals known to frequent the property.

Anything that could pose a risk to a practitioner completing a home visit needs to be discussed formally, noted in writing and checked ahead of time.

This information can be sourced from existing school records, other professionals who have previously worked with the family, or the telephone call that should be made to the family in advance, notifying them of the date and time of the home visit.

Initial visits

A professional entering a property for the first time should never do so on their own – it’s important that there be at least two professionals present to assess the risk and support each other in the event of any incidents.

It’s also worth noting that if there are any dangers associated with the property, it’s best that the conversation be conducted on the doorstep unless there’s an absolute need to enter.

Thankfully we’re not aware of any home visits that have gone wrong or given rise to a major issue of concern. On occasion, some practitioners have stated being uncomfortable with undertaking a home visit due to the risks involved, and instead arranged to meet families in school or passed the matter on to the police.

From my experience as a former practitioner and now Safeguarding Manager, I’ve always been impressed by the willingness of schools to undertake joint home visits.

It’s just a case of ensuring that the potential risks are reduced as much as possible, and that appropriate (and regularly updated) policies be put in place to ensure that practitioners undertaking home visits are effectively supported.

The majority of schools will have a lone working policy of some kind; if not, that’s something they can look into.

Common reasons for home visits

1 Persistent lateness
If a child’s lack of punctuality in the mornings indicates issues with the family’s daily routine

2 Low attendance
Prolonged absences of three to five days with no contact from parents may require a police referral

3 Lack of engagement
Persistent failure by the child’s family to attend parents’ evenings or other school meetings

4 Visible signs of distress
If a child’s outward appearance raises concerns regarding ill health, neglect or abuse

Daniel Jarrett is former safeguarding manager at School Home Support. Follow the charity on Twitter at @shsorguk.