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3.3.5 Quality Assurance Process and Escalation of Professional Concerns Process (Dispute Resolution Process)

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This chapter relates to the Quality Assurance Process and the Escalation of Professional Concerns Process, for the care planning of Looked After Children and children within the Child Protection Conference arena.

AMENDMENT

This chapter was updated in December 2018 to reflect current practice (particularly with respect to MOSAIC) and should be re-read in its entirety.


Contents

1. Role of Independent Chairs / Independent Reviewing Officers (IRO)
2. Purpose of the Process Guidance
3. The Quality Assurance Process
4. Quality Assurance Process for Independent Chairs and Team Managers
  4.1 Informal Quality Assurance Process
  4.2 Escalation of Professional Concerns / Dispute Resolution Process (Formal)
5. Referrals to CAFCASS
6. Guidance on the Quality Assurance Process and Escalation of Professional Concerns / Dispute Resolution Process Responsibilities
  Appendix 1: Quality Assurance Process - Escalation of Professional Concerns Process
  Appendix 2: Escalation of Professional Concerns Process
  Appendix 3: Referrals to CAFCASS Form


1. Role of Independent Chairs / Independent Reviewing Officers Officers (IRO)

The Independent Chairs primary focus is to quality assure the child protection process, care planning and review process for each child and to ensure that his/her current wishes and feelings are given full consideration. To be successful, the role must be valued by senior managers and operate within a supportive service culture and environment. An effective Independent Chair /IRO service should enable the Local Authority and the wider Children’s Services to achieve improved outcomes for children.

The Independent Chair should identify areas of good practice as well as areas that need to be improved and a comprehensive quality assurance process is essential to underpin this. In some instances the Independent Chairs may have professional concerns in relation to a child’s care plan or enter into dispute with responsible officers in relation to care planning. In such circumstances an effective Escalation of Professional Concerns Process (EPCP) or Dispute Resolution Process (DRP) is essential to aid the prompt resolution of the concerns or dispute, to get the care plan back on track and to maintain healthy working relationships.

The IRO Handbook (2011) refers to the need for a Dispute Resolution Process, however this implies that IROs are in dispute with the Local Authority and this is not the case. More often the IRO wishes to address a professional concern relating to the care plan for a child whether this is due to delay or other practice issues. Therefore the process identified can be referred to as either the Escalation of Professional Concerns or the Dispute Resolution Process.


2. Purpose of the Process Guidance

The Quality Assurance and Escalation Process are two separate but interdependent processes which allow Independent Chairs to monitor and raise quality assurance issues in a timely manner and also to escalate and resolve concerns in relation to the care planning for Looked after Children (LAC) and children within the Child Protection Conference arena at the very earliest opportunity.

This guidance has been produced to support the continuous improvement of care planning and safeguarding in Lincolnshire with the overall aim of improving outcomes for Children and Young People.


3. The Quality Assurance Process (QAP)

As part of the child protection and monitoring function (for IROs), the Independent Chair has a duty to monitor the performance of the Local Authority’s function as a corporate parent and to identify any areas of good and poor practice. This should include identifying patterns of concern emerging not just around individual children but also more generally in relation to the collective experience of the Local Authority’s looked after children and children within the child protection process in respect of the service they receive.

In Lincolnshire more general issues of concern and areas of good practice will be addressed in a performance report to the Senior Management Team. The report will also summarise any specific cases that are currently being managed within the formal stages of the EPCP/DRP. Senior managers should ensure that all matters identified in the monthly performance report are addressed through supervision and appraisal arrangements with the responsible Social Workers and line managers. All matters of general concern will remain on the performance agenda until resolved.

General areas of concern and good practice will also be discussed by Independent Chairs with operational teams as part of Quality Assurance meetings which take place on a regular basis.


4. Quality Assurance Process for Independent Chairs and Team Managers

4.1 Informal Quality Assurance Process (QAP)

Please refer to Appendix 1: Quality Assurance Process - Escalation of Professional Concerns Process

Prior to the review/conference the Independent Chair reviews the electronic record in Mosaic as per the requirements of the IRO Handbook and local procedures. Any concerns that are identified are addressed with the Social Worker and/or their Practice Supervisor either by phone or email. All actions should be recorded on the Chairs Activity on the child’s file In Mosaic. The Team have 5 days to respond to the concerns/actions requested. If the matter is not resolved to the Independent Chair’s satisfaction then the Independent Chair decides whether to access the Formal Process EPCP/DRP in Mosaic.

In respect of Looked after Children the Independent Chair has a duty to monitor the progress of the case. Should any issues arise during this time such as review decision timescales not adhered to or any other issues which are/or may impact upon the child then these should be addressed initially informally as above.

All QAP actions should be recorded on the child’s file and logged on the Activity Step within Mosaic.

4.2 Escalation of Professional Concerns/Dispute Resolution Process (formal)

Please refer to Appendix 2: Escalation of Professional Concerns Process

The EPCP/DRP is seen to be a formal process. There has potentially been a breach of the child’s human rights.

The IRO has the powers to enter into dispute at any of the 3 stages of the EPCP/DRP. This is determined by the urgency of the matter and the appropriateness of the stage where decisions can be carried out to resolve the matter. It is for Team Manager level and above.

Once the EPCP/DRP has been accessed, the resolution period is 20 working days.

The Senior IRO Manager is kept fully informed throughout the EPCP/DRP.

The 3 EPCP/DRP stages involve social work and IRO practitioners at different levels:

Stage 1

This stage is used for cases where attempts to address the issues informally have been unsuccessful or the concerns are such that the Team Manager is best placed to address them. This is recorded within Mosaic. The Step is then sent to the relevant Team Manager; the Social Worker, Practice Supervisor and the IRO should also be notified by email. 

The Team Manager must respond using the Step within five working days and send the response back to the Independent Chair; the Social Worker and Practice Supervisor should also be notified of the response by email.

If at this stage the Independent Chair is satisfied by the response, they should record this in the final section of the Step within Mosaic and complete the Step and notify the Team Manager. Should the Independent Chair not be satisfied then the matter can be escalated to stage two.

Stage 2

Formal (Stage 2) Responses within five working days of receipt.

The same Step is used and the formal section is completed or updated and sent to the relevant Children's Service Manager for the locality. The Locality TM, Independent Chair TM and Senior IRO Manager should also be notified by email.

The Children's Service Manager must respond within five working days and send the response back to the Independent Chair; the Team Manager, Social Worker and Practice Supervisor should be notified of the response by email. If at this stage the Independent Chair is satisfied by the response, they should record this in the final section of the Step, notify the Children's Service Manager and Team Manager.

Should the Independent Chair not be satisfied then the matter can be escalated to stage three.

Stage 3

Formal (Stage 3) Responses within five working days of receipt.

Notification of the Step to be sent to the Assistant Director of Children’s Services. The relevant Children's Service Manager, Team Manager and Senior IRO Manager should also be notified by email.

The Assistant Director must respond within five working days, and send the response back to the Independent Chair, the parties as above should be notified of the response by email. Details of response are to be recorded on Mosaic (by the Independent Chair). If at this stage the Independent Chair is satisfied by the response, they should record this in the final section of the Step, notify the Assistant Director and Team Manager and complete the Mosaic Step.

Should the Independent Chair not be satisfied then the matter can be escalated to CAFCASS.

Total timescale for the EPCP/DRP is 20 working days (IRO Handbook) for formal process if resolution not achieved sooner.

The Independent Chair may bypass any stage and progress the escalation process to the level s/he considers most appropriate at any point.


5. Referral to CAFCASS

If the matter is not resolved through the EPCP/DRP, the Independent Chair has the power to refer the matter to CAFCASS, using the agreed Referrals to CAFCASS Form (see Appendix 3: Referrals to CAFCASS Form). This is in respect of looked after children only. The Independent Chair must inform Local Authority Nominated Officer prior to the referral being made. The Independent Chair can refer to CAFCASS at any time and does not have to wait until the escalation process has been completed. The IRO should record these details within the Mosaic Escalation Step.

When considering whether or not to make a referral to CAFCASS, the IRO should consider the impact that a referral would have for the child. In some cases, there will be time available first to pursue the full dispute resolution procedure within the Local Authority (for example where the dispute relates to educational provision for the next academic year and it is currently still the Autumn term). In other situations, the matter will be of sufficient urgency that the EPCP needs to be curtailed (for example where there is a plan to change the child’s residential placement within a matter of weeks). It is the responsibility of the IRO to make the decision about if and when a referral is necessary, based on the timetable for the child.

As part of any dispute resolution procedure and prior to making a referral, the IRO should notify a nominated Local Authority Senior Officer (to be identified in the local authority dispute resolution protocol) that a referral to CAFCASS is being considered. Where the IRO has reached a decision to curtail the EPCP/DRP to meet the needs of the child, the IRO should explain the reasons for this to the Senior Officer.

Once a referral has been made, CAFCASS will enter into final dispute resolution with the local authority before proceedings are instigated. While CAFCASS cannot refuse to accept any referral, it is the responsibility of CAFCASS and not the IRO to determine whether or not a legal remedy should be sought. If the problem is not resolved to the benefit of the child and within the child’s timeframe, CAFCASS has the power to initiate the following types of action (under regulation 3 of the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service Reviewed Case Referral Regulations 2004):

  • Proceedings under section 7(1) of the Human Rights Act 1998;
  • Claim for judicial review; other proceedings (for example under the 1989 Act).
If you have any queries regarding this dispute resolution process please contact the Independent Reviewing Service on 01522 553680 in the first instance.


6. Guidance on the Quality Assurance Process and Escalation of Professional Concerns / Dispute Resolution Process

Guidance on the Quality Assurance Process (QAP) and Escalation of Professional Concerns (EPCP) / Dispute Resolution Process (DRP) provides further guidance on the QAP and EPCP/DRP together with summary of the functions, key responsibilities and recording and sharing information within the processes.


Appendix 1: Quality Assurance Process - Escalation of Professional Concerns Process

Click here to view Appendix 1: Quality Assurance Process - Escalation of Professional Concerns Process.


Appendix 2: Escalation of Professional Concerns Process

Click here to view Appendix 2: Escalation of Professional Concerns Process.


Appendix 3: Referrals to CAFCASS Form

Click here to view Appendix 3: Referrals to CAFCASS Form.

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