This chapter was added in August 2022 and considers the role of leisure activities as a central part of the young person’s life, and the need, as far as possible, to give looked after children the same opportunities to take part in normal age-appropriate activities as their peers.
Leisure activities are an important part of everyday life. The guiding principle is that looked after children should, as far as possible, be given the same opportunity to take part in normal and acceptable age-appropriate activities as their peers. Judgment should depend on the assessed risks and needs of the child. See also Delegation of Authority to Foster Carers and Residential Workers Procedure Procedure.
Leisure activities benefit a child and can help develop their emotional, intellectual, social, creative and physical skills.
Children should enjoy and have access to a range of social, educational and recreational opportunities, including activities in the local community, as appropriate. They should have the opportunity to participate in after-school activities or community-based activities and school trips and holidays, and be supported to engage in faith-based activities if they wish.
Arts and drama can help a child or young person to express their feelings with the child being free from everyday pressures. Mental wellbeing can also be supported by sports and other activities as it gives a child or young person an outlet for their energy, emotions and/or focus.
Taking part in after school activities can increase a child or young person self-esteem and give them another skill such as piano lessons, football, drama classes etc. It can also help with structuring a child or young person's week and give them security.The existing leisure interests of a child or young person can play an important role when a child or young person becomes looked after as it provides some stability and continuity for the child and helps maintain friendship groups.
The child or young person's interests, hobbies and leisure activities should be considered when placing a child. As far as practical hobbies and interests should be maintained and encouraged. This will form part of the placement plan (see Decision to Look After Procedure).
A child or young person's personal education plan should be used to encourage a child or young person to develop leisure activities both in and out of school.
The placement plan should also detail and add clarity around day to day decisions and activities such as education, leisure activities, overnight stays, and personal issues such as haircuts.
The child or young person's looked after review should be used to evaluate the effectiveness of these plans and ensure that a child or young person's needs are being met.
Children should be supported to take age-appropriate risks that are considered with carers, placing social workers (as appropriate) and the children themselves, following appropriate risk assessment.
3. The Role of Foster Carers and Residential Staff
Foster carers and residential staff should be proactive and encourage the child to take part in leisure activities, and outside interests should also be encouraged.
Leisure activities depend on what the child or young person is interested in and their abilities. For example a disabled child may not be able to ride a bike but may enjoy music and swimming activities.