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OxfordshireChildren's Services Procedures Manual

Looked After Reviews

RELATED CHAPTER

Appointment and Role of Independent Reviewing Officers Procedure

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.

RELATED GUIDANCE

Resolution and Escalation Process Procedure

IRO Handbook

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. Resolution and Escalation
  16. Adjournment of Looked After Reviews

  17. Postponement of Looked After Reviews

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

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 as a result of a secure remand are met;
  • To ensure that an 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 foster home after the age of 18) should be an option.

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;
  • Placement Plan/ Placement Information Records
  • Permanence Plan;
  • Health Care Plan;
  • Pathway Plan if applicable;
  • Personal Education Plan (PEP);

The review should also take account of 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 of the child becoming Looked After; and in the event of a change of placement, within 20 working days of the new placement;

  • The second Looked After Review should be conducted within three months (91 days) of an Initial Looked After Review;

  • Subsequent Looked After Reviews should be conducted not more than six months (183 days) 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;

  • 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.

NB In relation to the usual timescales, if staff round these up to 1, 3 and 6 month intervals they may fall out of the required timescales by one or two days. A review calculator is available to help calculate the due date of the next review and should be used to ensure accuracy.

C68 measures performance in terms of the timeliness of Looked After Reviews. It is measured from 1st April to 31st March each year. It is important to note that if one review is late in any given year and subsequently reviews are held on time, the child concerned will fail the indicator for that year. Furthermore the timeliness of reviews is measured against the latest recorded review in the previous year. Therefore if a child had an ongoing review on 1st April its timeliness would be measured against the last review in the previous year.

3. Chairing of Reviews

An Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) will be designated to chair all reviews for a particular child.

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

See also Appointment and Role of Independent Reviewing Officers Procedure.

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. In the event of this not being possible the social workers Team Manager should chair the meeting and advise the Independent Reviewing Officer of the outcome as soon as practicable thereafter so that the process and decision making can be quality assured.

4. Convening Looked After Reviews

4.1 Arranging the first review

Within two working days of a child becoming Looked After, (.2 IRO handbook), the child's social worker must notify IROadmin@Oxfordshire.gov.uk by email headed “request for 20 Day LAC Review".

This will trigger the appointment of an Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) for the child who will liaise with the allocated Social Worker to arrange the date, time and venue of the child's first Looked After 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 an agreement reached about who should 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 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. Whenever possible the parent/carer should be included in these discussions. Where the child is unable to contribute to the decisions, for example due to their young age, the parents’ views should be sought.

Invitations to initial reviews will be sent by either the administrative support for the child’s social worker or the IRO depending on capacity and administrative arrangements 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 considered:

  • 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, (except as set out below);
  • The supervising social worker, if the child is placed with foster carers;
  • The link 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;
  • The Child/ren's Guardian if one has been appointed;

  • Any other person with a legitimate interest in the child e.g. health care professional, GP, 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 an advocate, supporter or interpreter to the review.

Where the child does not wish to attend the review, the IRO must at the very least 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.

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 make the following documents available to the IRO 3 working days before the review date (unless otherwise agreed with the Independent Reviewing Officer):

  • Social Worker report for LAC review;
  • Care Plan or Pathway Plan.

The Social Worker and IRO should agree which of the following documents should be copied and brought to the review by the social worker for all review participants.

  • 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.

See also Appointment and Role of Independent Reviewing Officers Procedure, Duty of Social Worker to Keep IRO Informed.

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.

In all the circumstances listed above, as well as in others not specified, the social worker will ensure that relevant individuals are invited to the Review, having first discussed the situation with the Independent Reviewing Officer.

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.

See also Appointment and Role of Independent Reviewing Officers Procedure, which sets out in detail to role of the IRO outside the Looked After Review.

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 ensuring 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.

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.

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.

Other matters which may arise should also be considered with due regard to the circumstances of the child and the placement including, in appropriate cases, that an application has been made to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board on the child’s behalf.

After the review, the IRO will complete a Quality Assurance questionnaire noting 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 13, Monitoring of Review Decisions.

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

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 all stages, the need for Twin Track Planning should be considered.

At the second Looked After Review, there is a requirement to focus on the Care 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 to consider whether the contingency plan should become the preferred plan 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, twin track planning 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

Paragraph 4.17 of The Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations Volume 2: Care Planning, Placement and Case Review June 2015 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.

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. The Social Worker and IRO must ensure this process is recorded as usual, within the relevant review episode in the child’s ICS record, noting the rationale and reasons for a meeting not being held.

11. Looked After Reviews on Children who are the Subject of Child Protection Plans

When a Looked After Child is no longer living in the situation which gave rise to the child protection concerns that resulted in him/her having a Child Protection Plan and there is no current plan for the child to be returned, or if this was anticipated at the previous Child Protection Conference, his/her Child Protection Plan may be discontinued. The decision to discontinue a Child Protection Plan must be a multi-agency one, agreed by the Child Protection Review Conference participants/Core Group members.

There are three points at which this decision can be made; Initial Child Protection Case Conference (when the change of status is anticipated), Review Child Protection Case Conference (when the status is actual or anticipated) or at a LAC Review.

If a Child Protection Review Conference is planned to take place within 20 working days of the child becoming Looked After, the Conference must carefully consider and record the decision including justification for the child being the subject of dual CP and LAC plans. The Looked After Child who has a Child Protection Plan will also be subject to statutory child care review procedures.

Consideration should be given to the Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) chairing the Child Protection Review Conference as well as the Looked After Review but, where that is not possible, it will be expected that the IRO will attend both meetings (unless the CP Conference chair is to become the child’s IRO which negates the need for this).

If a Review Child Protection Case Conference will not be held within 20 working days, the Independent Reviewing Officer and Independent Conference Chair (unless these are one in the same) will discuss the safeguarding issues within the context of the proposed LAC Care Plan. The need for an ongoing Child Protection Plan will then be discussed at the 20 working day LAC review meeting within the context of the proposed LAC Care Plan.

At the point of the child becoming Looked After, the Independent Conference Chair will write to the involved agencies/Core Group to advise this is the case, requesting their views and advising that the child protection status of the child will be considered at the 20 working day LAC review, when their views will be taken into account.

Guidance Notes

Where a child is Looked After, decisions regarding the continued need for a Child Protection Plan should be made alongside consideration of the Care Plan. Looked After Reviews and Child Protection Review Conferences are separate meetings with different purposes. 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, as the Looked After Review, in reviewing the child protection aspects of the child’s Care Plan, should consider whether the criteria continue to be met for the child to remain the subject of a Child Protection Plan. The Independent Reviewing Officer who chairs the LAC review will record the decision and CP conference members will be added to the distribution list. Correspondence must be sufficiently detailed to demonstrate a transparent collaborative approach to decision making is being taken.

The LAC Care Plan will be the primary means of safeguarding the safety and welfare of the child. A Child Protection Plan should only be necessary as a supplement if:

  • The child will be spending time in the household where the Significant Harm took place; or
  • With the adult responsible for the Significant Harm; or
  • While consultation about ending CP planning with relevant agencies is carried out; and/or
  • There is doubt about the sustainability of the child’s LAC status.

N.B The plans made at Looked After Reviews must be consistent with the Child Protection Plan.

For cases where the potential of proceedings being initiated is clear at an earlier Initial or Review Child Protection Case Conference, in that meeting the Independent Conference Chair will seek Core Group/agency agreement to end the Child Protection Plan (without another conference) should an Order confirming the child will no longer be living in the household be made subsequently. 

Fortnightly visits and six weekly core groups should be maintained until Child Protection planning is formally ended. However the protocol of reducing frequency of CP monitoring visits to monthly could be implemented to address this if appropriate.

Where a Looked After Review or other local authority child care planning meeting, proposes the return of a child with a Child Protection Plan to his or her parents or carers or any other change which might significantly affect the level of risk, the decision (unless this formed part of the original Child Protection Plan) must not be implemented until it has been considered by a Child Protection Review Conference.

Where there is disagreement within the subsequent Child Protection Review Conference, the situation must be brought to the attention of the social worker’s manager, who will decide whether to proceed with the plan made at the Looked After Review.

Where a child with a Child Protection Plan is removed from being Accommodated by his/her parents or where a Looked After Child is returned to his or her parents or carers in Court proceedings against the recommendation of the local authority, a Child Protection Review Conference must be convened to consider the risks to the child and the implications for the Child Protection Plan.

If necessary and appropriate, the local authority must take action to protect the child prior to the Child Protection Review Conference. This must not be delayed until after the Review Conference is convened if an enquiry or assessment indicates that it is required sooner.

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.

 

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 Independent Review Officer to all participants within 5 working days of the meeting. This should also be sent to the designated senior manager who will consider the decisions made at the review - see Section 12, Review Decisions.

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 administrative support for either the child’s Social Worker or the IRO (depending on capacity and administrative arrangements) 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 contact order' or supervised contact only.

13. Review Decisions

A team manager 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 team manager 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, Resolution and Escalation.

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 Service Manager, Quality Assurance and reported regularly to the relevant 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, Quality Assurance.

15. Resolution and Escalation

The Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010 which were enacted in April 2011 included the IRO Handbook 2010 which includes the requirement for the Local Authority to produce a Dispute Resolution Process. In Oxfordshire this process will be referred to as the Resolution and Escalation Process

It is anticipated that issues will usually fall into the following categories:

  • Practice;
  • Judgement;
  • Clarification of accountability;
  • Strategic issues. 

All issues should initially be raised by a direct discussion (face to face or by telephone) with the allocated social worker or responsible team manager to seek to resolve the matter informally. The IRO should place a record of this initial informal resolution process on the child’s file and, if resolution is not achieved in a timescale appropriate to the child’s needs, the IRO will initiate the formal process set out below.

It is for the IRO to determine [with the support of the Service Manager] the most effective way of achieving resolution of the issue. For example an issue relating directly to a child, e.g. lack of statutory visits, is likely to be dealt with at Stage 1 and escalated quickly if there is no resolution; whereas a serious conflict over the plan itself is likely to be escalated to Stages 2 and 3 from the outset.

Although the statutory requirement for the issue to be resolved is 20 working days it is expected that all staff respond quickly and that the minimum time period is utilised.

If there are a number of issues relating to a particular service, as well as the IRO dealing with individual situations, the Service Managers will report on that issue in the monthly thematic report to CMT.

It is important to recognise that social work teams and IROs may have genuine professional disagreements. It is important that the evidence is carefully recorded and analysed. All issues raised need to be recorded accurately and carefully and will form part of the child’s file.

Stage 1

IRO raises alert with social worker and confirms in writing in an email, copying in the team manager. All emails should be headed Resolution and Escalation Alert.

The email should summarise the conversation with agreed actions and timescales. Once the situation is resolved the IRO should record in brief the details of the R&E and the outcome on an IRO overview case note. The Resolution and Escalation Alert Form will not need to be completed at this stage.

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Stage 2 if issue unable to be resolved or there is a serious safeguarding issue.

IRO to escalate to ASCMs and alert SM Safeguarding. To ensure expected outcome and timeframe are clear Maximum timeframe for ASCM response is 5 working days

Stage 3 if issue still not resolved or there has been a failure to respond to a serious safeguarding issue or potential breach of human rights. IRO to escalate to Deputy Director and alert Safeguarding Manager - expected outcomes on the Alert Form may require updating.

Stage 4 [expectation stages 4 and 5 are rarely used] if issue still not resolved or there is a continuing failure to respond to a serious safeguarding issue or potential breach of human rights.

IRO to escalate to Director and alert Deputy Director Safeguarding [if not already aware].

Stage 5 if issue still not resolved or there is a continuing failure to respond to a serious safeguarding issue or potential breach of human rights.

IRO to escalate to Head of Paid Service and alert DCS.

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.

16. Adjournment of Looked After 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 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 following information applies to the adjournment of Looked After Reviews:

17. Postponement of Looked After Reviews

  1. Review dates cannot be changed from the agreed date, except in exceptional circumstances and changes must be agreed with the IRO and aim for completion within required timescales;
  2. Where a social worker wishes to change the date of a Review they should first of all contact the Independent Reviewing Officer to discuss the options;
  3. Where the allocated social worker is ill or not available for a scheduled Looked After Review, the social worker’s Team Manager should attend the Review in the allocated worker’s absence to present the summary of work and report;
  4. If the case is not allocated, a manager known to the child should attend the Looked After Review to provide the necessary information to enable the Review to go ahead within the required timescale. This may involve the manager meeting with the child before the Review;
  5. Where the foster home is the venue for the Review and the foster carer is ill on the scheduled date, the Review should go ahead as planned but at another venue and the foster carer’s link social worker should be invited to provide information about the placement;
  6. If an older child who is expected to attend is ill or unable to attend due to another important/unavoidable commitment, the Review should wherever possible be rescheduled within the required statutory time-scale;
  7. Should the child not attend as agreed/expected, the Review should go ahead as planned and the Independent Reviewing Officer should advise the child in writing of the outcome and offer a face-to-face meeting to explain the recommendations and hear any representations from the child;
  8. In the light of any representations from the child, the Independent Reviewing Officer may make amendments to the recommended plan following consultation with key members of the Review (this may be done in writing or by phone);
  9. If a parent or significant family member who should be present is unable to attend, the Review should go ahead but every effort should be made to seek their views in advance of the meeting. The Independent Reviewing Officer should write to them after the Review, explain the recommendations of the Review and offer a face-to-face meeting;
  10. If the Independent Reviewing Officer is ill at the time of a scheduled Looked After Review, the social worker’s Team Manager may chair the Review and discuss the recommendations with the Independent Reviewing Officer before they are endorsed;
  11. Postponement of more than one Review per year should be referred to the Service Manager, Quality Assurance, to consider what, if any further action should be taken.

NB Currently two indicators are used to measure performance on Looked After Reviews:

  • C68 The percentage of reviews held on time within a given year;
  • C69 The percentage of young people aged 4 plus who participated in their review in a given year.

These indicators are measured from 1st April to 31st March each year.

It is important to note that if one review is late in any given year then even if subsequent reviews are held on time the child concerned will fail the indicator for that year. Furthermore the timeliness of reviews is measured against the latest recorded review in the previous year. So if a child had an ongoing review on 1st April its timeliness would be measured against the last review in the previous year.