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1.4.4 Practice Guidance for Working with Non-Resident Parents


This chapter explores the often frequent theme of working with a parent who is absent from the day-day care of the child and of conflict between separated parents. This can sometimes become a challenge in itself and detract from the main focus of the task. Where this is likely, careful thought is required to ensure there is a proper balance between parents’ rights and confidentiality.


Strengthening Families Assessments

This chapter was introduced into the Manual in May 2015.


  1. Principles
  2. Assessments
  3. Report for Conferences and Reviews
  4. Review Processes
  5. Updates on Children
  6. Contact
  7. Exceptions
  8. Confidentiality

1. Principles

Each parent who has Parental Responsibility has the right to be consulted, involved and kept up to date regarding their children, whether or not the children are living with them. This guidance is designed to assist social workers when dealing with non-resident parents or separated parents of children in care.

Non-resident parents have a right to regular contact, unless there are clear reasons why this would be harmful to the child.  

If a person does not have Parental Responsibility, the Local Authority should ask the parent with PR if they are agreeable to such discussions taking place.

2. Assessments

Where an assessment of children and their families is being carried out, social workers should meet the non-resident parent to gain their views. In exceptional circumstances phone contact may be acceptable. If details of the non-resident parent are not known then family members should be asked to supply these.

The views of both parents must be recorded within the assessment, unless one or other parent is un-contactable*. Where one parent is raising concerns about the other, this should be recorded in a neutral way. The assessment should clearly differentiate between allegations, behaviour that has been admitted, or findings by a court. The response of the other parent should be clearly recorded next to any allegations in order for the report to maintain balance.

In principle, both parents have an equal right to see any assessment regarding their child. However, social workers must be mindful of confidentiality regarding personal information about the adults and must clarify with them whether they consent to personal information being disclosed to the other parent. If not, reports will need to be redacted.  

* For a parent to be viewed as un-contactable, attempts must have been made to obtain contact details from all family members. 

3. Report for Conferences and Reviews

The views of both parents should be sought on the child’s situation and the progress of work being carried out under the Child In Need or Child Protection Plan.

If a parent has raised concerns about the other parent, then the response of that parent should be included in the report, as should any evidence which either supports or limits the credibility of the concerns. A balanced and fair view of this should be maintained.

Review reports for Child Protection Conferences or Me and My World Review should be shared with both parents in advance for comments, unless there is agreement from a senior manager and the CPRO/IRO not to do so. If placement or home addresses are confidential then the reports must be checked to ensure these are not automatically generated and are removed.

4. Review Processes

Separated parents may be unable to communicate appropriately with one another and may be unwilling to attend meetings at the same time. There may be for a range of reasons for this, ranging from Domestic Violence and Abuse to general disagreements.

In most cases the starting point should be that both parents have an equal right to attend reviews. In cases involving potentially serious Domestic Violence and Abuse there may be a need to protect the children’s whereabouts, including address and school, from the abusive parent. These cases are a very small minority. In cases where joint attendance either is not safe or cannot be negotiated between parents then a split review should be considered. This applies to CP Conferences, Child Protection Core Groups, CIN network meetings and Me and My World Review.

Where split reviews are held there needs to be agreement regarding the disclosure of confidential information about one parent to the other, and this will require two sets of minutes.

Where a decision is taken to exclude a parent from a review this decision and the reasons for it must be recorded on CareFirst by the CPRO/IRO and alternative ways of contributing should be offered to the parent.

5. Updates on Children

Social workers should provide updating information to non-resident parents on matters such as school progress, health information, and any other key issues, in the following circumstances:

  • Where the case is open and the parent is not having contact with the child;
  • Where the case is open and the resident parent is not providing the non-resident parent with information.

6. Contact

Contact between parents and children should be promoted in line with the Children Act 1989.

There are some circumstances where contact should not take place:

  • There are child protection concerns which have led Children’s Social Work not to recommend contact. This should be evidenced in a risk assessment or court report;
  • There is a court order that no contact should take place;
  • The child and parent do not want contact.

Parental disagreement is not a reason in itself for a child not to have contact with a parent, if none of the above scenarios apply. However, if the Local Authority is unable to resolve this through their own mediation the parent may have to apply to court for a Contact Order

7. Exceptions

Normally, each parent with Parental Responsibility has an equal right to information pertaining to their child, unless there are concerns that this would compromise a child’s safety. 

There may be exceptions to this policy if the parent behaves in an aggressive or abusive way to staff or family members, meaning that their attendance at meetings is not appropriate. Parents should be informed of concerns about their behaviour and the consequences of it from a manager. Exclusion from meetings should not be considered permanent and should be kept under review.

8. Confidentiality

Social workers should be sensitive to the confidential nature of personal information regarding each parent and whether there is agreement to share this with the other parent.

Where possible this should be discussed and resolved as the work with the family progresses as this can save work later on in redacting parts of documents or producing two different sets of minutes.

Where there is information about social work involvement with a parent, the level of detail necessary to disclose to the other parent needs to be considered. For example, it is reasonable for a parent to know that social workers are involved with the other parent due to alcohol misuse. However, it would not be reasonable for them to be given details of the other parent’s attendance and progress at Oasis.

A parent may request that certain historical information about them is not shared with the other parent. In considering this request social workers should ask the parent, particularly where the parents were in a lengthy relationship, whether this information is already known to their ex-partner.

If social workers are unclear or where parents are in disagreement over what should be shared they should seek advice. This should be from their line manager in the first instance or from the CPRO/IRO in the case of CP conferences or Me and My World Review. Social workers should consult the Council Data Protection Manager if cases are heavily disputed by parents and/or in the Complaints process (See Complaints and Representations Procedure).

Parents should be encouraged to share as much as they can with the other parent providing this does not jeopardise their or their child’s safety. Social workers should encourage honesty and transparency in their work with families and ensure compliance with the Data Protection Act.