SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
This procedure applies to all children.
For Looked After Children, this chapter should be read in conjunction with:Holidays and School/Organisational Trips inside and Outside the UK Procedure
This procedure provides general advice on the planning and organisation of outdoor activities, such as educational visits, holidays or trips out. The generic term 'Activity' is used to cover all these situations.
It is acknowledged that there is a wide variation in the type of activities undertaken with children. It is not suggested that it is always necessary to fulfil all the arrangements listed below for every activity with a child as it may not be appropriate or necessary, for example, for short trips to the shops. It will depend on the type of activity and the age, needs and number of the children involved. If in doubt, the manager must be consulted.
The chapter does not provide procedures or guidance for specified activities, such as hill walking - for such activities, staff must refer to relevant corporate procedures and guidance; (see also see Section 7, Adventurous Activities).
2. Planning and Authorisation
The general principle is that activities and trips must be properly planned and authorised, and that staff must conduct Risk Assessments (see Section 5, Risk Assessment). The following should be applied as necessary to each activity undertaken:
The manager or someone delegated to act on the manager's behalf, must oversee and authorise all activities/trips. As soon as it is known that an activity or series of activities are likely, the manager must be consulted and should oversee and approve all arrangements, or delegate another person to act on his or her behalf. All arrangements must be recorded and signed off by the manager in consultation with relevant social workers, carers and parents.
Appropriate written consents must be obtained. Where parental consent is not given, the social worker may need to seek legal advice as to whether the activity can go ahead in relation to a Looked After child. In all other cases, where parental consent is not given, the child cannot be included on the activity.
If the child is travelling overnight, a copy of the consent should be carried by staff.
Where a series or range of activities are necessary (for example, a series of supervised contacts or the undertaking of routine activities), the arrangements should be agreed with the manager in advance, and a date set for the review of the arrangements.
A member of staff should be designated as 'in charge' or as the Group Leader. The Group Leader must prepare and produce a route, timetable or schedule for the activity, including dates, times of travel, vehicle(s) to be used, the location of planned breaks, places/locations to be visited and people to be visited.
The Group Leader should ensure that a mobile 'phone is carried at all times and/or that arrangements are in place to communicate with the manager.
It is recommended that the Group Leader arrange for 'on board' activities (such as games or magazines) to be carried for the child(ren), as well as refreshments
Consideration must be given to children's needs and interests, including any medical or healthcare needs. The Group Leader must identify the children who will be taking part in the activity and consider what arrangements or plans must be made, taking account of:
- The Care Plan and Placement Information Record (in relation to Looked After Children), Risk Assessment (see Section 5, Risk Assessment) or other relevant plans;
- Recent/relevant events/Incidents;
- Group dynamics, staff/child relationships;
- Child protection Issues;
- Violent or other offending behaviour;
- The healthcare or mental health needs of the children;
- Level associated with drug/alcohol etc. misuse;
- Level of disability and associated special needs;
- Insurance arrangement suitable to the activity.
Unless otherwise agreed with a manager, children must be supervised by staff with appropriate levels of experience and qualifications. A list of staff or other responsible adults who are likely to take part must be drawn up. If possible, at least one member of staff should be known to the child(ren) and there must be one member of staff from each gender. Where this is not possible the manager must approve the alternative arrangements, ensuring that the best interests of the children are accounted for; in these circumstances the staff/adults taking responsibility for the child must be provided with relevant information about the child to enable the activity to be undertaken safely.
The Group Leader must ensure the child/staff ratios are adequate to meet the needs of the children and the risks posed, for example, where there is a risk of violence, hazardous activities are undertaken, or remote locations are used.
Where there is a risk of confrontational or violent behaviour, the Group Leader/Manager must ensure that staff undertaking the activity are suitably trained and are familiar with relevant procedures and guidelines contained in this manual, for example the use of Physical Intervention in relation to looked after children.
If the child is being moved or transferred to a placement/home, the Group Leader must ensure that the child's belongings/valuables are packed/carried, (in a suitcase or suitable hold-all - not a bin-bag) with an Inventory. If this is not possible, the Group Leader should check that arrangements are in place and reassure the child.
The Group Leader should ascertain whether the child will require medication whilst travelling away from home, and make suitable arrangements for obtaining, storing, administering and recording the medication.
All staff/carers must carry ID cards or a means of identity.
The local authority maintains suitable Public Liability Insurance. It is important that the staff take the necessary precautions not to invalidate that insurance.
Normally, holidays for looked after children are insured fully under this insurance for any holiday within the United Kingdom. Holidays outside the United Kingdom may require additional insurance for travel. A European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) needs to be applied for prior to the holiday taking place if travelling to an EC country.
Where children are undertaking adventurous or hazardous activities provided by a centre or supervised by another company, the Group Leader must ensure they carry suitable insurance cover, and that staff who may have unsupervised contact with children have had Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks.
4. Financial Arrangements and Meals
The Group Leader must ensure that suitable funds are available and that arrangements are in place for meals and accommodation. Any special dietary needs of a child should be ascertained in advance and appropriate planning made to ensure that these needs are met during the activity.
5. Risk Assessment
The Manager or person delegated to oversee the activity must approve a completed Risk Assessment in advance.
A Risk Assessment for a visit need not be complex but it should be comprehensive. It does not generally require technical formulae or professional health and safety expertise, but specialised information for some visits may be necessary and managers must ensure that the person assessing is competent to do so.
A formal assessment of the risks that might be met on an activity should have the aim of preventing the risks or reducing them. Children must not be placed in situations which expose them to an unacceptable level of risk. If the risks cannot be contained or managed, the activity must not take place.
The Risk Assessment should be based on the following considerations as well as those described in Section 2, Planning and Authorisation.
- What are the hazards?
- Whom might they affect?
- What safety measures need to be in place to reduce the risk to an acceptable level?
- Can the designated Group Leader put the safety measures in place?
- What steps will be taken in an emergency?
In undertaking the Risk Assessment, the Group Leader must consult all other staff taking part and children who are capable of making informed decisions, record the risk assessment, arrange for it to be seen and signed off by the manager and then provide copies for all staff/carers taking part. One copy must be left with the manager.
Frequent activities/visits to local venues such as swimming baths, or where a child is transported to and from school, may not need a Risk Assessment for each trip; but the manager must ensure that an initial Risk Assessment is completed for the series/range of activities or for locations used frequently. The Risk Assessment should be updated if there are significant changes to circumstances.
Alternatively, a risk assessment which has been agreed for a series or range of activities/visits must be reviewed immediately after any information comes to light, or any event/incident occurs which compromises the safety of the children/staff. In such circumstances, the activities/visits must be suspended until a review has taken place and the manager is satisfied that a suitable new Risk Assessment has been completed.
The Group Leader should take the following factors into consideration when assessing the risks:
- The type of visit/activity and the level at which it is being undertaken;
- The location, routes and modes of transport;
- The competence, experience and qualifications of the staff;
- Ratios of children to staff;
- The group members' age competence, fitness, and temperament, and the suitability of the activity;
- The health care needs of the children;
- The quality and suitability of available equipment;
- Seasonal conditions, weather and timing;
- Emergency procedures;
- The need to monitor risks throughout the activity;
- The children's backgrounds, i.e. offending, mental health issues, disabilities, risk of self harming or suicidal behaviour, health, absconding, child protection, drugs.
When approving the Risk Assessment and subsequent plan for the activity, the manager should determine what latitude the Group Leader has to change the plan, the need for a contingency plan and an 'on call' or backup procedure to provide support, advice or direction to the Group Leader once the activity has started.
6. Preparation of the Children
As soon as practicable before the activity is due to start, the children should be notified of the following.
- The intention to involve the children in the planning;
- An explanation of the proposed activity, including its aims and objectives;
- Expectations about their behaviour and the implications of poor behaviour;
- Appropriate and inappropriate personal contact including sexual activity;
- Emergency procedures and safety precautions;
- Rendezvous procedures;
- Dangers e.g. coastal visits, mountain walking;
- What clothing they will require.
7. Adventurous Activities
If an activity holiday is proposed, the name, address and phone number of the organisation, activities involved and type of accommodation should be obtained.
There are a number of checks which must be made on activity holidays.
These must be undertaken by the social worker/Group Leader with the following exception:
- If the holiday has been arranged by the child's school the school should be asked to confirm that these checks have been made and that sufficient staff or subcontracted staff will be present to supervise the children.
7.1 Organisations Registered with the Adventure Activity Licensing Authority
The Social Worker/Group Leader should confirm that the organisation is licensed with the Adventure Activity Licensing Authority. The licence registers the organisation for sports in 4 categories (caving, trekking, mountaineering, water sports) and the conditions in which it is licensed to provide them. The Social Worker/Group Leader should look for:
- Licence number. This will be a double number e.g.: L1234/R5678;
- You should verify the licence by ringing the Licensing Authority (see link above);
- What sports and conditions it is licensed for.
The licence is an indication of the standard of health and safety the organisation achieves. It also indicates that police checks and references have been taken up for staff.
7.2 Organisations not Registered with the Adventure Activity Licensing Authority
Some activities, which contain an element of risk, fall below or outside of the licensing level and requirements. For organisations not licensed with the Adventure Activity Licensing Authority, the following checks should be carried out:
Ask for the following:
- A list of staff and their qualifications for the activities offered;
- Whether all staff and volunteers are police/DBS checked;
- Whether references are taken up on all staff and volunteers;
- Whether the organisation undertakes formal risk assessments on the activities; ask to be sent copy/copies of the risk assessment(s). These should identify risks as well as measures and procedures by which the risks are controlled.
8.1 Accommodation (Indoors)
- The immediate accommodation area should be exclusively for the group's use;
- There should be heating and appropriate ventilation;
- The accommodation must be safe i.e. locks on external doors;
- The accommodation must have adequate fire precautions, procedures including fire exits and alarms;
- The whole group must be made aware of the layout of the accommodation;
- There must be adequate space for storing clothing;
- There must be adequate lighting (take a torch);
- There should be recreational accommodation/facilities wherever possible;
- The accommodation must be suitable to the gender mix of all parties present, allowing for privacy of toilet/bathing areas;
- Each child should have a separate bedroom;
- There should be adequate first aid facilities.
8.2 Accommodation (Outdoors)
The above should be taken into consideration. For camping, there are numerous additional considerations to be taken into account, e.g. safety issues, security, cooking safety, fire. All concerns should be part of the Risk Assessment (see Section 5, Risk Assessment).
8.3 Sleeping Arrangements
Wherever possible, there should be separate male and female sleeping/bathroom facilities for children and staff. If this is not possible, a rota system must be implemented.
Staff should supervise the children at night and remain in the immediate vicinity.
Rota should be devised to enable the maximum supervision possible. The on call person should not retire until the children have been settled for one hour.
Individual/group needs must be taken into consideration at night e.g. a child may prefer not to sleep in a dormitory setting.
Sleeping arrangements must reflect the fact that staff have considered the individual needs of and associated risks to children on the activity. Sleeping arrangements must be detailed in the plan and approved by the manager.
Security arrangements must be implemented at night. Wherever possible, a child should be prevented from absconding.