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3.3.1 The Review of the Child's Plan for Looked After Children

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This procedure sets out the timescales, roles and responsibilities for reviewing  the Care Plan for Looked After Children (LAC).

RELATED CHAPTERS

The Role and Expectations of the Independent Reviewing Officer Procedure

Quality Assurance Process and Escalation of Professional Concerns Process (Disputes Resolution Process)

Delegation of Authority to Foster Carers and Residential Workers Procedure

Child Trust Funds and Junior Individual Savings Accounts for Looked After Children Procedure

RELEVANT GUIDANCE

IRO Handbook

‘Looked after children in contact with youth justice services’, DfE, The Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations - Volume 2: Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (2015)

AMENDMENT

This chapter was updated in June 2017 to note The Law Society guidance ‘Attendance of solicitors at local authority Children Act Meetings’ and their Code of Conduct where the child or family who attend reviews are supported by a legal representative. (See Section 5, Action Prior to Subsequent LAC Review Meetings).


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Allocating an Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) to a Looked After Child
  3. LAC Review and Timescales
  4. LAC Review for Specific Groups of Children
  5. Action Prior to Subsequent LAC Review Meetings
  6. The Review Meeting
  7. After the Review Meeting
  8. Monitoring the Case on an ongoing Basis
  9. Permanence Planning
  10. IRO's and Complaints
  11. Dispute Resolution
  12. Obtaining Independent Legal Advice

    Appendix 1: Strengths and Difficulties Assessment Requirement for Looked after Children Process


1. Introduction

This procedure sets out the timescales, roles and responsibilities for reviewing the Care Plan for Looked After Children.


2. Allocating an Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) to a Looked After Child

The Team Manager will allocate an Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) within 48 hours of notification that a child becomes Looked After. The IRO will take responsibility in ensuring that an introductory letter is sent to all children over the age of 4 within 48 hours. The IRO will make contact with the allocated social worker in order to gather more information and ensure that a date is identified for the first Looked After Review which will take place within 20 working days. 

2.1 Action for the Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) on Being Appointed to a Looked After Child

Following an allocation to a looked after child, the IRO will make all efforts to meet with the child prior to the initial review in order to ensure that the child has an understanding of the role and responsibilities of the IRO and begin the process of ascertaining the child wishes and feelings and view about the Care Plan. During the course of this meeting the IRO will provide and ensure the following information: 

  1. The child has written details of the IRO (Name, Contact numbers);
  2. Agreement about frequency and level of contact;
  3. Details of how the child may contact the advocacy services;
  4. Ensure that the child is aware of the legal situation in line with the child's age and  understanding;
  5. Ensure the child is aware of their entitlements as a looked after child;
  6. Ensure the child has an understanding of the review process;
  7. Who the child would want to attend the review;
  8. Where the child would like the review to be held;
  9. What time of day the child would like the review to be;
  10. Whether the child would like to attend their reviews, and if not identify barriers to this and how these might be overcome.

There will be some occasions when the age and the level of understanding of the child will mean that the meeting is not as purposeful as it might otherwise be. In all circumstances the IRO will ensure that there is a clear record on the child's electronic file that this meeting has taken place and outcomes noted. In addition if the IRO has been unable to meet with the child in advance of their review, the rationale for this should also be recorded on the case file and discussed in supervision. Please refer to The Role and Expectations of the Independent Reviewing Officer Procedure for further guidance on working with direct engagement with children.

The IRO will ensure that where the child is unable to actively become involved in the review process, the need is to be recorded along with how the child will receive information in respect of any identified plans. The IRO should in such circumstances be able to clearly evidence the efforts which have been made to engage with the child and ascertain their views.

In addition the IRO will take the following actions:

  1. The IRO will make contact with the social worker in order to gather background information;
  2. The IRO will make contact with the birth parents in order to ensure that they are aware of the role and responsibilities. This may be a phone conversation;
  3. Guardian if matter is in proceedings.


3. LAC Review and Timescales

3.1 Timescales for the First Review

For the first episode of when a child becomes looked after, whether it is a planned or unplanned placement, the first review will be held within 20 working days of the date of the child being placed which is the same date the legal status changed to that of being looked after.

If the child moves from a foster placement to an adoptive placement; or the date the placement became an Adoptive one (e.g. in the case of a Foster to Adopt Placement (see Foster to Adopt Placements, Concurrent Planning and Temporary Approval as Foster Carers of Approved Prospective Adopters Procedure)), there will be a review within 20 working days of the date the child moved into the adoptive placement. This also includes where a Foster to Adopt placement is confirmed as an adoptive placement.

If the child moves to return to birth family the review will be held within 20 working days of the date the child moved into the placement with birth family for those children who are subject to an Interim Care Order or Care Order.

If the child moves and this is an unplanned move consideration must be given to calling an early review, particularly if the criteria for an early review is met (see Section 3.3, Looked After Reviews Must be Brought Forward in the Following Circumstances and Section 3.4, Early or Unplanned Review following a Significant Event/Change for details). Any review should be held within 20 working days of the date the child moved into the placement.

If the move is from one foster placement/residential unit to another foster placement/residential unit and this has been agreed as part of the Child’s Plan, a 20 working day review will not be necessary.

3.2 Timescales for Second and Subsequent Reviews

In all circumstances the second review will be held within 91 days (3 months) and the third and subsequent reviews within 183 days, (no more than 6 months after the previous review).

3.3 Looked After Reviews Must be Brought Forward in the Following Circumstances:

  1. Where the child is, or has been, persistently absent from the placement;
  2. Where the placement provider, parents or area authority are concerned that the child is at risk of harm;
  3. Where the child so requests, unless the Independent Reviewing Officer considers that the review is not justified;
  4. As soon as practicable where a child is moved from one placement to another on an unplanned basis or a significant change in the circumstances of a child suggests his/her placement is no longer appropriate;
  5. Where a significant change to the child's care plan is required; NB when the care plan is changed to permanence via adoption it must be within 6 weeks of the QA Panel;
  6. Whenever there is a proposal for a child to leave care before the age of 18; i.e. for the child to become a Relevant Child, rather than an Eligible Child;
  7. If there is a proposal for a child to move from foster care / residential care to supported lodgings, or other kinds of semi / independent living;
  8. Prior to a child subject to a Care Order being discharged from custody;
  9. Where any change is proposed to a child’s accommodation that would have a disrupting effect on the child’s education for a child in Key stage 4 or beyond;
  10. Where a change of placement is proposed for a child who has remained settled and established with the same carer for a significant time;
  11. A LAC Review must take place within 3 calendar months of the making of a Placement Order;
  12. Where the Independent Reviewing Officer requests that such a review should be convened, for example, upon the request of the child, parent(s) or any other significant person;
  13. Where, as a result of a visit, the social worker's assessment identifies that the child's welfare is not being adequately safeguarded and promoted;
  14. Where a review would not otherwise occur before the child ceases to be detained in a YOI or secure training centre, or accommodated on remand;
  15. Where the local authority proposes to cease to provide Accommodation for a Looked After Child.

3.4 Early or Unplanned Review following a Significant Event/Change

Due consideration should be given to arranging an early or unplanned review following a significant event/change. These include:

  1. Proposed change of Care Plan for example arising at short notice in the course of proceedings following on from the directions from the court;
  2. Where agreed decisions from reviews are not carried out within the specified timescale;
  3. Major change in contact arrangements;
  4. Changes to allocated social worker;
  5. Complaints from or on behalf of a child, parent or carer;
  6. Unexpected changes on the child's placement provision which may significantly impact on the placement stability or safeguarding arrangements;
  7. Significant changes in birth family circumstances for example, births, marriages or deaths which may have a particular impact on the child; 
  8. Where the child is charged with any offence leading to referral to Youth Offending Services, pending criminal proceedings and any conviction or sentences as a result of such proceedings;
  9. Where the child is excluded from school;
  10. Where the child is missing or running away from the approved placement;
  11. Significant health, medical events, diagnosis, illness, hospitalisations, serious accidents; and
  12. QA Panel decisions in relation to Permanence. IRO will hold an early Review if panel reach a recommendation which if implemented would have the impact of changing the Care Plan;
  13. If the move is from one foster placement/residential unit to another foster placement/residential unit and this has been agreed as part of the child’s plan, a 20 day review will not be necessary.

3.5   Scrutinising the Care Plan within the Review

3.5.1 A review will not be required for every change in circumstances but the IRO will determine whether the changes require a review to be convened. In order to assist the IRO in formulating a decision in respect of the necessity for a further review, a discussion with the social worker will take place and the IRO will record their decision on the child's electronic file. The IRO should consult with the child, where appropriate, and the child's wishes and feelings about the impact of the proposed change on his/her life should be taken into consideration in reaching a decision as whether a Review is necessary.
3.5.2 For Children who have experienced multiple placement breakdowns, or have persistently run away or gone missing, the IRO should be satisfied that the new care plan addresses the risks to the child and that the search for and selection of the new placement and the provision of appropriate support to the child and the new carers identifies how the placement will offer stability to the child and/or minimise the likelihood of him/her running away or going missing.
3.5.3

The IRO should ensure that the plan for the move has been subjected to detailed scrutiny in order to establish that it meets the child’s needs and is in his/her interests. The plan should be viable and sustainable.

This will include Placements at a Distance and where children, subject to Section 20 for more than 20 days, are returning home (and / or discharging themselves from care where 16/17 yrs). In both these instances the Director or Head of Service will be required to agree this decision and will need to be satisfied the Independent Reviewing Officer has been consulted and their view of any placement. (See also Leaving Care and Transition Procedure, Preparation and Assessment of Need.)

If the IRO concludes that the plan is not likely to safeguard and promote the child’s welfare, the IRO should request that the local authority freeze the placement move. At the same time the IRO should initiate the local dispute resolution procedures to ensure that the move is reconsidered and alternative arrangements are made. The child should be advised about his/her entitlement to Advocacy and representation and be informed about the right to complain about how his/her care is being planned.

Where the child is expressing concerns about the proposed placement, the IRO should give consideration to escalating the matter and advocating on behalf of the child. This may include freezing the current placement.

3.6 Cancelling a Review/Changing the date of the Review

The IRO is the only person who can agree the changing/cancellation of the date of the Review.

In circumstances where a date for the review needs to be changed/cancelled, the Lead Social Worker will:

  • Contact the IRO to discuss the proposal to cancel/change the date;
  • The IRO will record the discussion and outcome within the case notes ‘case discussion/decision’ within two working days of the discussion.

3.7 Child's Social Worker unexpectedly absent and unable to attend the Review

The review will not be cancelled if the social worker is unexpectedly not able to attend. In these circumstances either the Team Manager or person nominated by the Team Manager (if appropriate) will attend with the Team Manager making the arrangements.


4. LAC Review for Specific Groups of Children

4.1 Review of Adoptive Placements

4.1.1 Timescales

  1. The Adoption Team/Panel Admin will provide the IRO with a list of forthcoming QA dates to assist the IRO in booking a review within the timescales;
  2. The Review that agrees a plan of adoption must take place within 6 weeks of the QA/best interest decision. The Chair’s report must be provided to the QA meeting via the Social Worker for the child;
  3. The change of Care Plan to adoption must be clearly recorded as the first decision/recommendation in the Chair’s report;
  4. In those circumstances when the IRO cannot immediately ratify the plan for adoption (for example owing to outstanding assessments; exploration of relatives; ensuring that the case is Re B-S compliant) but is of the view that with extra work being undertaken, the plan of adoption could proceed then in this set of circumstances:
    1. The FAST and Adoption team managers must be informed;
    2. The allocated solicitor must be notified;
    3. There should be an escalation to the Children's Service Manager by the IRO setting out the reasons why they are unable to ratify the plan at that time; 
    4. Where additional work is required the IRO will provide a clear time table as to when this is to be completed.  The IRO will actively chase the work and ensure that the timetable is complied with. The Court timetable must be borne in mind during this process;
    5.  If there is a failure to comply with the timetable, this matter will be escalated via the IRO management structure through to the Children's Service Manager. The IRO management will consider whether the concerns are sufficient to warrant escalation to the Assistant Director (AD) at this point.
  5. In any circumstances when the IRO does not ratify the plan for adoption, the matter cannot be twin tracked and cannot proceed (or continue to proceed) through the QA process.  The QA process must end. In this set of circumstances:
    • The solicitor with conduct of the case must be informed immediately so the Court can be notified;
    • The FAST and Adoption team managers must be informed immediately;
    • There should be an escalation to the Children's Service Manager by the IRO setting out the reasons why they are unable to ratify the plan.  The AD is to be copied into correspondence at this stage;
  6. On all occasions where the IRO is being requested to consider ratification of a plan for adoption there must be a full review meeting with the family being invited to attend. Under no circumstances can the IRO engage in a Part 1 when reviewing such a plan. This is part of the judicial process and the IRO must engage in a fair and open review of plans, where parents are consulted;
  7. The Social Worker must end the Looked After Care Plan and start an adoption plan within 10 days of this review;
  8. Where Lincolnshire County Council is authorised to place a child for adoption but the child is not placed in an adoptive placement the case will be reviewed as a looked after child as follows:
    1. Not more than 3 months after the date on which Lincolnshire County Council first has authority to place (through consent or Placement Order); and
    2. Thereafter not more than 6 months after the date of the previous review, until the child is placed for adoption.
  9. The IRO will need to be kept informed about the progress the agency is making in matching a child with prospective adopters. The IRO will also need to be satisfied that appropriate timescales are being set and adhered to;
  10. If there is a delay in finding a family for the child and s/he has not been placed by the time of the second review after the granting of a Placement Order, the review must specifically consider whether the child should still be ’placed for adoption’, that is, whether the adoption plan itself needs to be changed. If it is decided at a Review that the Care Plan for adoption is no longer appropriate and a Plan for permanence via another route, (foster care or Special Guardianship Order if agreed), then the matter must be re-presented at QA Panel within 6 weeks of this decision. A copy of the Chair’s review report must be presented with an updated CPR;
  11. Where a child is placed for adoption Lincolnshire County Council will carry out an adoption review of the child's case:
    1. Not more than 20 working days after the date on which the child is placed for adoption (’the first  review’);
    2. Not more than 91 days after the first review; and
    3. Thereafter not more than 183 days after the date of the previous review.

      Reviews should be held until an Adoption Order is made or the child is no longer placed with the prospective adopter. Additional reviews or earlier reviews can be held if considered appropriate and should always be done if requested by the IRO, the prospective adopter or the child.
  12. If the adoptive placement disrupts and the child is removed from the placement, a Review must be held within four weeks after disruption.

    Where a Review is held following a placement disruption, it will be important for any information gathered at a disruption meeting to be available. Where this is not available in time for the review this must be held within four weeks after disruption, an additional Review should be scheduled at a time when the minutes of the disruption meeting are available in order to inform future plans for the child.

4.1.2 The Adoption Review

  1. The Adoption Review, including a review of the Adoption Support Plan, will be held under the Adoption Agencies Regulations 2005 and supersedes the requirement to hold a Looked After Review. The child's adoption Social Worker is responsible for convening the review and should ensure that all relevant parties - the child (if old enough), the prospective adopters, their supervising Social Worker and any other person considered relevant after discussion with the Independent Reviewing Officer - are invited. The IRO and Social Worker should have held a discussion at least 15 working days before the review;
  2. In relation to the child's parents, although there is no requirement to invite the birth parents to attend and it may not be appropriate to do so, the Independent Reviewing Officer may ask the child's Adoption Social Worker to ascertain the parent's wishes and include these in the report for the Review. Once the agency is authorised to place the child, the usual duty (under section 22(4)(b) of the 1989 Act) to ascertain the parent's wishes before making any decision does not apply and the IRO will need to consider in each case how far the parents should be involved in a review;
  3. For all reviews, the child's social worker must complete a Social Work Report, ensuring provision and analysis of the information in the areas listed below and incorporating the views of the child, the prospective adopters, the Supervising Social Worker, the birth parents or family members (in appropriate cases) and any other relevant person. The report should be circulated to all invitees within 3 days prior to the meeting. In addition the Independent Reviewing Officer must have access at least 3 days before the review to the EPEP for the child (if over 3 years old), the Health Plan, the Safety Plan and the Adoption Support Plan;
  4. As part of the Review, the Independent Reviewing Officer must as far as reasonably practicable ascertain the views of the child (having regard to his or her age and understanding), the prospective adopters and any other person the agency considers relevant. This will include the child's parent or guardian where appropriate. Relevant others may be, for example, other children living in the prospective adopter's home, anyone having contact with the child, the child's health visitor, therapist or teacher;
  5. The review must consider (Adoption Agency regulations 2005 and 2013):
    1. Whether the adoption agency remains satisfied that the child should be placed for adoption;
    2. The child’s needs, welfare and development, and whether any changes need to be made to meet his needs or assist his development;
    3. The existing arrangements for contact, and whether they should continue or be altered;
    4. Where the child is placed for adoption, the arrangements in relation to the exercise of Parental Responsibility for the child, and whether they should continue or be altered;
    5. The arrangements for the provision of adoption support services for the adoptive family and whether there should be any re-assessment of the need for those services;
    6. In consultation with the appropriate agencies, the arrangements for assessing and meeting the child’s health care and educational needs;
    7. The frequency of the reviews.

4.1.3 Date for Next Adoption Review

  1. The Independent Reviewing Officer should send the recommendations from the review meeting to the Team Manager of the responsible Team within 5 days to ensure the Team Manager is in agreement with the plan and timescales. In addition the IRO should produce a report from the review meeting which along with the decisions is recorded on the child's file  and distributed to all those invited. Any report must be anonymised because copies are sent to birth parents. Agreement should be reached within the Review as to how the child will be informed of the outcome and whether they should get a copy. The child's social worker and Independent Reviewing Officer should also consider whether and how to notify the parents of the outcome;
  2. The child's adoption Social Worker must notify the Independent Reviewing Officer immediately once an Adoption Order is made. At this point no further review is required as the child is no longer Looked After.

4.2 Children Receiving Short Breaks

Please refer to the Short Term Breaks - Care for Disabled Children Procedure.

  1. The planning and reviewing requirements have been modified for children in a series of short breaks. The plans for children in short breaks are reviewed less frequently than plans for other looked after children. This recognises that the child is placed for relatively short periods in each episode of short break care. The first review for children in short breaks must take place within three months of the first placement day or as soon as practicable thereafter. Subsequent reviews must be at intervals of no more than six months regulation 48. Local authorities may decide to convene earlier reviews in specific circumstances, for example at the request of the child, parent or carer, or in cases where the child is particularly vulnerable or where a child is provided with a high level of short breaks. The local authority should not make any significant change to the Care Plan unless the change has first been considered at a review. Each review should consider whether the legal provisions under which short breaks are provided are the most appropriate to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child;
  2. The role of the IRO for children looked after in a series of short breaks is likely to be more limited than for children looked after longer term. When working with children in short breaks, it is important that IROs are sensitive to the close and active involvement of parents. Given this sensitivity, parents as well as children and young people can highly value their contribution and independent perspective, especially in helping to resolve any difficulties with the placement. IROs have a responsibility to alert the local authority if the placement is not meeting the child’s needs;
  3. The review therefore should focus on a consideration of those matters that will ensure that the child’s needs are fully met while the child is away from his/her parents. This will include consideration of the child’s emotional and behavioural development and how carers are meeting the disability and communication needs of the child, the leisure interests and activities of the child and the child’s educational needs, if the child attends school on the day of or the day after the overnight stay. Consideration, as for all looked after children, should be given to the child’s wishes and feelings and to ensuring that the placement is promoting the child’s welfare. Further details are set out the statutory guidance on short breaks and the Local Authority’s separate procedure on Short Term Breaks.

4.3 Children and Young People within the Youth Justice System

  1. IROs have an important role in ensuring that the local authority fulfils their duties to Looked After Children who are at risk of offending or involved in the youth justice system. This will include making sure that the child’s Care Plan addresses any unmet needs that may lead to offending and that, if appropriate, targeted services designed to prevent offending are provided. It is also important to consider the suitability of the placement in managing any behavioural problems. For further information on the relevant guidance and regulations please refer to the The Looked After Children and Youth Justice Guidance April 2014;
  2. A court may refuse to remand a child on bail, for example, due to welfare considerations under the Bail Act 1976. The court must then remand the child to local authority accommodation or, if the relevant conditions in the LASPOA are met, remand the child to YDA. During the course of criminal proceedings the remand status of the child may be revisited on a number of occasions, making it difficult for the child and their family to know how long the child will remain remanded in detention. Local authority support to the child and their family during this uncertain time will be important to ensure that a period in custody does not disrupt existing ties between the child and their community;
  3. All remanded children are subject to LAC status. The local authority therefore continues to share parental responsibility and the IRO will have an ongoing role in care planning and review.
4.3.1 Care Status
  1. The looked after status of children within the youth justice system is complex. The following table highlights the changes to care status as a result of criminal decisions:

The shading indicates that the child is looked after.

Previous Care Status Criminal Justice Decision Effect on Care Status
Care order (section 31, 1989 Act)

PACE detention i.e. transferred from police detention to care of local authority pending appearance in court.

Remand to local authority accommodation i.e. remanded to placement provided by local authority.

Remand to Youth Detention Accommodation.

Community penalty i.e. convicted of offence but penalty served while resident in community.

No change – child continues to be looked after.

Responsible authority continues to have a duty for care planning and review in the same way as for all other looked after children.

Detention Placement Plan (DPP) required whilst the child is remanded.

The DPP can be located on Children's Services Core Forms, George.
Custodial sentence i.e. convicted of offence and to period of detention in secure establishment.
Voluntary accommodation (section 20, 1989 Act)

PACE detention.

Remanded to Local Authority Accommodation.

No change – child continues to be looked after responsible authority continues to have duty for care planning and review – as above.

DPP required whilst the child is remanded.

Remanded to Youth Detention Accommodation.

Community sentence.
Child is looked after if in placement provided by local authority, including Intensive Fostering scheme.
Custodial sentence. Child ceases to be looked after during period in custody BUT responsible authority has duty to visit [Children Act s.23ZA].
Not currently looked after

PACE detention.

Remanded to Local Authority Accommodation.

 

Remanded to Youth Detention Accommodation.

Community sentence: Youth Rehabilitation Order (YRO) with Intensive Fostering or local authority residence requirement.
Becomes looked after under section 21 of 1989 Act and responsible authority acquires responsibility for care planning and review.
'treated as' looked after – DPP required.
Looked after while in placement.
Other community sentence. Not Looked After.
Custodial sentence. Not looked After.

Reference: Looked after Children and Youth Justice Regulations April 2014

Looked after Children and Youth Justice Guidance

4.3.2 Care Planning

  1. IROs have an important role in ensuring that the local authority fulfils its responsibilities to looked after children who are at risk of offending or involved in the youth justice system. Looked after children continue to be more likely than their peers to be convicted of an offence. They may be more troubled as a consequence of their history before becoming looked after, making them more likely to offend, and it is essential that their experiences in care help to prevent this rather than increasing the risk. The child’s assessment should have considered any unmet needs that may lead to offending and the care or Pathway Plan should set out the measures that will be taken to support the child.

4.4 Children in Custodial Settings

  1. Please refer to the table above for information on the care status of a child as a result of criminal justice decision. The responsible authority remains the corporate parent for looked after children in custody and continues to share parental responsibility for any child in custody who is the subject of a care order. Children can often feel abandoned at this point and it is particularly important that the IRO ensures that proper plans are made to support them both while they are in custody and on release. The IRO should be notified as soon as a looked after child is placed in custody, including the details of where s/he is placed and the relevant order.

4.4.1 IRO Responsibilities to Children who are Remanded

  1. Going into custody is a significant change in the child’s circumstances and a young person who is remanded becomes looked after. Therefore a review should be held within 28days. Along with arranging for the child to be visited, the designated authority will need to appoint an Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO), complete a care plan and a Detention Placement Plan. Reviews will always need to consider the child’s support needs when they cease to be looked after as a result of the remand ending;

  2. Where children are remanded in Youth Detention Accommodation (YDA), staff in the secure establishment should enable the child to speak with their IRO in privacy, unless the child refuses, and arrange a suitable venue for the review to take place;
  3. The review of the plan for looked after child, including children remanded to YDA, must be a child-centred process. Whilst there may be limitations in view of the secure environment, the IRO should consult the child about how they want their meeting to be managed IRO Handbook 3.29-3.37. The statutory review must focus on whether there are appropriate arrangements in place for responding to the child’s needs whilst they are detained;
  4. The considerations that are likely to be most relevant will be:
    • Whether there is a DPP in place describing how the child will be supported whilst they remain looked after as a result of being remanded;
    • The quality of contact with the local authority;
    • Arrangements for contact between the child and their family are appropriate and in place;
    • Whether plans for the child have taken their wishes and feelings into account;
    • That arrangements are in place to respond to the child’s health and education and training needs;
    • That the secure establishment takes into account any specific identity and cultural needs of the child; and
    • Whether the child will continue to need support from children’s services when the remand ceases and they will no longer be looked after.
  5. The process of compiling and reviewing plans for remanded looked after children may uncover concerns about where the child will be living and their future support in the community. Should this be the case, consideration may have to be given to whether the grounds are met for the child to remain looked after once they are no longer remanded;
  6. The IRO should establish a timescale for further reviews of the child’s plan according to his/her needs and circumstances but not less than the statutory minimum. The IRO is responsible for monitoring the implementation of plans and the effectiveness of services provided. An additional consideration that IROs should be aware of is the possibility of early release, which will be dependent on a suitable placement having been found and the child’s ability to cope with the required additional surveillance and electronic monitoring;

4.4.2 IRO Responsibilities to Children who are in Custody

1. Planning and Review Process

For children who remain looked after whilst in custody (i.e. children subject to Care Orders under section 31 of the 1989 Act) the care planning and review process continues, including talking to the child about their wishes and feelings and consulting other key participants in advance of review meetings.

Placement in YDA is a significant change. If a review of the child's care plan is not already due to take place then it is a requirement that one should be scheduled during the period the young person is in custody Care Planning Regulations 33(3)(d).The usual statutory timescales for review apply thereafter. Depending on the length of the child's detention, consideration should be given to undertaking a review within the last month before release to ensure the child's care/pathway plan can be updated to meet his/her needs on release, particularly his/her placement needs.

A person within the custodial establishment should be nominated to act as the link with the care planning process. This may be the child's case supervisor but it is good practice to give the child an element of choice wherever possible. For example, a child may have a particularly trusting relationship with his/her personal officer. This link person will be informed of the key elements of the child's care plan and, in turn, keep the child's social worker informed of the child's progress and events within the establishment.

The child's home YOT case manager should also be kept informed of changes to the child's care plan and other relevant information. Subject to the child's agreement, the YOT case manager and the nominated link person within the establishment should be involved in review meetings.

The IRO should establish a timescale for further reviews of the child's plan according to his/her needs and circumstances but not less than the statutory minimum. The IRO is responsible for monitoring the implementation of plans and the effectiveness of services provided. An additional consideration that IROs should be aware of is the possibility of early release, which will be dependent on a suitable placement having been found and the child's ability to cope with the required additional surveillance and electronic monitoring.

2. Actions to be taken if there are concerns about the child's safety or welfare

Although the local authority is not responsible for the placement and cannot terminate it, there may be situations where the IRO is not satisfied that everything is being done to safeguard the child or promote his/her welfare. There are steps that the local authority can take, such as approaching the YOT establishment and/or YJB to initiate a transfer request, and the IRO can refer to Cafcass in the usual way if these are inadequate.

Please refer to the Looked After Children and Youth Justice Regulations April 2014 page 26 for further Guidance.

Where a review of the child's case, chaired by their IRO has not already occurred, then the responsible authority must arrange for a review to take place prior to the child's release from custody Care Planning Regulations 33(3)(d). The timing of this review might be scheduled so it is coordinated with the release preparation meeting.

4.5 Children Subject to Secure Accommodation Orders

  1. When children are placed in secure accommodation, subject to a Secure Accommodation Order under section 25 of the 1989 Act, the local authority is required under the Children (Secure Accommodation) Regulations 1991(Regulation15) to appoint a panel of at least three persons to review the keeping of a child in such accommodation for the purposes of securing the child’s welfare. The persons appointed to the panel, in reviewing the child’s case and having regard to the welfare of the child, must satisfy themselves as to whether:
    1. The criteria for keeping the child in secure accommodation continue to apply;
    2. The placement in secure accommodation continues to be necessary; and
    3. Any other type of accommodation would be more appropriate.
  2. At least one member of the panel must be independent and cannot be a member or an officer of the local authority by or on behalf of which the child is being looked after. The independent panel member cannot therefore be  the child’s IRO. However, an IRO may sit as one of the other two panel members (not as part of the prescribed IRO function), as long as s/he is not the allocated IRO for that child. If the panel concludes that the criteria for restricted liberty no longer apply, the placement is no longer necessary or another type of placement would be more appropriate, the local authority must immediately review the child’s placement;
  3. A ‘secure accommodation panel’ review is not the same as a review of the child’s overall Care Plan and is restricted to the specific question about the necessity of a placement in secure accommodation for an individual child;
  4. It may be helpful to undertake a statutory Looked After Child Review on the same day as the secure accommodation review. Much of the information considered at the secure review will be similar to the information needed for a statutory review held under the standard Children Act review procedures and it is in the interest of the young person for all relevant care planning and provision matters to be decided on the same occasion if that can be achieved. In order to meet the regulatory requirements the statutory review must be held as a separate meeting.

4.6 Children Admitted to Hospital

  1. An admission to hospital, whether planned or unplanned, is a significant change for the child and the IRO should be kept informed. In relation to medical admissions, the IRO should be satisfied that there is a Plan in place to ensure that the needs of the child are being met. If the hospital stay is likely to be for some considerable time it may be appropriate to hold a review in the hospital;
  2. In relation to children admitted to a psychiatric unit, whether as a voluntary patient or as a result of a compulsory admission under the Mental Health Act 1983, the IRO will need to be satisfied that the local authority is fulfilling its responsibilities and that appropriate plans to meet the child’s needs and planned outcomes are in place before discharge. (See Section 117 1983 Mental Health Act.) In all cases where children are placed in Tier 4 placements, the Social Worker should be at an Advanced Practitioner Level, where this is not the case, this should be escalated in line with the Escalation Policy.

4.7 Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children (UASC)

Please refer to the Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children Procedure.

  1. This group of children or young people, mostly accommodated under Section 20 of the 1989 Act, have the same entitlements to support as all other looked after children. They are less likely than other children to have any parental figure available to them, may not have English as their first language and will have specific identity needs. The assessment of age may be difficult. They will also have an immigration and asylum status;
  2. The IRO should help the child to be aware of the implications of all these issues when they meet for the first time before the initial Looked After Review. At the first and subsequent reviews, the IRO will need to be satisfied that the local authority’s planning takes into account cultural, language and religious issues alongside wider asylum and immigration considerations as part of its plan to meet the child’s needs, in addition to all the other needs the child has as a Looked After Child.


5. Action Prior to Subsequent LAC Review Meetings

5.1 The Child's Social Worker or delegated Practitioner who is working with the  child will:

  1. Visit and a discussion should take place with the child (subject to age and understanding) at least 20 working days before the meeting and prepare them for attending the Review and during this visit the following should be discussed:
    1. Who will be attending the Review;
    2. The child’s views on who should attend the Review;
    3. Persons the child wished not to attend;
    4. Inform the child about the kinds of topics that will be discussed at the Review e.g. school exclusions, exams;
    5. A supporter/advocate for the child at the review if appropriate;
    6. Wishes and feelings of the child;
    7. Inform the Independent Reviewing Officer of any contentious and sensitive issues and any proposed exclusion from the review;
    8. Ensure the child and parents/family have a clear understanding of the aim of the plan and the needs and service provision within the plan;
    9. Ensure the child knows how to make a complaint.

    Note: Where the ‘supporter’ is a legal representative then the IRO should note the Law Society guidance ‘Attendance of Solicitors at Local Authority Children Act Meetings’ and related Code of Conduct (2011).

    All solicitors attending these meetings should be aware of the local policies and procedures in respect of Children Act Meetings.

  2. The Social Worker must complete a Social Work Report and chare this with the child/parent at least 3 working days prior to the Review.

5.2 The Child's Social Worker will:

  1. Discuss and identify the date/time and venue of the review with the child/parent/carer and the IRO. The Social Worker will confirm any dates when they cannot attend due to annual leave, child protection conference or court hearing. The Social Worker will ensure that arrangements are made in order to give all professionals 10 working days' notice of the review date;
  2. The Social Worker and IRO will agree who will notify the Safeguarding and Review Team. The Safeguarding and Review Team will send electronic appointments to the IRO and Social Worker and Supervising Social Worker. In order to facilitate this process, the IRO, SW and SSW will ensure that their electronic diary is up to date and clearly record their whereabouts, purpose of the meeting/appointment and any necessary travel time to enable the Safeguarding and Review Team to accurately book electronic appointments. The Social Worker will provide any relevant information in respect of the venue/proposed date etc. The Social Worker will complete the list of invitees on the child’s record;
  3. Invitations and relevant consultation documents will be sent to those on the invite list. Invitation letters should be sent out no later than 10 working days before the Review meeting, with consultation documents as appropriate.

5.3 The Independent Reviewing Officer will:

a. Read the care plan and ensure that it remains relevant to the child needs. Where this is the case and there has been an updated care plan written, ensure that it is underpinned by a robust social care assessment which is regularly reviewed and updated;
b Adoption plan is read and is clear as to how an adoptive placement will be located, if relevant;
c. The IRO will continue to monitor the progress of the child and the implementation of the  Care Plan via reading the electronic record and communicating with the social worker and the child and any other relevant party;
d. Speak to the social worker at least 15 working days before the review. Consider whether an interpreter is required if English is not the child or parents first language and discuss voice of the child, attendees and any proposed exclusions;
e. Check the involvements and child’s family/significant others are recorded on the child’s record to ensure that the appropriate people are invited to  the review subject to child's  wishes and feelings;
f. Read the chronology, signs of safety documentation, including case notes and ensure statutory visits are within timescale/ visits with 'significant events’ and ‘child protection events’;
g. Read the analysis of the latest Social Care Assessment and any additional assessments which have taken place subsequent to the last review;
h. Read the Pathway Assessment and plan and ensure the plan is aspirational in nature and gives due consideration to the developmental stage of the child, if applicable;
i. Read the Pathway Plan to ensure there are clearly identified dates which should be completed within 12 weeks. The IRO will review the Pathway Plan and where quality is insufficient escalate to the Social Work Manager;
j. Read the Placement Plan checking all delegated authority is in place and remains appropriate, and is updated appropriately;
k. Check the Safety Plan, if applicable for the child or young person;
l. Ensure that incident logs for young people in residential care are viewed. This will include checking the management of restrains and young people going missing;
m. Read the Education, Health and Care Plan, where appropriate. Consider where appropriate;
n. Read the social worker’s report for the review;
o. Read the ePep, ensure that the ePep properly addresses the educational needs of the child and is aspirational, sign the IRO section;
p. Ensure there is a Health Assessment Plan for the child and that the recommendations are being implemented by the social work team. Check that all relevant health assessments/appointments are up to date and recorded on the child's record and in the blue/red hand health book;
q. Check that any relevant consent is in place for any placement (i.e. Children's Service Team Manager) for Regulation 24 Placements and that relevant paperwork has been signed off by the appropriate manager;
r. Confirm with the Social Worker of any people that are excluded from the review or other arrangements that the IRO will make to see/speak to relevant people outside of the review; In the rare occasion where a decision is made to exclude anyone from the review, ensure that it is recorded on the child's electronic file and a letter is sent to the individual of the decision to exclude. A consultation form should be sent to any excluded person with Parental Responsibility;
s. Consult the child about their Care Plan prior to each review allowing sufficient time for the child to properly digest the information in order to actively participate in the review process;
t. Ensure that all efforts are made to locate birth parents and any other adults with Parental Responsibility, including adoptive parents. Views are obtained, whether or not they attend a meeting. This is to be recorded on the child's electronic file;
u. The IRO is required to speak with the child in private prior to the first review and before every subsequent review Regulation 26. This should provide the IRO with an opportunity to discuss with the child matters to be considered at the review and for the child to raise any issues. The first review will be important and may set the tone for the longer-term relationship that will develop between the child and IRO. Time and consideration should be given to planning this and all subsequent reviews. It will be important to work with the child to discuss how s/he is likely to be able to make the most meaningful contribution to the review;
v. There may be some cases where a formal pre-meeting is not always necessary, for example in circumstances where the IRO and the child have already built up a relationship, the child is in an established placement and no significant changes are planned for the foreseeable future. Then it may be appropriate for the IRO to simply make phone contact with the child to establish his/her wishes and feelings about the planned review meeting;
w. In relation to babies and younger children, it may not be necessary or appropriate to see the child alone. Observing the child, or interacting with him/her, for example in play or by reading with him/her, may be a more appropriate way of establishing the child's feelings and understanding. For young people who have significant disabilities, the IRO will give due consideration to their communication skills. (Please refer to The Role and Expectations of the Independent Reviewing Officer Procedure, Children with Additional Communication Needs for additional guidance.);
x. If the main part of the review meeting takes place in a formal setting away from the placement, for example so that the parents can be included, it is important that the IRO also meets with or observes the child in the placement so that consideration is given to the  suitability of the placement to meeting the child's needs;
y. If the young person wishes to make a complaint the IRO will ensure that the young person is given the necessary information about how to make a complaint and who can assist them in the process giving consideration to the role which the IRO may be able to assist in the process and agree what the IRO role will be in relation to this;
z. Ascertain from the young person if they want an independent visitor and explore possibilities of who this could be; Ensure the child understands about his/her right to an advocate and if required make the necessary referral;
aa. Ensure that the child, where appropriate is aware of his/her right to apply, with the leave of the court, for an order under Section 8 of the Children Act, and where the child is in care, for the discharge of the Care Order;
bb. Ensure that the child understands his/her entitlements (see The Entitlements Inquiry Report) as a Looked After child and/or care leaver;
cc. The IRO should ensure that Lincolnshire County Council carry out their duty as Corporate Parent so that children who are eligible for a Junior ISA (see Child Trust Funds and Junior Individual Savings Accounts for Looked After Children Procedure) receive funding and, where appropriate, they and their carers and parents receive suitable advice about their accounts, both while they are Looked After and when they cease to be Looked After.
dd. The IRO will ensure that the recording and quality of assessment is of a high standard and where this is not the case that this is addressed with the first line manager through the escalation process.

5.4 Adjournment of Reviews

The IRO may adjourn a review meeting once, for not more than 20 working days, if not satisfied that sufficient information has been provided by the Local Authority. Careful consideration should be given to taking such action and the wishes and feelings of the child, the carer and, where appropriate, the parents should be sought before any decision is made. The IRO should consider the effects on the child of delaying a meeting for which s/he has been prepared and should weigh up the relative disadvantages of proceeding with the meeting on limited information and the delay in decision making which would result from adjournment. Responsibility for deciding whether or not a review should be adjourned rests with the nominated IRO for the child concerned.

Circumstances in which the IRO might wish to consider an adjournment include:

  1. The IRO not being satisfied that the local authority has complied adequately with all the requirements relating to reviews (e.g. the duty to consult the child, the child’s parents and others before taking decisions with respect to the child, or appropriate planning and paperwork being available) and that such omissions will adversely affect the efficacy of the review;
  2. The IRO not being satisfied that the child has been properly prepared for the meeting.

5.5 The Responsibilities of Agencies to the Review

All involved agencies are to contribute to the review and the IRO reserves the right to request additional information from the agency if it is considered to be inadequate by the IRO. The IRO must record any conversation made with agencies and it is recorded on the child's electronic file.


6. The Review Meeting

6.1 At the Review the decision is made as to whether there should be a change to the Child’s Plan, this must be clearly recorded including a rationale as the reasons why.
6.2 The next review date will be made for within 91 days (3 months) for second review and 183 days (6 months) for third and subsequent reviews.
6.3

The Social Worker will have provided the following to the IRO 3 working days prior to the meeting, but ensure there are sufficient copies for review members to view at the meeting:

  1. Child’s Care Plan/Pathway Plan/Adoption Plan;
  2. Social Worker’s Report;
  3. Social Care Assessment/Pathway Assessment/Any Other Assessment;
  4. Health Assessment and other relevant health reports;
  5. Consultation documents (the IRO are sent these);
  6. Placement Safety Plan;
  7. Adoption Support Plan; if appropriate
  8. Signs of Safety mapping, if appropriate;
  9. Any other relevant reports.
6.4

The Independent Reviewing Officer will chair the review and ensure that the following statutory requirements are addressed as part of the review utilising Signs of Safety:

  1. The effect of any change in the child’s circumstances since the last review;
  2. Any change made to the Care Plan, whether decisions taken at the last review have been successfully implemented and if not the reasons;
  3. Whether any change should be sought in the child’s legal status; by way of example where the child is looked after under Section 20 of the Children Act, whether this provides the basis for legal security for the child so that proper plans can be made to provide him/her with secure attachments that will met his/her needs through to adulthood;
  4. Whether there is a plan for permanence, this must be agreed by the 2nd Review. In the rare circumstances where it is not agreed, the reasons for this must be noted on the file and in the chairs report;
  5. The arrangements for contact in relation to parents, siblings and other family members or significant others, whether these take into account the child's current wishes and feelings and whether any changes are needed to these arrangements;
  6. Whether the placement continues to meet the child's needs, this should include consideration of the attachment between the child and those who are caring for him/her, how the local authority is ensuring that the placement provides the quality of care that the child needs and whether any change to the arrangement is necessary or likely to become necessary before the next review;
  7. Whether the placement safeguards and promotes the child's welfare, and whether any safeguarding concerns have been raised and how these will be resolved in a timely manner;
  8. The child’s educational needs, progress and development and whether any change is likely to become necessary or desirable before the next review, including consideration of his/her most recent assessment of progress and development; whether the arrangements are meeting the child’s educational needs; whether the child has an Electronic Personal Education Plan (ePEP) and whether its content provides a clear framework for promoting educational achievement;
  9. The child’s leisure interests and activities and whether the arrangements are meeting his/her needs;
  10. The child’s health report, and whether any change in health care arrangements is likely to be necessary or desirable before the next review; whether the content of the Health Plan provides a clear framework for promoting the child’s health; whether the arrangements are meeting the child’s health needs;
  11. Whether the child’s needs related to identity are being met and whether any change is required having regard to the child’s religious persuasion, racial origin and cultural background;
  12. Whether the arrangements for advice, support and assistance continue to be appropriate and understood by the child;
  13. Whether any arrangements need to be made for the time when the child will no longer be looked after so the child will be properly prepared and read to make this significant move;
  14. The child’s wishes and feelings and the views of the IRO about any aspect of the case and in particular about any changes made since the last review or proposed to be made to the Care Plan; whether the plan fulfils the duty to safeguard and promote the child’s welfare and whether it would be in the child’s interests for an Independent Visitor to be appointed;
  15. Whether the child's social worker has taken steps to establish the child's wishes and feelings  the care plan has taken these into consideration and the care plan demonstrates this;
  16. Where the child is placed with parents before an assessment is completed, the frequency of the social worker’s visits which need to take place in order to be satisfied that the child's best interests are not being compromised;
  17. Whether the child is being visited by the social worker at the minimum statutory intervals and when the child requests a visit;
  18. Due consideration has been given to opening a Junior ISA at the 3rd statutory review and to record the outcome. Please see Child Trust Funds and Junior Individual Savings Accounts for Looked After Children Procedure for further information on the process;
  19. The plans and decisions to advance the overall planning of the child's care have been taken and acted upon in a timely way.

The IRO will be responsible for setting remedial timescales if actions have not been under-taken and there is a risk of drift in the delivery of the plan that will meets the child's needs and planned outcomes.

The IRO will ensure that escalation either formal or informal is considered as a matter of course in order to ensure that the child's welfare interests are met.

6.5 Looked After Reviews on Children who are subject of the Child Protection Plans

Where a looked after child remains the subject of a Child Protection Plan, there should be a single planning and reviewing process, led by the IRO, leading to the development of a single plan.

Consideration should be given to the IRO chairing the Child Protection Conference where a looked after child remains subject to a Child Protection Plan. Where that is not possible, it will be expected that the IRO will attend the Child Protection Review Conference.

The Looked After Review, when reviewing the child protection aspects of the plan, should consider whether the criteria continue to be met for the child to remain the subject of a Child Protection Plan.

Consideration must be given to ensuring that the multi-agency contribution to the review of the Child Protection Plan is addressed within the review of the Care Plan.


7. After the Review Meeting

7.1 The Independent Reviewing Officer will complete the following:

  1. A written record of the decisions and recommendations will be completed and circulated by the Independent Reviewing Officer to the applicable Team Manager within 5 working days of the meeting. Decision will be recorded on the child's electronic file. The decisions will confirm the Care Plan, or whether to change it, what actions need to be taken to implement it, by whom and within what timescales. A contingency plan should be highlighted;
  2. Complete the IRO Quality Assurance Form;
  3. Escalate any concerns to the relevant individual giving due consideration to the escalation process;
  4. Within 15 working days the IRO will complete the Chair’s Report, and this will be placed on the child's electronic file;
  5. Send a copy of the completed report to the Safeguarding and Review Team for distribution, where an initial distribution list has not been provided, the Chair's Report will be forwarded to the Team Manager for distribution;
  6. Ensure that the report is distributed to all relevant professionals, this will include Cafcass professionals where the child is subject to court proceedings, legal services, the adoption team (if matter is being twin tracked), leaving care services for all reviews of children aged 16 or over, Team Manager and the child's GP;
  7. Where parents do not attend the review part of the meeting with the child and contribute their views in some other manner, a discussion should take place between the social worker, the IRO and the young person (dependent upon age and level of understanding) as to whether it is in the child’s interest for the parents to receive a full record of the review and, if not, what written information should be disseminated to them;
  8. Where there has been no invite/distribution list, the responsibility for distribution will rest with the allocated social worker and their line manager.

7.2 The Social Worker will complete the following:

  • If the plan has been changed, or if new needs have been identified the Social Worker will need to update/create a new plan within ten working days of the date of the review.

7.3 Safeguarding and Review Team will ensure the following:

  • Distribute the report within five working days following receipt of the Chair's Report, to those on the distribution list. The Safeguarding and Review Team will include a covering letter in all correspondence.


8. Monitoring the Case on an ongoing Basis

8.1 The Monitoring Role of the IRO

The monitoring role of the IRO is set out in the 1989 Act to ensure that the care plan continues to meet the needs of the child.

All Child Looked After Plans will only be developed through assessments which clearly identify needs. As part of the monitoring role of the IRO, they will identify when an assessment is required and ensure that it is both comprehensive and clearly identifies needs. This monitoring role will result in the IRO ensuring that proposed care plans are relevant, viable and achievable.

As part of the monitoring function, the IRO also has a duty to monitor the performance of the Local Authority's function as a corporate parent and to identify any patterns of poor practice. Where these more general concerns around service deliver are identified, the IRO should immediately alert senior managers to these concerns.

It is equally important that the IRO recognises and reports on good practice demonstrated by individual social workers or groups of social workers.

8.2 Follow up Decisions, Tasks and Recommendations

The IRO should follow up on any decisions, tasks and recommendations made at the review that have timescales to be achieved, prior to the next review. This will be done by reading the child’s record and discussion with relevant people. The decisions should have any identifying details removed as necessary, for example, exceptionally, the address of the placement.

To ensure the Care Plan is implemented, when tasks are identified within the review process, the IRO will ensure they are specific, measurable, achievable and relevant with clearly identified timescales and responsibility.

At the midway point between reviews, so within 6 weeks of an initial review and 3 months following subsequent reviews, a ‘midway monitoring form’ will be sent to the Social Worker listing all the decisions and recommendations from the last Review. The Social Worker should complete an update for each decision and recommendation and return the completed document to the IRO within 5 working days. If the timescales are not adhered to the Escalation procedure is to be followed.

8.3 Recording Discussions

The IRO will record any discussions held with the manager or others’ outside of the review and action agreed/not agreed within the child’s record in case notes ‘case discussion/decision’ IRO case note within one working day.


9. Permanence Planning

9.1 Permanence Plan

By the second review there must be a clear plan as to how permanence will be achieved for the child in question.

Achieving permanence for a child will be a key consideration from the day the child becomes looked after. A range of options for permanence exist, all of which can deliver high quality outcomes for individual children. These are described in the bullets which follow:

  • For many children, permanence is achieved through a successful return to their birth family, where it has been possible to address the factors in family life which led to the child becoming looked after;
  • Other routes to permanence include family and friends care, particularly where such care can be supported by a legal order such as a Child Arrangements Order, Special Guardianship Order or in a few cases, adoption; or long term foster care where attachments have been formed and it has been agreed through the care planning and review process that this is where the child will remain until adulthood;
  • For children who are unable to return to their birth or wider family, adoption offers a lifelong and legally permanent new family. Twin track or parallel planning, also known as concurrent planning, may provide a means to securing permanence at an early stage for some children;
  • The planning process, informed by multi-agency contributions, will identify which option is most likely to meet the needs of the individual child and takes account of his/her wishes and feelings. The child’s Care Plan will set out details of this plan and the arrangements for implementing it.

Where a child is placed in a long-term foster placement and has been in this placement for more than a year, consideration should be given to whether it is necessary to hold a meeting as part of each review.

  • The social worker should consult with the IRO and the child (where appropriate to age and understanding) in reaching a decision about holding a meeting. The consultation, information gathering and review process will continue on a six monthly cycle. In circumstances where it is agreed that a meeting will not be held as part of every review, a meeting should be held at least once a year. The factors leading to the decision to hold review meetings on a less frequent basis should be recorded in the child’s Care Plan.

9.2 As part of Permanence Planning the IRO should be satisfied that:

  • The local authority has explained fully to the child and the parents the implications of the Permanency Plan; and
  • The local authority has provided information on post-adoption or Special Guardianship support to parents or extended family, where the plan is for adoption or a Special Guardianship Order.

9.3 Review decisions should include timescales for the completion of:

  • Life story work;
  • Later life letter; and
  • The post adoption/Special Guardianship support plan.

In order to minimise the risk of delay and/or drift it will be imperative the IRO adopts a very robust approach to the reviews. This will require robust chairing by the IRO.

9.4 Strengths and Difficulties Assessment Process

At the second review the Strengths and Difficulties Assessment Requirement process is initiated. Please see Appendix 1: Strengths and Difficulties Assessment Requirement for Looked after Children Process.

9.5 Placement with Parents Regulations

Some Looked After Children will be placed with parents either through an assessment or through a court direction within 20 working days of the child being placed.

The IRO will ensure that there is a clear plan in place with stipulates what is required of the parent and what would need to change in order for the Local Authority to feel it was safe for the child to reside with parents without a statutory order being in place.

This will require that the IRO is proactive in ensuring that the progress of the parents in the meeting the needs of the child is regularly and actively reviewed.


10. IRO's and Complaints

The IRO has a responsibility to ensure, where appropriate, that the child understands his/her right to make a complaint to the local authority and to have an Advocate to provide support with the complaint, should the child so wish.

In circumstances where the child does not have the ability or understanding to instigate a complaint, consideration will need to be given to who is best able to do so on behalf of the child. The right to make a complaint extends to parents, those with Parental Responsibility, local authority foster carers and anyone else that the local authority considers has sufficient interest in the child’s welfare. This could include the IRO (section 26(3), 1989 Act).

An outstanding complaint being addressed within the local authority’s complaints procedure should not prevent the IRO from continuing to work to resolve the matter, either informally or by using the local dispute resolution process.

The Social Worker should advise the IRO of any complaint brought by or on behalf of the child and may enlist the help of the IRO to resolve the problem.

In all cases the welfare of the child is the primary concern. The IRO will need to make a judgement about whether a problem raised as a complaint is sufficiently serious to make a referral to Cafcass appropriate. Alternatively, the IRO may consider that it would be reasonable to await a resolution through the formal complaints procedure, and/or use of the local dispute resolution process.


11. Dispute Resolution

The IRO Handbook states: 'the individual IRO is personally responsible for activating the dispute resolution process, even if this step may not be in accordance with the child's wishes and feelings, but may, in the IRO's view, be in accordance with the best interest and welfare of the child, as well as his/her human rights'. (See IRO Handbook, Section 6.4.)

'Where the IRO is of the view that the responsible authority:

  • Has failed to address the needs of the child set out in the revised Plan; and/or
  • Has failed to review the case in accordance with the regulations; and/or
  • Has failed to implement effectively any decision made at a Review; or
  • Is otherwise in breach of its duties to the child in any significant way.

The IRO must advise staff at an appropriate level of seniority of this failure. It will be important that senior managers then work to resolve the failure within a timescale that meets the needs of the individual child.

For further information on the Dispute Resolution Process please refer to the Quality Assurance Process and Escalation of Professional Concerns Process (Disputes Resolution Process).


12. Obtaining Independent Legal Advice

The Independent Reviewing Officers may have cause to seek independent legal advice in order to secure the best interest of children. This service will be provided by the designated Chambers and will only be sought in those cases where the focus is on the best interest of a particular child rather than seeking general advice.

Legal advice required by an Independent Reviewing Officer will only be sought in those circumstances where there are specific legal issues relating to a child which may impact upon their welfare.  It should not be accessed in order to secure general advice in respect of children who are subject to reviews.

When a Practitioner believes that they have cause to seek legal advice they will in the first instance discuss this with the direct line manager. If it is agreed by the Team Manager and Practitioner after these discussions that legal advice is required; the Team Manager will in the first instance obtain a quote for the work from the designated Chambers by contacting the Senior Clerk. It is expected that all work will be carried out by a Barrister who has less than five year call. 

The Practitioner will complete the 'Request for Legal Advice by the IRO Form' available from GEORGE – 'Children's Services Core Forms R – Z', and submit this in the first instance to the Team Manager for signature, ensuring that the quoted costs are included. The form will be forwarded to the Children's Service Manager, (in the absence of the Children's Service Manager being available, the form will be forwarded to the Assistant Director). The form will then be forwarded to the Senior Clerk at the designated Chambers for the work to be undertaken.

A purchase order will be generated by business support.


Appendix 1: Strengths and Difficulties Assessment Requirement for Looked after Children Process

Click here to view the Strengths and Difficulties Assessment Requirement for Looked after Children Process.

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