Key/Link Worker Guidance


Regulation 5 – Engaging with the Wider System to Ensure Each Child’s Needs are Met

The Children’s Views, Wishes and Feelings Standard


The term Keyworker and Link Worker are used to describe the person with key responsibility for a child in the home. This guidance sets out the key responsibilities for that person.


This chapter was slightly amended in October 2011 in regard to the change from manager to Director.


  1. Management of Key/Link Workers
  2. The Role of the Key/Link Worker - General
  3. Key/Link Worker Guidance
  4. Planning and Recording a Key/Link Worker Session

1. Management of Key/Link Workers

The Community Director/Registered Manager is responsible for ensuring that each child has a Key/Link Worker who is able to engage in a positive relationship with the child.

The Director should ensure that all Key/Link Workers are suitably trained and fully competent to carry out the duties required.

The Director may decide that the Key/Link Worker for a child should change if:
  1. The child complains that the relationship is not working;
  2. The member of staff leaves the employment of the home;
  3. The member of staff is unable to establish a positive relationship;
  4. The manager believes that the relationship is not in the best interests of the child or the member of staff.

The Community Director should ensure that Key/Link Workers are properly supervised and/or provided with mentors who may offer them support and guidance.

2. The Role of the Key/Link Worker - General

A Key/Link Worker is a named member of staff who has a central role in respect of a particular child. This will include the overseeing of the placement planning and recording systems.

The Key/Link Worker should become the main co-ordinator of services for a particular child in the home. They should help other staff follow the agreed approaches and care strategies set out in the Plan.They should also help to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the services.

The Key/Link Worker should be appointed by the Community Director preferably before a place has been offered to the child. Where this is not possible, it should be done on the date of admission.

Wherever possible, the Key/Link Worker should be involved in visits prior to admission. During this period, they should strive to become a familiar face who will be present at the time of admission.

During the early stages of placement, the Key/Link Worker should spend sufficient time with the new child to assist with settling in.

The Key/Link Worker should ensure that all the child's records are adequately set up and recording is taking place.

The Key/Link Worker is responsible for establishing and maintaining an appropriate relationship with the child, and collating information required for Child's Placement Planning Meetings and Looked After Child Reviews; see the following relevant Chapters:

The Key/Link Worker, supported by the staff team, should assist the child to maintain social, recreational, cultural and religious links through daily living activities inside and outside the home.

Being a Key/Link Worker means working towards meeting a whole range of social, spiritual, emotional and intellectual needs in a way that promotes dignity, choice and independence.

Given the complex and often agonising experience each young person has had in relation to parental figures, the Key/Link working relationship is always a central arena in which the essential emotional work takes place. This relationship enables the child or young person to experience extremes of hate and love and learn to manage their behavioural consequences. Key / link working a child will feel difficult or even impossible for considerable periods of time, but arising from this experience will be authentic and reliable personal growth.

When a child appears to have become unmanageable through their difficulty in making and sustaining attachments and relationships, the temptation is avoidance either through moving the child or changing the adults. This may manage the symptoms that are presented but ultimately can only compound deep and intractable problems in relating. We therefore insist that difficulties between Key/Link Workers and their Key/Link children are attended to by the group through in-depth work in forums like the Community Meeting. As these difficulties are addressed and worked through in a public sphere, the community group can preserve and consolidate the understanding and growth that has been achieved. This is the way in which early attachment difficulties and the resultant disorders can be rectified and real personal change is brought about.

3. Key/Link Worker Guidance

3.1 Being there for the child

Being there each morning (or making sure someone is doing it for you) with the child checking that the bedroom is tidy, that there are clean clothes to wear, that s/he has had a wash, groomed hair etc.

Talking to the child to make sure that s/he understands what is planned for the day; issues to concentrate on, how best to deal with potential problems etc.

If there are meetings or Court appearances planned, talk through how these will go, possible issues etc. Raise any risks or concerns with your Line Manager or supervisor.

Being there during the day by taking a regular interest in the child's health - dentist, doctors, and opticians. These need booking and ensuring that regular check-ups occur.

Make sure the child has adequate clothing - bought, cleaned, dried and ironed. Ensure that your child is clean and presentable. It both shows that we care and helps improve their self-esteem.

Bedrooms - clean, personalised, in good state of repair and well equipped, personal belongings and clothes stored and safe.

Bathroom - clean and in good repair, toiletries provided/replaced and child knowing how to maintain a good standard of personal hygiene.

Safety - Children often give the impression that they are 'cool', that they are not bothered or that they can cope but the reverse is usually the case.  Children can feel vulnerable and frightened.  Some are bullied or abused or live in fear of it.  Most fear for the future.

Your job is to understand and 'Be There' for them. Don't wait to be told by your Key/Link child that s/he is afraid; assume that it is the case and do all you can to make them feel safe and supported.

Know your Key/Link child their file, background and family details; know their interests and hobbies; encourage them to take part, join clubs etc. what makes them happy, sad and angry; what frightens or worries them. Then try to ease or reduce their concerns by offering advice, guidance or direction.  If necessary get help but don't leave the child alone.

Plan at least one individual session with your Key/Link child each week as an opportunity for you to talk about how s/he is doing, issues to address, possible ways to behave differently, planning for the short and medium term etc.

Being there at night: Bed or night times are potentially the worst time for children. You must spend time with your Key/Link child doing practical things like making sure s/he has clean clothes for the next day, toiletries and a clean towel, that s/he knows what is going on the next day or is planned in the short term. You must do what you can to ease or reduce fears or worries. Do this by talking to the child in a positive and supportive way; and also by warning colleagues what might happen and give advice about how to deal with potential problems.

Planning for the future by remembering birthdays and anniversaries and making them special.

Spot and plan ahead for other dates that may have a relevance to the child such as anniversaries of significant events in their lives.

Keep all the other staff informed and up to speed about what is happening in the child's life.

Advocate on your child's behalf.

Keep your Key/Link child informed about what changes are happening in their lives, here at the home, in their overall plan, with the social worker and at home with their family.

You are responsible for the child even when you are not there!  If issues need to be dealt with when you are off duty make sure you inform the Community Director/Registered Manager or colleagues. If you are likely to be away on leave plan ahead; do not leave the child alone wondering what is going to happen in your absence.

3.2 Health Care

The Key/Link Worker must actively promote the health care of each child and enable child to learn about healthy living.

In doing so they should liaise with key health professionals, including the Clinical Nurse specialist, LAC nurse, the child's GP and dental practitioner, optician.

The Key/Link Worker should ensure that the physical, emotional and health needs of the child are identified and appropriate action is taken to ensure the medical, dental and other health services needed to meet them.

Children should be provided with guidance, advice and support on health and personal care issues appropriate to their age, needs and wishes, e.g. see:

The Key/Link Worker must ensure that relevant health care procedures in this manual are adhered to, in particular, that the child is registered with a GP and has access to a Dentist; and that the child has an up to date Health Care Plan. See the following procedures:

3.3 Education Achievement

The Key/Link Worker must be responsible for promoting the educational achievement of the child and liaising with key professionals including the designated teacher and LAC Education Co-ordinator. This may include ensuring that the child is:

  • Provided with facilities conducive to study and to homework and actively encouraged and supported in doing so;
  • Given help with homework if they wish;
  • Provided with reading support where needed;
  • Encouraged to participate in extra-curricular activities;
  • Encouraged to discuss any problems they may have at school in privacy;
  • Encourage attendance.

This may include attending parent's evenings and other school events in the absence of the child's parents.

3.4 External Contacts

Key/Link Workers need to keep themselves and their Key/Link child in touch with interested parties outside the home.

Family contact - is the child calling or writing to their family? Are there restrictions on contact; who they call or the frequency of calls? Build a relationship with the family where appropriate.

Home visits - should they be planned/accompanied?

Social Workers - keep them regularly (weekly) informed of good news as well as bad and again build up a working relationship.  Ensure social workers visit frequently.

Education - They need to be informed and aware of issues and you should be equally aware of how the child is getting on at school (Also see Section 3.3, Educational Achievement).

Specialist/expert support and guidance - If the Key/Link child needs additional support or guidance from specialists or experts (e.g.: on drug misuse, budgeting, sexual health), talk to your supervisor/line manager or the social worker about how it can be obtained.

3.5 Complaints

The Key/Link Worker must ensure the child understands how the complaints procedures work, that s/he has a copy of the placing authority's complaints procedure and is confident enough to use the procedures if necessary.

Also ensure the Key/Link child has an up to date copy of the Children's Guide and other information produced by the home for children; ensure the child is fully conversant with the Fire Precautions and is aware of fire exits. If there are particular requirements/needs emanating from the Key/Link child's Care Plan or Placement Plan (e.g.: information on drug misuse, budgeting, sexual health), make sure this is obtained and provided - in a form which is accessible and understandable to the child.

3.6 Paperwork, Files, Placement Plans and Daily Records

Ensure that records and the children's files are current and well organised. Although many other people will have input to the paperwork overall responsibility lies with the Key/Link Worker.

Make sure the child's Placement Plan is kept up to date and relevant to the child's interests and needs; make sure the child has a copy.

The Key/Link Worker must ensure that the Child's file is kept up to date; in particular, that relevant/up to date copies of the following records are contained in it:

* These records do not apply to all children.
** Most local authorities now use the Integrated Children's System (ICS), therefore will have ceased using Essential Information Records, if so, they will now use the Chronology.

4. Planning and Recording a Key/Link Worker Session

Key/Link Working sessions provide you with a chance to observe, assess, develop your relationship, identify and resolve problems etc.

You must arrange weekly Key/Link Worker sessions with your Key/Link child as soon as possible after s/he is placed and then weekly thereafter.

The overall purpose of Key/Link Worker sessions is to discuss progress, problems and achievements.

There are various ways to do this: formally in a meeting or whilst undertaking an activity.

PLAN AHEAD: It is not exhaustive, but this is a list of things you should do in planning a Key/Link Worker session:

  • Plan ahead, talk to the child and build time into your week when it will be suitable to conduct a Key/Link Worker session;
  • It is important that the child feels comfortable so consider which likely to be better:  formal meeting or during an activity;
  • Plan the meeting or activity in advance, arrange for petty cash etc.;
  • Inform the child of the date, time and where you will be having the meeting;
  • Ask the child to think about issues s/he wants to talk about;
  • What is the purpose of the session: Progress Chasing; Dealing with specific issues, behaviours or problems, Planning for a Review or Court Appearance, Developing ideas for the future, Talking about the past;
  • Think through (with your supervisor, or line manager) what you need to deal with or talk about and how you can make it work;
  • If planning a first session, as soon as possible after the child's placement, make sure all the basics are in place: that the child understands why s/he has been placed, the timescales for the placement, that a Placement Plan has been completed or a date for completion is set (go through the Placement Plan with the child, identify any areas of concern), that the child has a copy of the home's Children's Guide or other information provided for children, that the child is fully aware of the Fire Precautions, that s/he has necessary toiletries, clothing, bedding, towels etc.;
  • At the first meeting or soon after, agree or set some boundaries or rules about how you will conduct your sessions. For example: That you will meet once a week, that you cannot offer confidentiality but you will keep information safe, that you will be keeping a record, that you will be on time, what sort of meeting would suit: formal or activity based (if so what activities);
  • If you need to deal with negative behaviours or issues think carefully about how to present them. Do not forget you need the young person to accept the negatives and be prepared to change;
  • Relationships take time and change is always difficult so don't try to do too much too soon; 
  • The child may try to reject or avoid you. Talk to your supervisor or Line Manager if you need support or guidance;
  • Start small, concentrate on the positives;
  • If you are unsure about your own or the child's safety talk to your supervisor or manager and ensure you plan to reduce or avoid your concerns;
  • Afterwards talk to your supervisor or manager - immediately if you have any concerns or you feel uncomfortable about what has happened.