AMENDMENTThis chapter was updated in March 2023.
Leisure activities and cultural experiences are an important part of everyday life. The guiding principle is that children looked after should, as far as possible, be given the same opportunity to take part in usual and acceptable age-appropriate activities as their peers. Judgment should depend on the assessed risks and needs of the child/young person. See also: Delegated Authority to Foster Carers Procedure.
Leisure activities benefit a child/young person and can help develop their emotional, intellectual, social, creative and physical skills. Children and young people 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 along with school trips and holidays, and be supported to engage in faith-based activities if they wish, enhancing their overall cultural experiences.
Arts and drama can help a child or young person to express their feelings with the child/young person being free from everyday pressures. Mental health and 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/young person and helps maintain friendship groups.
The child or young person's interests, hobbies and leisure activities should be considered when making the arrangements to place a child looked after in their new home. As far as practical, hobbies and interests should be maintained and encouraged. Direct work should be undertaken regularly to elicit the views of children and young people, enabling the opportunity for co-producing plans with children around leisure activities. This will form part of the child/young person's placement plan (see also: Decision to Look After and Initial Care Planning Procedure).
A child or young person's personal education plan should also be used to encourage a child or young person to develop leisure activities and cultural experiences both in and out of school.
The child/young person's 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. Children and young people should be provided with opportunities to try out different activities and consideration given to any help and support they might need to access activities. Where children and young people identify activities which adults are worried about because of their age, risk or the high cost, children/young people should be provided with a clear explanation about why the activity isn't agreed and guidance should be offered about activities that would be suitable.
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 and young people should be supported to take age-appropriate risks that are considered with carers, the allocated social workers (as appropriate) and the children/young people themselves, following appropriate risk assessment. Social Workers and carers should be mindful to balance demands on a child's time with events that may be occurring in other aspects of their life, their family time arrangements as well as their need for time to relax, play and have time to themselves. It would not usually be appropriate for a child to attend an activity provision every day or every day after school.
3. The Role of Foster Carers and Residential Staff
Foster carers and residential staff should be proactive and encourage the child/young person to take part in leisure activities, and outside interests should also be encouraged to enhance their cultural experiences.
Leisure activities depend on what the child or young person is interested in and their abilities. Where children have additional needs due to a disability, reasonable adjustments should be made and funded to support them to access activities of interest to them.