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3.4.1 Looked After Reviews

Note: that different provisions apply to children who acquire Looked After status as a result of a remand to local authority accommodation or Youth Detention Accommodation. In relation to those children, please see Remands to Local Authority Accommodation or to Youth Detention Accommodation Procedure, Care Planning for Young People on Remand.

If you are looking for any standard templates to use that are listed in these procedures, please click on this link below as this will take you to the Children's Social Care area of Izzi (the council's intranet).

N.B. This is only possible if you are logged into the Council's network.

There are a lot of template documents there but if there is any thing you cannot find, please contact the relevant Team or Operational Manager for the area of practice concerned.

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AMENDMENT

This chapter was amended in December 2016, to reflect 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 8, Independent Reviewing Officer's Responsibilities).


Contents

  1. The Purpose of Looked After Reviews
  2. Frequency of Looked After Reviews
  3. Chairing of Reviews
  4. Convening Looked After Reviews
  5. Invitations and the Child's Participation
  6. The Role of the Social Worker
  7. Supporters and Interpreters
  8. Independent Reviewing Officer's Responsibilities
  9. The Role of the Looked After Review in Achieving Permanence for the Child
  10. Looked After Reviews Concerning Children in Long Term Foster Placements
  11. Looked After Reviews on Children who are the subject of Child Protection Plans
  12. Recording of Looked After Reviews
  13. Review Decisions
  14. Monitoring of Review Decisions
  15. Conflict Resolution


1. The Purpose of Looked After Reviews

A Looked After Review must take place before any significant change is made to the child’s Care Plan, unless that is not reasonably practicable, including a decision to cease looking after a child.

Looked After Reviews should normally be conducted at a meeting although this may not be required in respect of a child who has been in a designated Long-term Foster Placement for over twelve months (see Procedure regarding reviews for children looked after and schedule of home visits).

The purpose of the Looked After Review is to:

  • Ensure that appropriate plans are in place to safeguard and promote the overall welfare of the Looked After child in the most effective way and achieve permanence for him or her within a timescale that meets his or her needs;
  • To monitor the progress of the plans and ensure they are being progressed effectively;
  • To make decisions, as necessary, for amendments to those plans to reflect any change in knowledge and/or circumstances;
  •  To ensure the needs of children looked after of a secure remand are met;
  • To ensure that Eligible Young Person moving into semi-independent accommodation is ready and prepared to move;
  • To ensure that Eligible Young Person moving into semi-independent accommodation is ready and prepared to move. For a young person living in foster care the first Looked After Review following his or her 16th birthday should consider whether a Staying Put arrangement (whereby the young person remains in the the foster home after the age of 18) should be an option. (See the separate Staying Put Procedure for further information).

It is important that decisions taken at Looked After Reviews are implemented and responsibility for actions clearly defined.

The key plans that should be considered at a Looked After Review are:

  • Care Plan;
  • Permanence Plan;
  • Health Care Plan;
  • Pathway Plan if applicable;
  • Personal Education Plan.

The review should also take account of the child's Placement Plan (recorded on the Placement Information Record) and any other plans or strategies (e.g. behaviour management strategy), ensuring that they are up to date, or that arrangements are in place to update them.


2. Frequency of Looked After Reviews

2.1

Normally, Looked After Reviews should be convened at the following intervals:

  • An initial Looked After Review should be conducted within 20 working days from the date on which the child became Looked After;
  • The second Looked After Review should be conducted within three months of an Initial Looked After Review;
  • Subsequent Looked After Reviews should be conducted not more than six months after any previous review.
2.2 In relation to children placed with prospective adopters or where there is Authority to Place for Adoption, see the Adoption Reviews Procedure.
2.3

Looked After Reviews should be brought forward in the following circumstances:

  • Where the child is, or has been, persistently absent from the placement;
  • Where the placement provider, parents or area authority are concerned that the child is at risk of harm;
  • Where the child so requests, unless the Independent Reviewing Officer considers that the review is not justified;
  • 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;
  • Where a significant change to the child's Care Plan is required;
  • 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;
  • Where as a result of a visit, the social worker’s assessment is that the child’s welfare is not being adequately safeguarded and promoted;
  • The social worker to alert DTM and TM. TM makes the decision that this is the case and alerts IRO. A review must be convened, IRO and TM decide what form the review will take i.e. paper review if all issues being addressed or full review if needed;
  • No timescales attached so if review close IRO can take decision to wait;
  • 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;
  • Where the local authority proposes to cease to provide accommodation for a looked after child.

3. Chairing of Reviews

Independent Reviewing Officers (IRO's) will chair reviews. They are located within the Independent Reviewing Service.

The IRO's responsibilities are outlined in Section 8, Independent Reviewing Officer's Responsibilities.

If the allocated IRO cannot attend the meeting and it is important that the review meeting is not delayed, the meeting will be chaired/attended by a substitute IRO.


4. Convening Looked After Reviews

4.1 Arranging the First Review

As soon as a child becomes Looked After, the child's social worker must notify the Independent Reviewing Service by telephone and/or email.

This will trigger the appointment of an IRO for the child, The IRO will then agree with the child's social worker the date, time and venue for the child's first Looked After Review. These arrangements will be confirmed with the administrator for the Independent Reviewing Service who will send out invites on receipt of a completed invite list, from the social worker, at least 10 working days before the review.

The venue will be agreed with the social worker and the allocated IRO - ideally the review should take place in the placement.

4.2 Arranging Second and Subsequent Reviews

At the end of each review the IRO will set the date, time and venue of the next review, taking account of what is convenient for review participants.

Review dates cannot be rearranged unless there are exceptional circumstances and then only if the rearranged meeting can take place within statutory timescales, in which case the new date should be agreed by the social worker with the IRO and the Independent Review Unit who will inform the other participants.

In the event of a key participant being ill or unable to attend the review, the meeting will go ahead but the IRO may decide that the review be adjourned to a new date when all participants can attend - see Section 8, Independent Reviewing Officer's Responsibilities.

Should the child cease to be Looked After before the review date, the child's social worker will notify the Independent Reviewing Service who will notify the IRO and other prospective attendees that the review is cancelled and why.


5. Invitations and the Child's Participation

Discussion should take place between the social worker and the child (subject to age and understanding) at least 20 working days before the meeting about who the child would like to attend the meeting and where the meeting will be held.

Invitations to reviews will be sent by the Independent Reviewing Service following consultation with the child's social worker and the IRO, who will decide who should be invited in consultation with the child. Invitations to reviews and consultation documents should be sent out to all those participating in the review at least 10 working days before the meeting.

The following people should normally be invited:

  • The child. There is a presumption that the child will attend the review. A child's disability must not be a bar to the child's attendance;
  • The parents and those with Parental Responsibility, carers and any significant people or specialists involved in the child's case;
  • The supervising social worker, if the child is placed with foster carers;
  • The key worker if the child is in residential care;
  • The most appropriate teacher at the child’s school (usually the Designated Teacher for Looked After Children;
  • A Personal Adviser, if the child is over the age of 16;
  • An Independent Visitor, if involved;
  • If required, an interpreter;
  • Any other person with a legitimate interest in the child e.g. health care professional, GP, Guardian, a representative from the Local Authority in whose area it is proposed that the child will be placed; (Such attendance should always be discussed with the child before invitations are made and his/her views obtained);
  • The officer with lead responsibility for implementing the authority’s duty to promote the educational achievement of its looked after children.

A balance must be struck in relation to who the child wishes to be present and the need for information and input from the professionals and family members involved. Efforts should be made to keep the number present at the review as small as possible. It may be appropriate for information to be provided in writing or at a separate meeting where the contribution is strictly factual.

Children and parents should also be informed that they can arrange to see the IRO separately if they wish or bring a supporter or interpreter to the review.

Where the child does not wish to attend the review, the IRO must at the very least make reasonable attempts to speak to the child before the review - wherever possible in a face to face meeting.

The child's social worker must ensure that children and families have been given information about the Complaints Procedure. They should provide the child with details of independent advocacy services who may provide support if the child requires it.

See Section 7, Supporters and Interpreters.

A decision not to invite a child or parent(s) to a review should only be made in exceptional circumstances and in consultation with the IRO, prior to the review. The decision should be recorded, together with reasons, on the review document and child's record.

There may be exceptional circumstances where the child’s social worker, in consultation with the IRO decides that the attendance of the carer at all or part of the review meeting will not be appropriate or practicable. Where this is the case, a written explanation of the reasons should be given and other arrangements made for the carer to contribute to the review process. Details of the reasons why a carer is excluded and a record of their input should be placed on the child’s case record.

Where any other invited person cannot attend, the IRO may agree that a delegate attend instead.


6. The Role of the Social Worker

The child's social worker must discuss the purpose of the review with the child, parents and carers and consult the child about invitations at least 20 working days before the review meeting.

Where the child wishes to chair his or her own review, the social worker should inform the IRO.

In all cases, the child and parent(s) should be encouraged and supported by the social worker to prepare for the review, in writing or other ways if they wish, for example by seeing the IRO separately. The social worker should agree with the IRO how this will be achieved. This requires early consultation between the social worker and the IRO, and should be part of a thorough preparation of all the key issues for the review.

The child's social worker must also ensure the child's IRO is kept informed of any significant changes in the child's circumstances and the outcomes of any other meetings held as part of the review process, which consider aspects of the child's Care Plan. In addition, the social worker must notify the IRO if he or she believes that decisions made at a review are no longer appropriate because of a change in circumstances.

Where the child has been or is the subject of Court proceedings, the social worker should ensure the IRO has clear information of the child's legal status and the Court timetable.

Prior to the review, the social worker must ensure the child's records and plans are up to date, for example, that they include records of the placement visits and the last date when the child's sleeping accommodation was seen. Any changes in household membership need to be clearly recorded.

The social worker must send the IRO the following documents 3 working days before an Initial Review and 5 working days before a subsequent review:

  • Review of Arrangement Report;
  • Care Plan or Pathway Plan.

Copies of these documents should be brought to the review by the social worker for all review participants.

In addition, the child's social worker should bring to the review the following documents for the IRO:

  • All completed consultation documents (the social worker is responsible for sending these to the child, carers and family members as appropriate);
  • Health Care Plan;
  • Personal Education Plan;
  • Any other relevant reports by professionals.

It is not necessary to copy these for all participants. The IRO may have a pre meeting with the social worker to review the relevant aspects of the Health Action Plan and Personal Education Plan. The IRO will then summarise these documents during the review and provide information about the discussion with the social worker as appropriate.

After the review, the social worker is responsible for updating the Care Plan within 10 working days, in relation to any changes to the Care Plan agreed at the review.

The social worker should also update the Permanence Plan, Health Care Plan and Personal Education Plan, as required and arrange for a Pathway Plan to be completed/updated, if relevant.

The social worker should also ensure that the child's Placement Plan (recorded on the Placement Information Record) is updated.

Where the child and/or the parents are unable to attend the review, the social worker must ensure that they are informed in writing of the outcome.


7. Supporters and Interpreters

The social worker and IRO should consider prior to the review whether either the child or parent(s) would benefit from the presence of a supporter or advocate and if so, the social worker should ensure the necessary arrangements are made. A supporter may be either an advocate on behalf of the child/parent(s) or a person with specialist skills or knowledge.

It may also be necessary for the social worker to make arrangements for an interpreter to attend. Special needs, for example those arising from disability, should always be considered and appropriate assistance arranged where relevant.

Any request by the child or parent(s) for their legal adviser to attend as their supporter should be notified to the IRO prior to the review and arrangements made where appropriate for the attendance at the review of a local authority legal adviser.


8. Independent Reviewing Officer's Responsibilities

The IRO's role is to chair Looked After Reviews and monitor the appropriateness of the Care Plan (on an ongoing basis including whether any safeguarding issues arise), its implementation and to establish whether the milestones set out in the plan are being achieved in a timely way.

In relation to their role at reviews a key task for all IRO's is to ensure that the review process is child and family centred and that the child's views are heard. They should be satisfied that disabled children's contributions are obtained and effectively presented in the review.

The IRO should consult the child about their Care Plan at each review and at any time that there is a significant change to the Care Plan. The IRO should meet the child before the first Looked After Review and arrange to meet the child as appropriate in advance of subsequent Looked After Reviews.

The IRO must be satisfied that the wishes and feelings of the child’s parents, any person who is not a parent but who has parental responsibility and the current carer (foster carer or registered person in respect of a children’s home) have been taken into account as part of the review process.

Wherever possible, the child should be encouraged to chair the meeting and in these circumstances the IRO will assist the child. In all other cases, the IRO will chair the review - see Section 3, Chairing of Reviews.

More than one meeting may be required to ensure the views of relevant people inform the review without the meeting becoming too large. For example it may be appropriate to hold a meeting involving the child prior to a meeting involving the parent to obtain information and ascertain the views of both where the child does not wish to attend a review with his or her parents present.

The IRO is responsible for confirming that all relevant people, including the child and parents, understand the purpose of the review and have been given appropriate opportunities to contribute and express their views. The IRO should also ensure that relevant consultation has taken place with those professionals who are not in attendance at the meeting.

Where participants' views are not followed, an explanation of the reasons why needs to be provided by the IRO and/or the social worker. Any differences of opinion should be recorded in the minutes.

If the parent(s) or the child brings a supporter, the IRO will need to explain his or her role, ensuring that the supporter understands that he or she may clarify information but may not cross-examine any contributor.

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 and of their role in terms of ‘Working Together to safeguard Children’ (2015).

The agenda for each review will be agreed at the beginning of the meeting and each participant will be invited to contribute their own items to the agenda and have the opportunity to contribute to the discussion.

The IRO will decide on what actions in principle are necessary to meet the child's reviewed needs and make recommendations as to how these should be achieved.

Where a review considers that adoption or long term fostering is the most appropriate way to meet the child's needs, the recommendation is then submitted to the Adoption Panel for consideration - see Placement for Adoption Procedure.

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 to enable proper consideration of any of the factors to be considered.

The IRO should consider the effects on the child of delaying the meeting, and seek the wishes and feelings of the child, carer and parents where appropriate.

No proposal under consideration at the adjourned review can be implemented until the review has been completed.

The IRO checks that correct documents have been completed and child prepared 5 days before review.

If when the IRO views ICS they cannot see this regulation has been adhered too, the IRO informs DTM/TM and advises them that unless reports are completed and the child is prepared at least 3 days before, the review is at risk of being adjourned.

This is to avoid situations where review has been convened and the IRO does not have paperwork and therefore the meeting has to be adjourned on the day.

It will be necessary for the IRO to ensure decisions are clear and establish who is responsible for action and the timescales agreed for completion. The IRO should ensure that the following are considered and accounted for during the review:

  1. The effect of any change in the child’s circumstances since the last review, any change made to the Care Plan, whether decisions taken at the last review have been successfully implemented and if not the reasons;
  2. Whether any change should be sought in the child’s legal status;
  3. Whether there is a plan for permanence;
  4. Arrangements for contact/whether there is any need for changes to the arrangements in order to promote contact between the child and parents/other Connected Persons;
  5. Whether the placement continues to be the most appropriate available, whether any change to the placement agreement or any other aspect of the arrangements is likely to become necessary before the next review;
  6. Whether the placement safeguards and promotes the child’s welfare, and whether any safeguarding concerns have been raised;
  7. 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 a Personal Education Plan (PEP) and whether its content provides a clear framework for promoting educational achievement;
  8. The child’s leisure interests and activities and whether the arrangements are meeting his/her needs;
  9. 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;
  10. 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;
  11. Whether the arrangements for advice, support and assistance continue to be appropriate and understood by the child;
  12. Whether any arrangements need to be made for the time when the child will no longer be looked after;
  13. 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;
  14. Where the child is placed with parents before an assessment is completed, the frequency of the social worker’s visits;
  15. Whether the delegation of authority to take decisions about a child’s care continues to be appropriate and in the child’s best interests;
  16. Other matters which may arise should also be considered with due regard to the circumstances of the child and the placement.

After the review, the IRO will notify the Independent Review Unit of the way in which the child participated in the review, together with the outcome and the date for the next review.

Where there is evidence of poor practice, the IRO will consider what action is needed to bring this to the attention of the relevant and appropriate managers - see Section 14, Monitoring of Review Decisions.

It is also the IRO responsibility to focus on conflict resolution - see Section 15, Conflict Resolution.

Islington Extended Role of the IRO

  • DTM ensures supervision has taken place by half way mark between reviews. DTM places case note on ICS titled Supervision and in Reason for contact Supervision-review decision implementation;
  • IRO looks on ICS at half way mark and reads write up. If write up is not there, supervision has not taken place or IRO is not satisfied with reason decision not carried out, they e-mail DTM/TM (standard e-mail) asking for compliance within 10 days;
  • If the IRO has still not ha sight of the supervision record detailing the implementation of review decisions then the IRO issues a Stage 2 alert.

Summary of the key changes to the role and function of the IRO, as introduced by the Children and Young Persons Act 2008

Statutory Provision Key change Rationale
Section 25A(1) 1989 Act When a child first becomes looked after, a named individual must be appointed by the local authority as the IRO for the child. The intention is that each looked after child should have a named IRO to provide continuity in the oversight of the case and to enable the IRO to develop a consistent relationship with the child.
Section 25B(1)(a) 1989 Act IRO to monitor the local authority’s performance of its functions in relation to the child’s case. This duty extends the IRO’s monitoring role, which was previously confined to the Local Authority’s functions in respect of the review. The intention is to give the IRO a more effective independent oversight of the child’s case and ensure that the child’s interests are protected.
Section 25B(1)(c) 1989 Act IRO to ensure that the local authority give due consideration to any views expressed by the child. This requirement is intended to reinforce the local authority’s duty under Section 22(4) and (5) of the 1989 Act to ascertain and give due consideration to the wishes and feelings of the child when making any decision with respect to the child.
Regulation 36(2) of the Regulations IROs have the authority to adjourn review meetings if they feel that the process would be unproductive. This new flexibility is meant to prevent the meeting becoming a ‘tick box’, exercise. So, for example the IRO might use this flexibility because there is a lack of key documentation or because the child has not been consulted about the purpose of the review.
Regulation 36(1)(b) of the Regulations IROs must speak in private with each child prior to each review so that the IRO personally establishes the child’s wishes and feelings about the issues to be covered at the care planning meeting. This requirement is intended to ensure that the child is properly consulted on matters relating to his/her care and is given the time to contribute to the content of the meeting.
Section 25B (3) 1989 Act Referral by an IRO of a case to CAFCASS should no longer be seen a last resort, but can be considered at any time. The intention of this change is to reinforce the authority of the IRO to challenge poor practice around the child’s case.


9. The Role of the Looked After Review in Achieving Permanence for the Child

The Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) must check that the child's Care Plan includes a Permanence Plan with measurable milestones and a Contingency Plan should the preferred plans not materialise.

At the second Looked After Review, there is a requirement to focus on the Permanence Plan, to ensure it provides permanence for the child within a timescale which is realistic, achievable and meets the child's needs.

If it is considered that the chosen avenue to permanence is not viable, the IRO should ensure that the social worker arranges as a matter of urgency to consider the most appropriate permanent alternative.

At the third Looked After Review there will be a need for a Twin Track/Parallel Plan to be made where a Permanence Plan has not been achieved. For example where a plan for rehabilitation of the child has not been achieved, the Review should seek to establish whether the lack of progress is as a result of drift or whether there are valid child-centred reasons, properly recorded and endorsed by the social worker's manager. No further rehabilitation plan should be recommended unless there are exceptional reasons justifying such a plan or where further assessment is specifically directed by the Court. In this case, the Parallel Plan must include the active pursuit of an alternative placement for the child.

All subsequent Reviews should review the progress and validity of the Permanence Plan.


10. Looked After Reviews Concerning Children in Long Term Foster Placements

The March 2015 Statutory Guidance “Permanence, long-term foster placements and ceasing to look after a child” sets out that where a child is placed in a designated 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 guidance requires that the social worker should consult the IRO and the child (where appropriate to age and understanding) in reaching a decision on whether to hold a meeting. 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 a decision to hold review meetings on a less frequent basis must be recorded in the child’s Care Plan. (See Procedure regarding reviews for children looked after and schedule of home visits).

Where a decision is taken that the review process will not include a meeting the IRO must ensure that full consultation with all relevant individuals, including the child, has taken place to inform the review of the child’s case.


11. Looked After Reviews on Children who are the subject of 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 timing of the review of the child protection aspects of the Care Plan should be as in Section 2, Frequency of Looked after Reviews above.

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.


12. Recording of Looked After Reviews

It is the responsibility of the Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) to record the review. A written record of the decisions and recommendations will be completed and circulated by the IRO to all participants within 5 working days of the Looked After Review. This should also be sent to the designated senior manager who will consider the decisions made at the review. See Section 13, Review Decisions.

Should you not be in agreement with any of the recommendations from this review you will be required to advise the IRO and Business Support, Quality and Safeguarding within 7 calendar days. Should no advice be received the recommendations will have the status of decisions and should be implemented within the time-scales set out.

The full written record of the review will be completed within 15 working days of the review. The full record should contain an accurate and comprehensive record of the meeting, or meetings, which constituted the review and of the views of all those who attended or were consulted as part of the review process. The record should also reflect the review process for a designated long term foster placement where a meeting did not take place. The Independent Review Unit will send copies out to all relevant parties who have provided their full name and address on the attendance sheet within 20 working days of the completion of the review.

The decisions should have any identifying details removed as necessary, for example, exceptionally, the address of the placement.

Where parents do not attend the review/part of the meeting and contribute their views in some other manner, a discussion should take place between the social worker and the IRO 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 sent to them. Examples of where this should be a consideration are where there is a ‘no Child Arrangements Order’ or supervised contact only.


13. Review Decisions

A designated senior member of staff should consider the decisions made at each Looked After Review within five working days of receiving them and to advise the IRO and all those who attended the review if they are unable to agree them.

If no response is received the decisions should be considered agreed by the Local Authority and should be implemented within the timescales set out in them.

If the senior member of staff disagrees with any of the decisions within that initial five working day period, this should be notified in writing to the IRO and all those who attended the review.

In the first instance the IRO should attempt to resolve the issue informally. If this is not successful the IRO can consider activating the local dispute resolution process - see Section 15, Conflict Resolution.


14. Monitoring of Review Decisions

The Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) plays an important part in the quality assurance function of the local authority's service for looked after children, it will be important that they recognise and report on good practice by individuals or teams.

It is important for the IRO to have a collaborative relationship with the social workers and their managers.

Monitoring sheets must be completed by the IRO after every review meeting in order that accurate data is reported for audit, quality assurance and individual performance management. This information is then coordinated by the Independent Reviewing Service and sent on a monthly basis to the relevant Service Managers.

Where there is evidence of poor practice, the IRO should, wherever practicable, address these issues through the normal channels, contacting the social worker's manager and where necessary the Service Manager.


15. Conflict Resolution

Introduction

The Islington Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) local dispute resolution process also known as IRO Alerts has been in operation since September 2004. It was revised in 2006 and updated following Children Social Care (CSC) re-organisation in 2008.

The IRO Alert Process

The IRO alert process consists of the IRO outlining their concerns and specifying action required from the case holder's managers in order for the Alert to be resolved and not progressed to a more senior manager.

There are 3 initial stages:

  1. Deputy Team Manager - stage 1;
  2. Team Manager - stage 2;
  3. Operational Manager - stage 3.

The IRO has discretion about which level to initially address their concerns, taking into account the nature of their concerns, the circumstances for the child and the current Care Plan.

The respective manager has 7 calendar days to respond to the alert and if the matter cannot be addressed within that time period, the IRO can use their discretion to await manager's full response or escalate the alert to a more senior level.

As the local dispute resolution process is a statutory requirement and therefore subject to Guidance all communication between the IRO and manager is conducted in writing (email). Telephone calls relevant to the resolution should be summarised in e-mail communication.

Should the Alert not be resolved at Operational Manager level the matter will be progressed to the respective Head of Service - stage 4.

This will take the form of the IRO submitting a summary of the issues, an outline of the action sought from the Local Authority and the efforts to resolve the matter to date.

At stage 4 the manager of the IRO Service will seek immediate advice from the relevant Head of Service as to how the Alert will be addressed and the timescales involved. Resolution can involve convening a meeting with relevant parties. Should such a meeting be proposed the IRO Manager will seek advice from the IRO re their involvement in such a meeting as well as agreement to the proposed timescales. It is the IRO discretion as to whether to accept the timescales proposed by the Head of Service or progress the concern to the Director level.

Should the matter not be satisfactorily resolved the IRO will progress the matter to Director of Child Protection, then the Director of Children's Services and finally the Chief Executive using the above process. All subsequent stages of resolution will follow the Stage 4 process with a written submission from the IRO, the IRO service manager seeking advice as to how the IRO Alert will be addressed, the timescales proposed by the senior manager and the agreement of these by the IRO.

The IRO has the discretion to refer matters subject to IRO Alerts to CAFCASS at any time. It is expected CAFCASS will be advised by the IRO of any matters pending at stage 5 and above.

All IROs have access to independent legal advice at any time. This can be secured by advising the manager of LAPCT (the reviewing service). There are two preferred providers of legal advice - Goodman Ray and Bindmans.

In issuing alerts the IRO should be directed to how the local authority's action / inaction is potentially breaching the children's human rights. This usually relates to:

  • Article 3 - right of the child to protection;
  • Article 6 - right of the child to a fair hearing;
  • Article 8 - right of the child to family life.

It is recognised the IRO may have a preference for one care plan over another for a child. However, IRO Alerts should only be initiated if there is a risk of child's human rights being breached in the development and or execution of the plan. This can include if there is a view that the assessment was not comprehensive or adequate (involved the right people, addressed the right issues), the proposed care plan does not logically arise from the assessment or the care plan proposed does not appear viable or sustainable.

The IRO's Responsibilities

  • To draft all IRO Alerts using the standard form issuing at the respective level of manager (Stage 1, 2 or 3) copying in LACPT Bus and Manager of LACPT, ensuring relevant IRO alert type code is included;
  • To consider and if in agreement act on requests from Managers for further time in the IRO Alert resolution process;
  • To progress IRO Alert to the next level of Manager if matter is not satisfactorily resolved;
  • To seek independent legal advice if required;
  • To advise the court appointed Guardian, via Islington's duty lawyer of the issuing and resolution of any Alert (lawyer.duty@islington.gov.uk);
  • To draft when required statement for Stage 4 and above Alerts. This statement will be used in seeking a resolution at this stage and if progressed will be updated for Stage 5 - Director Child Protection, Stage 6 - Director Children's Services and Stage 7 - Chief Executive;
  • To log the issuing and progress of the IRO Alert as a case note on ICS and to update child and relevant parties on the Alert resolution by the next Looked After Review;
  • To consider and request update from child and or their parents ahead of scheduled review should this be required to confirm resolution of the IRO Alert.

The IRO has the authority to refer the case to CAFCASS where he or she considers it appropriate to do so and must consider a referral to CAFCASS where, having drawn any failures as set out above to the attention of persons of appropriate seniority in the Local Authority, the issues have not been addressed to his or her satisfaction within a reasonable period of time.

Social Worker Manager's Responsibilities

  • To respond (within 7 calendar days) to the concerns of the IRO specifically addressing the requested action;
  • To request from the IRO further time if required to resolve the Alert;
  • To alert their manager if it's likely that the Alert will be progressed.

Safeguarding and Quality Assurance Operational Manager's Responsibilities

  • To facilitate IRO request for independent legal advice;
  • To advise IRO should they be acting outside regulations or Islington procedures;
  • To advise IRO Alert responses that remain outstanding on at least a monthly basis;
  • To establish and implement a range of quality assurance arrangements that will evaluate the conduct of IROs and operation of the IRO service;
  • To notify the allocated IRO of cases identified via other quality assurance arrangements in which an Alert had not been issued but where the LA practice fell short of published practice standards. Such a notification may include advice about further auditing of the IROs allocated cases.

Admin Support to Safeguarding and Quality Assurance Operational Manager Responsibilities

  • To log all alerts on spreadsheet with details of the child, social worker nature of the Alert and the issuing and resolution dates;

  • Analysis of IRO Alerts for inclusion in IRO Service Annual Report.

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