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Practice Guidance in Regard to Children and young People Subject to a Child Protection Plan that Travel Within and Outside the United Kingdom

Practice Guidance in Regard to Children and young People Subject to a Child Protection Plan that Travel Within and Outside the United Kingdom

Scope of this chapter

This chapter provides guidance in respect of children who are subject to a Child Protection Plan and travel within the UK or who are either harmed by family from abroad, or who are themselves taken abroad on a long or short-term basis.


Permission granted by Lambeth for use of this chapter.

Related guidance

Social Workers, and other professionals, are required to carry out statutory duties in relation to children subject to Child Protection Plans that involve direct contact with children and their families. One of those statutory duties includes visits by a social worker at regular intervals. These visits can be announced (planned in advance with parent(s)) or unannounced (not planned in advance with parent(s)).

In accordance with Implementing the Child Protection Plan Procedure, Core Group and Lead Social Worker Procedures, the Lead Social Worker should:

  • See the child in accordance with their Child Protection Plan arrangements;
  • See the child’s bedroom;
  • Obtain the views of the child through observation and talking to the child.

In keeping in line with ensuring the safeguarding plans noted in the Child Protection Plan are carried out there should be contingency plans in place to address any factors which will inhibit the social worker (or other professionals) visiting the child.

Travelling within and out of the UK may affect the Child Protection processes due to the inability of professionals to have contact with the child and their family (e.g. needing to complete assessments, visits, engage in activities noted in the Child Protection Plan, etc.) so it’s important that parents keep practitioners informed of any travel plans that may affect carrying out the Child Protection Plan, including short term travel within the UK or Outside the UK. Therefore it is important for parents to inform professionals of plans for travel at the earliest possible opportunity (e.g. during Child Protection Conferences, Core Group Meetings or home visits). Where families have informed the social worker in advance, the social worker should try and visit/see the children as close to the day of travel as possible.

In order to ensure that the lead social worker visiting the child and family is aware of when the child and their family will be away from the home on holiday within the UK (e.g. days or weeks):

The Parent(s) Should:

  • Provide the following details to the social worker as soon as the travel plans are known:
    • Details of the dates they will be travelling (leaving and return date);
    • Details of where the family will be staying (with family, friends, hotel, etc.…);
    • If there are specific safeguarding actions noted in the child protection plan that need to be carried out by the parent, how will those safeguards be managed while on holiday.

The Social Worker Should:

  • Inform parent(s) of Children’s Services requirement to contact the host local authority and inform them that a Hertfordshire child will be in their area;
  • Inform the local authority where the child and family will be staying during their holiday. (Follow Children Moving Across Local Authority Boundaries Procedure);
  • Consider arrangements to maintain contact with child and family while on holiday;
  • Follow up with the child and family upon return home (e.g. resume visits).

This guidance is written to clarify practice in regard to two different circumstances relating to children and young people travelling outside of the UK whilst still subject to a Child Protection Plan, including unborn children. These two circumstances are:

  1. Pre-arranged family visits or holidays overseas, whilst one or more of the children within the family remain subject to a Child Protection Plan;
  2. The permanent or semi-permanent movement of a child or young person to a country outside of the UK.

In both of these circumstances it will be vital that the social worker and the Team Manager takes into account the following circumstances when assessing the level of likely risk to the child or young person in the new situation, taking into account the risk factors which led to the CP plan in this country.

As part of the risk assessment, the Social Worker and Team Manager must consider:

  1. Where the child and their family are going, the address and the details of who they will be staying with and contact details;
  2. Any political / social instability within the new country of residence;
  3. Whether or not the new placement / residence is with a family member known to the young person or not;
  4. Have the rest of the family moved with the young person or not;
  5. Any risk factors that may have precipitated the move (e.g. imminent commencement of legal proceedings);
  6. Was the move notified to the LA in advance of the movement of the young person;
  7. The length of time it is anticipated that the young person will remain outside of the UK;
  8. Arrangements to remain in contact with the child and family while they are overseas;
  9. Arrangements to ensure the child remains safe taking into consideration risks resulting in the CP Plan. A risk assessment may need to be completed.

a) All Circumstances (including Pre-arranged Holiday Outside of the UK)

In all circumstances where a young person subject to a CP Plan leaves the UK, the Social Worker must notify the following:

  • Team Manager;
  • Head of Service;
  • Service Manager;
  • Chair of the CP Conference;
  • Police;
  • Child Protection Reviewing Service Administrator.

This notification must confirm if this absence from the UK was known about, and if so the dates of expected return. Where possible, the notification should provide details of the address and names of adults in the new home / address, and their relationship to the child.

SW to notify all other Core Group members. This notification should be a two way process, with partners specifically asked to provide any relevant background details linked to the absence from the UK.

Core Group to:

  • Establish / clarify any plans the family have in relation to length of stay;
  • Clarify GP and school arrangements for the child;
  • Discuss any details / information that the host country has in relation to adults living at the new address.

b) Absence from the UK with no Prior Notification or Return Date

In circumstances where children and young people subject to a CP Plan leave the UK without a clear return date or where any circumstances indicate any other type of risk, the Director of Family Safeguarding/Operations Director for Specialist Services is to be notified in addition to those listed within the previous section.

Where there is no clear return date the Social Worker will need to begin the following tasks with immediate effect:

  • Hold a Strategy Discussion (with Police) or a Professionals’ meeting (if Police are not required) (Chaired by the CP Chair or another Senior Manager);
  • Seek legal advice via the HCC Legal Service;
  • Contact the Embassy for the country in which the child and family have travelled to and request contact information for the Social Care Organisation for that area / district of that country. For a list of Foreign Embassies based in London See Link to Foreign Embassies in the UK (GOV.UK) or contact the British Embassy in that country. See also DfE, Guidance on Working with Foreign Authorities: Child Protection Cases and Care Orders;
  • It may be necessary to contact the British Embassy in the country the child has gone to.

Where it is not clear whether or not the child and their family have left the country. It may be that advice needs to be sought from the Police and Border Agencies to identify if child has left the UK. In situations where it is suspected that the removal of the child is to avoid social care intervention, or the level of risk back in the UK is judged to be high, you may request that the social worker be informed by the Border Agency when the child returns to the UK. Once contact with the relevant Social Care Agency is made the following communication will need to be outlined:

  • Background to reasons for CP concerns in the UK;
  • Request for an initial home visit to the child to be undertaken which will need to  assess new circumstances and any immediate risk;
  • To establish / clarify any plans the family have in relation to length of stay;
  • GP and school arrangements for the child;
  • Any details / information that the host country has in relation to adults living at the new address;
  • Arrangements should be made to maintain contact with the child and family.

c) Procedural Issues

In situations outlined at (b) above a Need to Know Notification will be required with “Limited Circulation”.

  1. Background Details of the young person / family;
  2. Details of CP Plan – (category of Plan, Reason for Plan, key agencies);
  3. Details of New Address / Location;
  4. Outline of actions taken so far;
  5. List outstanding Actions, Issues requiring decision;
  6. Analysis of Continued Risk.

Once we have obtained sufficient information to make informed decisions in regard to the level of any continued risk Hertfordshire County Council (HCC) must inform the new Authorities of our recommendations in writing (translated where appropriate).

As and when we are notified that a child has returned to the UK, this notification should be accompanied with reciprocal details / information for the respective country’s Social Care Organisation if it still deemed by them to be appropriate. If the CP plan has been ended in the family’s absence, the professional network may need to consider whether a new referral needs to be made to Social Care, should it be deemed that the child remains at risk of suffering significant harm.

The CP Plan may be ended once Hertfordshire County Council is satisfied that:

  • The child is safe; or
  • The Social Care Organisation in the country of residence has acknowledged receipt of the information provided by HCC and will now respond (or not) according to the Laws, Policy and Procedures in their country.

A Child Protection Conference could be convened to consider whether to end the CP plan, if the child / young person is not returning to the UK or a decision may be made to end the CP Plan outside of the Child Protection Conference process (see Child Protection Conferences Procedure).

In addition to the current procedure on discontinuing the Child Protection Plan – (see Child Protection Conferences Procedure, Actions and Decisions of the Conference). The Operations Director of Family Safeguarding must be informed of the decision to cease the plan.

Throughout the process and where appropriate, partners should be encouraged to contact their own counter-parts (Social Care, Health, Police, etc.) in the new host country should there be any specific health, education or criminal matter that may need to be taken forward.

The Operations Director of Family Safeguarding, and the Operations Director for Specialist Services (if child is CLA subject to a CP Plan), should be regularly updated on developments.

d) Practice Considerations

  • Does the Foreign Office or the British Embassy or High Commission need to be informed? This is particularly useful in countries where there is political instability.
    Switchboard: 020 7008 1500.
    Advice can be sought from:
    Child Protection Unit
    Consular Directorate
    Foreign and Commonwealth Office
    King Charles Street
    SW1A 2AH;
  • Children Coming to the UK: A guide to working with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office – Guidance on returning British children to the UK where there are child protection concerns;
  • See Foreign Travel Advice for updates;
  • Is it appropriate to use interpreters for letters, telephone conversations?
  • Make efforts to maintain contact with the family;
  • Where possible and appropriate link with the birth family that remain in the UK will be a vital and helpful source of information and negotiation;
  • Consideration of use of International Social Services (only if appropriate);
  • Ensuring parents are updated and notified of significant development.

The possibility of the child being subjected to FGM or Forced Marriage, or Trafficking should be considered in relevant cases.

Reference - Working Together to Safeguard Children 2010 11.98 – 11.99 (now archived).

Last Updated: December 7, 2023