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Greater Manchester SCB Procedures
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3.5.1 Statutory Reviews for Looked After Children Policy and Guidance

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This document seeks to clarify the role of Independent Reviewing Officers (IROs), the purpose of statutory reviews and to promote good practice within Salford. It was introduced to the procedures manual in September 2012.

RELEVANT CHAPTER AND GUIDANCE

Guidance for Professionals Regarding Children Subject to Dual Processes - Child Protection Plans and Looked After Child Plans

Good Practice Guidance Effectively Evidencing the IRO role within PLO and Care Proceedings

Also, 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 Court Remand to Local Authority Accommodation or to Youth Detention Accommodation Procedure, Care Planning for Young People on Remand or Youth Detention Accommodation.

AMENDMENT

This chapter was updated in May 2017 to include a link 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 4, Attendance at the Review and Location). Salford’s Policy is that representatives accompanying parents or children to a Child Protection Conference and to other local authority Children Act meetings should be able to assist their clients to express their views and participate in the meeting, (with the chair's permission).


Contents

  1. Regulatory and Legislative Background
  2. Timescales
  3. Purpose and Content of the Review
  4. Attendance at the Review and Location
  5. Types of Reviews
  6. Participation and Consultation
  7. Observers
  8. Exclusions
  9. Adjournment of Reviews
  10. Statutory Reviews with other Meetings
  11. Quality Assurance
  12. Duty of Social Work Staff
  13. Administrative Process
  14. IROs and Complaints
  15. Dispute Resolution
  16. Independent Legal Advice
  17. Contacting IROs
  18. References


1. Regulatory and Legislative Background

The Children Act 1989 introduced the concept of the review as “a continuous process of planning and reconsideration of the plan for the child”. The guidance recommended that the review of the child’s case should be chaired by an officer of the Local Authority at a more senior level than the case social worker. Following this many Local Authorities, including Salford, appointed Independent Reviewing Officers (IROs) who did not carry line management responsibility for the case. Their independence became key to improving the processes of care planning and reviewing.

The role of the IRO was envisaged to:

  • Offer a safeguard to prevent “drift” in planning the care for Looked After Children;

  • Ensure efforts to review children’s cases were focused on meeting the needs of the children;

  • Monitor the activity of the Local Authority as corporate parent in ensuring appropriate actions were taken to meet the child’s needs;
  • Ensure that plans for Looked After Children were timely, effective and sensitive to individual need.

The House of Lords in 2002 delivered a judgment on two conjoined appeals regarding the powers of the court to monitor the Local Authority’s implementation of a care plan once a care order had been made. The judgment concluded that the courts have no general power to monitor the discharge of the Local Authority’s functions, but that a Local Authority that failed in its duties to a child could be challenged under the Human Rights Act 1998. However, the judgment expressed concern that some children with no adult to act on their behalf may not have any effective means to initiate such a challenge.

The Adoption and Children Act 2002 makes IROs a legal requirement and its amended regulations seek to remedy the problem highlighted by the House of Lords. Hence, if the local authority is failing in its duty to the child to the extent that the child’s human rights are in danger of being breached, the IRO can ultimately refer the case to the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) to make an application to the Court for a judgment as to whether a child’s human rights have been breached.

S118 of the Act amends S26 of the Children Act (Review of Cases of Looked After Children) to require the appointment of IROs to participate in the review of children’s cases, to monitor the authority’s function in respect of the review and to refer a child’s case to CAFCASS if the failure to implement aspects of the care plan might be considered in breach of a child’s human rights.

(See also Good Practice Guidance Effectively Evidencing the IRO role within PLO and Care Proceedings.)

The Regulations state:

“The independent reviewing officer must be registered as a social worker in a register maintained by the General Social Care Council under section 56 of the Care Standards Act 2000 or in a corresponding register maintained under the law of Scotland or Northern Ireland”. From November 2012, responsibility for maintaining the Register transferred to the Health and Care Professional Council (HCPC).

“The independent reviewing officer must, in the opinion of the responsible authority, have sufficient relevant social work experience to undertake the functions mentioned in paragraph (1) in relation to the case.”

“A person who is an employee of the responsible authority may not be appointed as an independent reviewing officer in a case if he is involved in the management of the case or is under the direct management of:

  1. A person involved in the management of the case;
  2. A person with management responsibilities in relation to a person mentioned in sub-paragraph (a); or
  3. A person with control over the resources allocated to the case."

"The independent reviewing officer must:

  1. As far as reasonably practicable attend any meeting held in connection with the review of the child's case; and
  2. Chair any such meeting that he attends."

The Children and Young Person Act 2008 strengthened the IRO role further stating:

  1. The independent reviewing officer must:
    1. Monitor the performance by the Local Authority of their functions in relation to the child's case;
    2. Participate, in accordance with regulations made by the appropriate national authority, in any review of the child's case;
    3. Ensure that any ascertained wishes and feelings of the child concerning the case are given due consideration by the Local Authority;

The introduction of the IRO Handbook in April 2011 further clarified the role of the IRO and was issued under the provisions of the Children and Young Persons Act 2008, which created a new power for the Secretary of State to issue statutory guidance to IROs and under section 7 of the Local Authority Social Services Act 1970, which requires Local Authorities, in the exercise of their social services functions, to act under the general guidance of the Secretary of State; unless there are exceptional reasons Local Authorities must follow the requirements set out in this guidance.

This statutory document seeks to improve outcomes for Looked After Children by providing guidance to independent reviewing officers (IROs) about how they should discharge their distinct responsibilities to Looked After Children. It also provides guidance to Local Authorities on their strategic and managerial responsibilities in establishing an effective IRO service. The aim is to give all Looked After Children the support and services that each one requires to enable them to reach their potential.

See IRO Handbook: Statutory guidance for independent reviewing officers and local authorities on their functions in relation to case management and review for looked after children.

This guidance replaces the 2004 guidance. It should be read in conjunction with the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010.

See The Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations Volume 2: Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (2015).

Within Salford each Looked After Child has a named IRO, in accordance with the Children and Young Person Act 2008. The ways in which they can contact them is detailed in Section 6, Participation and Consultation.

While the primary function of the IRO is to review the cases of individual children they play an important role within the department in driving forward good practice and addressing quality assurance. Further information can be found in Section 11, Quality Assurance Role.


2. Timescales

When a child becomes Looked After the social worker is responsible for completing the movement form on Carefirst and sends an activity to their responsible admin officer. The worker will update Carefirst and inform the Senior Admin Officer (LAC) at the Safeguarding Children and Quality Assurance Unit. An IRO must be appointed for the child within 5 working days of them becoming Looked After. In conjunction with the social worker a date will be set for the first statutory review, taking into account the child’s view about timing, venue and attendees, where appropriate.

The IRO will send a letter to the young person to advise them that they are the appointed IRO and to provide contact details. An information document ‘What is My review?’ will also be sent to all young people aged 5 years and over.

The timescale for when reviews should be held is stated in The IRO Handbook and is specified in the Regulations (regulation 33). In summary:

First Within 20 working days of the date on which the child becomes Looked After.
Second No more than 3 months after the first review.
Subsequent The 3rd and subsequent review no more than 6 months after the previous one.

There is no leeway in the timescales as this is a statutory requirement. The number of reviews held on time is a key performance indicator and 100% compliance is required. If a difficulty in meeting this is predicted the social worker or Practice Manager needs to speak to the IRO or Service Manager (LAC, Safeguarding) as soon as the problem is identified. In Salford it has been agreed that reviews will be booked in at within 20 days, 2 months and 5 months to ensure they do not go out of timescale if they need to be rearranged for any reason.

The IRO may also decide to bring forward a review date if they are of the view that this is needed. The review will be brought forward when there is any major change to the child’s plan, including:

  • Not more than 3 months after the date on which the agency first has authority to place a child for adoption i.e. on the making of a Placement Order (Adoption Agency regulations 2005); and
  • Thereafter, not more than 6 months after the date of the previous review until the child is placed for adoption;
  • When a child is placed for adoption the first review must take place not more than 4 weeks after the date on which the child is placed with the 2nd review taking place not more than 3 months after the 1st review and thereafter not more than 6 months after the date of the previous review unless the child is returned to the agency by the prospective adopter or an adoption order is made. (Adoption Agency Regulations 2005).

The IRO may also direct that a review 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;
  • Breakdown of long term placement;
  • Move to long term placement;
  • Move to placement with parents/relatives;
  • Move to outside placement;
  • Move to a secure placement;
  • Before a 16 or 17 year old young person is discharged from care.

The IRO may also wish to bring forward a review if a plan was not presented or seemed uncertain or there was a concern around an action. This is allowed for in Regulation 3.3. “A review must be carried out before the time specified in paragraph (1) or (2) if the independent reviewing officer so directs”. In addition, between review meetings the IRO may also track the progress of the implementation of the plan.


3. Purpose and Content of the Review

The key components of working with children are assessment, planning, intervention and reviewing. The purpose of the review is to consider the quality of the child’s care plan based on the local authority’s assessment of the child’s needs. The care plan for each individual child must specify how the authority proposes to respond to the full range of the child’s needs, taking into account his/her wishes and feelings. The IRO must be satisfied that the plan identifies who is responsible for achieving the plan’s objectives and clear timescales must be set.

See also Guidance for Professionals Regarding children Subject to Dual Processes - CPP/LAC.

If the Care Plan has been significantly changed a review will need to be held. The review will then be brought forward (see Section 2, Timescales).

The statutory duties of the IRO are to:

  • Monitor the performance by the Local Authority of their functions in relation to the child’s case;
  • Participate in any review of the child’s case;
  • Ensure that any ascertained wishes and feelings of the child concerning the case are given due consideration by the appropriate authority; and
  • Perform any other function which is prescribed in regulations.

The primary task of the IRO is to ensure that the care plan for the child fully reflects the child’s current assessed needs and that the actions set out in the plan are consistent with the Local Authority’s legal responsibilities towards the child. As corporate parents each Local Authority should act for the children they look after as a responsible and conscientious parent would act.

There are now two clear and separate aspects to the function of the IRO:

  1. Chairing the child's review; and
  2. Monitoring the child's case on an ongoing basis.
While the review looks at the individual child the review process will also aid the driving forward of good practice within the department as the IROs all contribute to quality assurance and standard setting (see Section 11, Quality Assurance Role).

The care plan must be prepared before the child is first placed by the Local Authority, or if this is not practicable, within ten working days of the start of the first placement. (Regulation 4).

The IRO has a crucial role to play in ensuring that the Local Authority fulfils its responsibilities as a ‘corporate parent’ for all the children that it looks after.

A good care plan should:

  • State the broad objectives;
  • Explain in detail how the objectives for the child can be achieved;
  • Consider the type of accommodation required; what other services are required for the child; services for parents or other family members and/or the child’s carer;
  • Be needs based and not service led, indicate what services might need to be provided by other organisations such as health or a voluntary organisation;
  • Say what the likely duration of the placement will be;
  • Say what are the arrangements for sustaining family links, promoting contact and the reunification of the family;
  • Consider the progress of life story work for all Looked After Children;
  • Ensure that the child’s religious and cultural needs are being met;
  • Contain a needs based assessment, with an analysis and evidence of outcomes and include all relevant people, i.e. the child, parents and carers need to be consulted and contribute in a meaningful way;
  • Ensure that in particular the child’s wishes and feelings are documented and commented upon, state the objectives for the child/young person and or parents/carer. These need to be specific, realistic, achievable and clear, have clear timescales which need to be specified for any assessments/pieces of work;
  • Bring together other plans i.e. health plans and Personal Education Plans (PEP’s);
  • Be understandable for the child, jargon free, and child focused;
  • By the 2nd review the care plan needs to include a plan for permanence for the child as set out in the statutory guidance to the 2002 Act.

The care plan remains as a working tool for all those working with the child/young person, parents, and carers. All need to have a copy. Messages from research show that there is a direct link between the quality of care planning and achieving good outcomes.

The care plan must be endorsed by the Practice Manager. Where an unqualified member of staff has completed the care plan the contents must be agreed by the social worker and endorsed by the Practice Manager.

Within 10 working days, following the completion of the review, the social worker should update the care plan in relation to any changes to the care plan agreed at the review (IRO Handbook).

Statutory Requirements in respect of issues to consider at the review:

As the chair of the review, the IRO should ensure that the following issues are all addressed as part of each review process (Schedule 7):

  • The effect of any change in the child’s circumstances since the last review;
  • Whether decisions taken at the last review have been successfully implemented and if not why not;
  • The legal status of the child and whether it remains appropriate - for example, where the child is looked after under section 20 of the 1989 Act, whether this status 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 meet his/her needs through to adulthood;
  • Whether the child’s plan includes a plan for permanence within viable timescales that are meaningful for the child - this must include plans for permanency from the second review onwards;
  • The arrangements for contact in relation to the 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;
  • Whether the placement is meeting 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 arrangements is necessary or likely to become necessary before the next review;
  • The child’s educational needs, progress and development and whether any actions need to be taken or are likely to become necessary before the next review, in order to ensure that the child’s educational needs are met and not neglected (this should include consideration of the current PEP);
  • The leisure activities in which the child is engaging and whether these are meeting the child’s needs and current expressed interests;
  • The report of the most recent assessment of the child’s health and whether any change to the arrangements for the child’s health are necessary or likely to become necessary before the next review, in order to ensure that the child’s health needs are met and not neglected;
  • The identity needs of the child, how these are being met;
  • Whether the arrangement to provide advice, support and assistance to the child continues to be appropriate and understood by the child;
  • Whether the placement safeguards and promotes the child’s welfare, and whether any safeguarding concerns have been raised;
  • Whether any arrangements need to be made for the time when the child will no longer be looked after, so that the child will be properly prepared and ready to make this significant move;
  • Whether the child’s social worker has taken steps to establish the child’s wishes and feelings, that the care plan has taken these into consideration and that the care plan demonstrates this;
  • Whether the child is being visited by the social worker at the minimum statutory intervals and when the child requests a visit; and
  • That plans and decisions to advance the overall planning for the child’s care have been taken and acted upon in a timely way.
The IRO is responsible for setting any remedial timescales if actions have not been taken and there is a risk of drift in the delivery of a plan that will meet the child’s needs and planned outcomes within the child’s timescale.


4. Attendance at the Review and Location

The review is the child’s meeting and discussion should take place between the social worker and the child at least 20 working days before the meeting about who the child would like to attend the meeting and about where the meeting will be held. This allows time for subsequent discussion about attendance and venue between the IRO and the social worker and for written invitations to be sent out.

Those invited to attend the review will depend on the case. However consideration should be given to all of the following attending:

Others it may be appropriate to invite:

  • Family Placement Social Worker and/or Family Placement Support Worker;
  • Children and Families Officer;
  • Family Centre Worker;
  • Contact Centre Representative;
  • Children's Guardian;
  • Social Work Practice Manager;
  • STARLAC Representative;
  • Commissioning Officer (outside placements);
  • Interpreter;
  • Youth Offending Service;
  • Missing from Home Team;
  • Specialist Services who have a significant role with the child.

    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).

    Representatives accompanying parents or children to a Child Protection Conference and to other local authority Children Act meetings should be able to assist their clients to express their views and participate in the meeting, and should (with the chair's permission) be allowed to speak on their behalf.

It must be remembered that it is the child’s review. Professionals who work with the child’s parents may have information to share about, for example, where assessments are up to. This may be given through the social worker or other representative if it is not appropriate for them to attend.

As it is the child’s review they need to be consulted about who should be in attendance. They can decide not to have certain people there. If this is the case it needs to be explored why they don’t want a particular person present. For example they may ask for a school representative not to be present. This could be because they don’t want the school to know some of their personal information or because they know the teacher may raise an issue such as non attendance. If a child or young person does not want someone present this needs to be respected and alternative ways of holding the meeting or sharing information should be considered.

The numbers of attendees should be kept to a minimum and it is therefore appropriate for one representative of an agency to attend.

The review should take place in a venue where the child is most likely to feel relaxed and comfortable. First consideration should be given to the review taking place in the child’s placement. It may not be appropriate for professionals to be present throughout the meeting and consideration should be given in advance to when they should make their contribution. In some circumstances it may be more appropriate for the IRO to meet separately with members of the professional network and/or with the parents.

The IRO should ensure that the views of the following are considered at the review, whether or not they attend a meeting:

  • The child or young person;
  • Birth parents and any other adults with parental responsibility;
  • Other significant adults in the child life, for example extended family members;
  • Those caring for the child, such as foster carers; and
  • Relevant professionals.

The care plan must be presented at the review by a qualified social worker.


5. Types of Reviews

First

When a child becomes Looked After, their first review is held within 20 working days. The planning may well be at the early stages and care proceedings may not have begun or the Case Management Conference may not yet have taken place. Public Law Outline processes may still be at pre-proceedings stage (see Public Law Outline Procedure). However, the Care Plan should be completed within 10 working days of the child becoming Looked After and this must be available for the review. The first review may well be lengthy as parents are trying to take in what is happening, assessments may be being planned, carers are just getting to know children, etc.

Paperwork/reports required:  Care Plan.
(48 hours in advance) Social Worker Report.

When the child is Looked After under Section 20 (Children Act 1989) a Legal Planning Meeting (see Legal Planning Meetings Procedure) should take place within 2 weeks of the child becoming accommodated. At the initial review the IRO will check that this has taken place and will make a recommendation for a meeting to be arranged as soon as possible if this has not already taken place.

At the initial review the IRO will make a standard recommendation that a Permanence Planning Meeting must be held before the second review. This is in order to ensure that the child’s permanence plan is incorporated into their care plan by the second review. (See also Permanence Planning Guidance).

Second

At the second review the permanency plan needs to be presented. This does not need to be in a separate document. It should be incorporated into the Care Plan, which may need to be updated to take it into account, and in the social worker’s report. It is expected that in many cases there may be more than one permanency plan presented, as assessments are just beginning, work with parents is being undertaken, relative assessments are being undertaken, etc.

Paperwork/reports required: Care Plan.
(72 hrs in advance) Social Workers Report.
 

Permanency Plan (incorporated in the Above).

  Personal Education Plan.
  Health Assessment.

Subsequent

When six monthly reviews take place the Care Plan may be the permanent plan that has been agreed and is in the process of being implemented or has already been implemented. The review will still need to consider the detail of the Care Plan even if the child appears to be in a settled long term placement.

The IRO will want to have details of long term linking, may raise issues of securing permanency through permanent orders, such as Child Arrangements Order or Special Guardianship Order. They will look at the detail of the Care Plan around contact, education, health, identity, etc and ensure those needs are still being addressed. They will be mindful of the need to avoid drift. They may also raise the issue of whether an application for Criminal Injuries Compensation (see Criminal Injuries Compensation Procedure) is appropriate.

Paperwork/reports required: Care Plan, including updated Permanency Plan
(72 hrs in advance) Social Worker Report
  Personal Education Plan
  Health Assessment

Adoption

When a child is placed with adopters, or their current placement becomes an adoptive placement, a review needs to be held within 28 days, thereafter within 3 months and then at a minimum of 6 monthly until the adoption order is made or the placement is disrupted.

The adoption review is held under the Adoption Agencies Regulations 2005 and supersedes the requirement to hold a “Looked After” Review.

The regulations require that the following are considered in a review:

(5) When carrying out a review the adoption agency must consider each of the matters set out in paragraph (6) and must, so far as is reasonably practicable, ascertain the views of:

  1. The child, having regard to his age and understanding;
  2. If the child is placed for adoption, the prospective adopter; and
  3. Any other person the agency considers relevant, in relation to such of the matters set out in paragraph (6) as the agency considers appropriate.

(6) The matters referred to in paragraph (5) are:

  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. Subject to paragraphs (1) and (3), the frequency of the reviews.

Paperwork required: Adoption Placement Report
(48hrs in advance) Adoption Support Plan
  Delegated Parental Responsibility Checklist

A timetable for the later life letter and life story work to be completed, if not already done so will be identified.

Under the Adoption Agency Regulations 2005 it is also specified that a review must be held within 3 months of the making of a Placement Order. This is whether the child is within an adoptive placement or not. It states the following should be addressed by the review:

(7) Where the child is subject to a placement order and has not been placed for adoption at the time of the first 6 months review, the Local Authority must at that review:

  1. Establish why the child has not been placed for adoption and consider what further steps the authority should take in relation to the placement of the child for adoption; and
  2. Consider whether it remains satisfied that the child should be placed for adoption.

Should an adoptive placement breakdown the Adoption Agency Regulations state that a review should be held not earlier than 28 days and not later than 42 days.

Next Steps (leaving care)

Within Salford the components of the Care Plan and the Social Workers Report have been incorporated into the ICS Pathway Plan. Although the Pathway Plan is reviewed every 6 months the Pathway Advisor still needs to ensure this is up to date before a statutory review. The review should consider transition arrangements.

Paperwork/reports required:
(48 hrs in advance)
Pathway Plan (In Salford the ICS plan has been adapted to incorporate the Care Plan and the social worker report).

Children in Secure Provision

Children who are looked after and within secure provision will fall into the category of children with a change of Care Plan who will need to have their review brought forward. There will need to be a review within 28 days of the placement being made.

If a statutory review is to be held at the same time as the criteria review the criteria review must be held first. (NB the child’s IRO should not chair the Secure Criteria Review). See Section 10, Statutory Reviews with other Meetings and Secure Accommodation (Criteria) Reviews Procedure.

Short Break Care (Respite)

Where a child is provided with a series of pre-planned short breaks under section 17(6) of the 1989 Act (and the child is accommodated for a continuous period of more than 24 hours) but no single placement lasts more than 17 days and the total length of those placements does not exceed 75 days in a year, regulation 48 of the 2010 Regulations applies. Regulation 48 allows for a series of pre-planned short breaks for such a child in the same placement to be treated as a single placement for the purposes of applying the 2010 Regulations. (See Chapter 6, The Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations Volume 2: Care Planning, Placement and Case Review). If the child receives a short break under section 17(6) of the 1989 Act, the child is not Looked After within the meaning of that Act.

The purpose of the short break care plan for a child in a short break provision is substantially different from the plan for a child who is looked after continuously. Where a child receives short breaks, the parents have primary responsibility for planning their child’s future, although the family may often seek advice and support from the Local Authority and partner agencies in meeting their child’s needs. The short break care plan therefore should focus on setting out those matters which will ensure that the child’s needs can be fully met while the child is away from his/her parents. The short break care plan should be linked to the child in need plan, which should include all the key information about the child. These should not be separate plans which duplicate information.

The short break care plan should include that information which is necessary in order to allow those caring for the child to do so safely and sensitively and to promote good outcomes for the child. The plan must include information about:
  • The child’s health, emotional and behavioural development including full details about any disabilities, medical needs and medications the child may have;
  • The child’s specific communication needs;
  • Arrangements for contacting the parents as necessary, in particular, an emergency contact number;
  • The child’s likes and dislikes with particular regard to stimulation and leisure interests; and
  • How the carers, as appropriate, promote the child’s educational achievement (for example, visits undertaken by the carers with the child may complement the child’s school learning, or some help with homework may be required especially if the child goes to school directly from the short break before returning home).

In addition, each short break care plan must include, as appropriate, information to support the placement. There is not a requirement for a separate placement plan for children looked after in a series of short breaks, but the short break care plan must address the following questions insofar as they are appropriate to the placement in question:

  • The type and address of the accommodation and the name of the person responsible;
  • How long the arrangement is expected to last and steps to take to end or change the arrangements;
  • Relevant aspects of the child’s history and information about his/her religious and cultural background and how such matters affect the child’s daily routine;
  • Any delegation of parental responsibility to the responsible authority or to those who have care of the child, for example in the case of a medical emergency, or participation in specific activities;
  • Financial arrangements for the placement; and
  • When the child is placed with a person who is approved as a local authority foster carer, confirmation of the foster carer’s agreement.

The short break care plan should be signed by the child’s parents, by the responsible authority, by those providing the care, the provider agency and, where appropriate, by the child.

In accordance with regulation 48, the plans for children in short breaks are reviewed less frequently than plans for other children. The first review for children in short breaks should take place within three months of the start of their first placement. Subsequent reviews should be at intervals of no more than six months.

The role of the Officer reviewing Children cared for 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 those facilitating reviews are sensitive to the close and active involvement of parents. In Salford Short break Care reviews are facilitated by officers from the Children with Disabilities Team.

The participation and consultation of children with disabilities needs to take into account their disability and can for example include the use of communication aids. They may also wish to have someone with them who they have good relationship with.

Paperwork required:
(48hrs in advance)
Child in Need Care Plan.

There will be some children whose package of short breaks will be such that their welfare will be best safeguarded by being a Looked After Child for the periods in which they are away from home. Such children might, for instance:

  • Have substantial packages of short breaks sometimes in more than one setting; and
  • Belong to families whose resources are very stretched and who may have difficulties providing support to their child while s/he is away from home or monitoring the quality of care received.

In such cases, in consultation with parents, the local authority may decide to provide short break accommodation for the child under section 20(4). Providing accommodation on this basis has no effect on the parents’ parental responsibility and, of course, parents can remove the child from the accommodation at any time. They retain overall responsibility for the health, education and longer term planning for their child, although they may ask for assistance from the local authority. The assessment may have identified areas where additional support may be helpful.

If the short break accommodation is provided under section 20(4) of the 1989 Act for a continuous period of more than 24 hours, then the child is looked after by the responsible authority for the period in which the child is accommodated. If the child is placed for a weekend short break which lasts from Saturday morning until Sunday evening, this should count as two placement days.

If the child is Looked After, then the short break placement must be a placement with Local Authority foster carers, in a registered children’s home or in other appropriate arrangements [section 22C]. In these circumstances, the placement must comply with the 2010 Regulations, which require the Local Authority to make short and long term arrangements for the child’s care (i.e. have a care plan) amongst other matters. Where the child is Looked After an IRO must be appointed.

However, if that child receives a pre-planned series of short breaks in the same setting under section 20(4), the care planning arrangements under the 2010 Regulations are modified in respect of that child by regulation 48 to reflect the continuing central role played by the parents.

Children with Additional Communication Needs

If a child has additional communication needs the IRO service should be informed and the child’s preferred communication method should be recorded in his/her care plan.

Where specialist expertise is not available within the IRO team a presumption should be made that a child with communication needs will be supported by an independent Advocate who has the appropriate expertise, with the child having the right to opt out or choose someone else to support him/her if s/he wishes. The allocated IRO should ensure from the outset that the child has access to this specialist support so that his/her wishes and feelings can be elicited effectively. This support should be made available throughout the care planning and review process including when any significant changes are proposed.

Children within the Youth Justice System

See also Court Remand to Local Authority Accommodation or to Youth Detention Accommodation Procedure, Care Planning for Young People on Remand or Youth Detention Accommodation.

The IRO should be notified as soon as a looked after young person is placed in custody, including the details of where s/he is placed and the relevant Order. (NB: A Detention Placement Plan replaces the Care Plan/Placement Plan).

Where children are subjects of a care order they will remain Looked After during their time in custody. The Local Authority therefore continues to share parental responsibility and the IRO will have an ongoing role in care planning and review, (including the Detention Placement Plan which replaces the ‘Placement Plan’). Going into custody is a significant change and requires that if a review will not already be due to take place then one should be scheduled during the period that the young person is in custody.

Where the young person being remanded  was Looked After under section 20 of the 1989 Act at the point the young person is sentenced to custody, if the Local Authority’s social worker has not attended Court, the responsible YOT should notify the Local Authority about the details of their sentence, or remand into custody, and about where they have been detained.

The Local Authority must then appoint a representative to visit the child. This representative should be a qualified social worker employed by the authority, usually the social worker or personal advisor who was allocated to the child’s case and was responsible for maintaining the care or pathway plan before they entered custody. There may be some circumstances where a residential care worker or a foster carer familiar to the child might be appropriate to carry out this role.

The role must not be fulfilled by a YOT worker.

The Local Authority should also inform the child’s Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) of their placement in custody and the name of the appointed representative.

Where the plan is for the child to be looked after again or for them to be provided with support in the community from children’s services then the Local Authority must be involved in the plans for release.

It is essential that there is clarity about who is responsible for each element of the child’s plan and the arrangements for communication and enforcement. The Local Authority should record this plan and make copies available to the child, the supervising YOT officer, IRO, the establishment, other agencies that will be involved with supporting the child after release and the child’s family, if appropriate.

With effect from December 2012 there is a requirement that a child who is remanded to youth detention accommodation is to be treated as a child who is looked after by the designated authority. (Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act, 2012).

The Youth Offending Service will advise Children’s Services as soon as practically possible following the remand of the young person and LAC procedures will then be invoked as for any other Looked After Child.

Once the young person is sentenced by the court he/she will no longer be Looked After.

Children subject to Secure Accommodation Orders

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 1991,16 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:

  • The criteria for keeping the child in secure accommodation continue to apply;
  • The placement in secure accommodation continues to be necessary; and
  • Any other type of accommodation would be more appropriate.

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 an 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.

Children Admitted to Hospital

An admission to hospital, whether planned or unplanned, is a significant change for the Looked After 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.

 In relation to Looked After 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.

Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children

See Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children Procedure.

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. The assessment of age may be difficult. They will also have an immigration and asylum status. 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 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.

Eligible Children

All young people who are aged 16 or 17 who have been looked after by a Local Authority for a total of at least 13 weeks which began after s/he reached the age of 14 and ends after s/he reaches the age of 16, and who are still Looked After, will be entitled to services to enable them to make a successful transition to the responsibilities of adulthood under the Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000. Young people who continue to be looked after are known as ‘eligible children’ and the IRO has the same duties for these as for all other Looked After Children. Those who cease to be Looked After from the age of 16, who were previously ‘eligible’ are known as ‘relevant’.

The IRO has a key role to play in making sure that a young person only moves to other arrangements if this move is planned and in the young person’s best interests. The overriding principles are:

  • A young person should not be expected to move from his/her care placement at least before legal adulthood, until they have been sufficiently prepared and are ready to take this significant step;
  • In any case where the Local Authority proposes that a young person should move from his/her care placement before legal adulthood, a review must be held so that the young person, Local Authority staff involved in his/her care, his/her carers, other professionals and any other significant people have the opportunity to consider the implications of the move and, if the move is agreed to be in the young person’s best interests, how the move is to be managed;
  • Where the plan is to move a young person to accommodation that is not regulated under the Care Standards Act 2000, the potential future housing providers (who could be hosts offering supported lodgings, staff from Local Authority housing services, or staff from a registered social landlord’s supported housing scheme) should be actively engaged in the review process. This should ensure that there is absolute clarity about the young person’s housing needs and what services will be necessary to support him/her when the time is right to leave the placement;
  • Where the young person moves into accommodation that is not regulated under the Care Standards Act 200 the placement must be assessed. The 2010 Care Planning Regulations set out factors that must be considered in determining whether accommodation is suitable for individual care leavers (Schedule 6);
  • Before a review is convened for this purpose, the young person should have been made aware of the housing options available and be offered the opportunity to visit any prospective accommodation beforehand.

In addition to considering all the key areas in the care plan the IRO should ensure that consideration is given to the following:

  • How the proposed move will meet the young person’s needs in such a way that the young person can progress in his/her gradual journey to assuming the responsibilities of adulthood;
  • That reports provided for the review, discussion with the young person by the IRO prior to review and information provided by others during the review meeting are able to demonstrate that the young person has been properly prepared to make the move and will be able to manage in the new accommodation; and
  • That the proposed move will maintain as much stability as possible for the young person, including family contact and links with the community in which s/he has been living. In particular, a young person must not be expected to make a move that will disrupt his/her plans to continue in education, participate in training or gain employment.

Where a review concludes that it is appropriate for a Looked After young person to make the move to independent living arrangements, and such a move takes place, this does not automatically result in the young person ceasing to be Looked After.

 It is likely that given their vulnerability most young people will benefit from the support that results from being Looked After (including having a pathway plan that is kept up to date and reviewed by an IRO) until the age of 18. However, where there is consideration that it might be in a young person’s interests to no longer be Looked After and become a ‘relevant child’ then this entirely separate issue must be considered by a properly constituted statutory review of the pathway plan chaired by the IRO. The proposed pathway plan for the young person concerned must be available for scrutiny at this review. The review should also stipulate how in future the pathway plan is to be reviewed and whether there would be any benefits in these meetings being chaired by an independent person, with an established competence in the provision of leaving care, housing support and other services to care leavers.


6. Participation and Consultation

Each child has their own named IRO. They can be contacted by the following:

  • Phoning the Senior admin officer (LAC) at the Safeguarding Children and Quality Assurance Unit on 0161 603 4350 who will forward any messages;
  • By email at IroTeam@salford.gov.uk;
  • IROs will provide their mobile telephone number to Looked After Children when their case is allocated.

Written consultation documents should be sent out to children parents, carers and other relevant adults at least 10 working days before the review.

Children and young people are the most important people in their review (whether they are in attendance or not). There are numerous ways in which they can contribute and their preferences are likely to change depending on their age and their circumstances. It is not always appropriate for a child to be present in the meeting itself. It is always crucial that they are consulted and that their views are brought to the review and recorded. The way in which a child participates is recorded and is one of the local authority’s performance indicators.

The codes are as follows:

CODE DEFINITION EXAMPLES
PN0 Child aged under 4 at the time of the review.  
PN1 Child physically attends and speaks for him or herself. Attendance.
PN2 Child physically attends and an advocate speaks on his or her behalf. Attendance, views represented by advocate.
PN3 Child attends and conveys his or her views symbolically (non verbally). Attendance.
Symbols.
PN4 Child physically attends but does not speak for him or herself. Attendance without contribution.
PN5 Child does not attend physically but briefs an advocate to speak for him or her. Views are represented by an advocate or IRO, informed by texting, consultation document, phone, email.
PN6 Child does not attend but conveys his or her feelings to the review by a facilitative medium consultation document, phone, email, letter, text to chair
PN7 Child does not attend review nor are his or her views conveyed to the review  

There are 2 booklets available for children and young people to fill in prior to their review; one is aimed at under 11s and one at over 11s. They can complete these with their carer, social worker or anyone who they are comfortable with.

The child or young person needs to be consulted about the time and venue of the review and who they would like to attend. It is the social worker’s role to do this. Discussion should take place between the social worker and the child at least 15 working days before the meeting.

There is an expectation that the IRO meets with the child or young person before their meeting. There may be some cases where a formal pre-meeting is not always necessary. 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.

In relation to babies and younger children, it may not be necessary or appropriate for the IRO to see the child alone. If the main part of the review meeting takes place in a formal setting away from the placement, for example so that the parents may 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.

The young person may choose to attend, stay for part of the meeting or not attend at all. They may ask for their social worker, foster carer, residential worker or other to give their views. Most importantly the social worker needs to ensure they have visited the child before the review and knows how they wish to contribute. The IRO will need to satisfy him or herself that the child’s views have been represented.

The social worker needs to ensure that the child is fully able to contribute. Consideration needs to be given to any cultural or communication barriers. It may be appropriate to use an interpreter or facilitator before and during a review. It is the social worker’s responsibility to make the necessary arrangements.

Salford’s Children Rights Service will provide an advocate if a child or young person needs this provision. They may be contacted at Salford Children’s Rights Service:
1A Garden Street,
Eccles,
M30 0EZ
TEL: 0161 787 9628
Salford Childrens Rights

It is sometimes appropriate for a young person to chair all or part of their own review. This will have to be carefully planned. The IRO will always discuss with young people the possibility of them having a role in chairing the review where the young person is of an age and/or level of understanding to do so.

Following the review the IRO will write to the young person thanking them for their contribution, when this is appropriate, and confirming what was discussed at their meeting.


7. Observers

Learning through shadowing is an important part of professional development. Should someone want to observe a statutory review they need to speak to the IRO in advance of the meeting. The decision will be made on the basis of whether the child is comfortable with them being present. The IRO will need to be satisfied that the child’s view has been taken into account before checking with other attendees. This decision cannot be made when everyone has arrived to start the meeting and would be unfair to all concerned.


8. Exclusions

It is expected that parents and the child (if s/he is of sufficient age and level of understanding) will be present at the whole of the review but this will depend on the circumstances of each individual case. In exceptional circumstances, the social worker in consultation with the IRO may decide that the attendance of the child or parent, if this is not in the interests of the child, will not be appropriate or practicable for all or part of the review meeting. This may be the case if there is a clear conflict of interests which might militate against the attendance of either or both the child and parents. However, the anxieties of professionals should not be the reason for excluding a child or his/her parent from a review. Alternative arrangements should be considered. If a parent or child is excluded from a review, a written explanation or the reasons should be given by the IRO or the social worker. Other arrangements should be made for their involvement in the review process, and details of this should be placed on the child’s case record.

If the parents are excluded from the part of the meeting involving the child, consultation documents must be sent to the parents for them to complete. If these consultation documents are returned, the views expressed in them should be included in the review record, unless the IRO is of the view that to do so would cause unnecessary distress to the child. In cases of exclusion the IRO should also contact the parents directly and offer to meet with them. IRO contact with parents, though, will require the exercise of professional judgement and some discretion in this may be used, for example where there is a no Child Arrangement Order/contact order or the parent has consistently indicated that s/he does not wish to meet or be consulted.

Any reason for excluding the parents from the review should be kept under regular review with the social worker and team manager and a record of the reason placed on the child’s case record. Parents should always be invited to attend the review meeting unless there are exceptional circumstances as follows:
  • Where there is a known history of violence or abusive behaviour and the attendance of one or other of the parents or family members/friends would be likely to seriously impede the review or pose a threat to the safety of the child or professionals;
  • Where their attendance will compromise the needs of the child, this may include when the child is within the adoptive placement;
  • When the child requests that they do not attend and parental attendance would prevent the child from participating at the review.

If a social worker or other professional is aware of a potentially difficult meeting or possible exclusion they should discuss the situation with the IRO as soon as it becomes known.


9. Adjournment of Reviews

The IRO has a new power to adjourn reviews (regulation 36(2)). 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. Responsibility for deciding whether or not a review should be adjourned rests with the nominated IRO for the child concerned. In such circumstances the review may be adjourned once but should be completed within 20 working days.

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

  • 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; and
  • The IRO not being satisfied that the child has been properly prepared for the meeting.
Where the review is adjourned by the IRO, the date of the review for recording purposes is the date on which the review was originally scheduled to take place.


10. Statutory Reviews with other Meetings

There will be occasions where other meetings are held for a variety of reasons. If all the key professionals are meeting to discuss planning, case management, etc it would be a good use of time to hold these meetings at the same time. An example of this would be Education, Health and Care Plan reviews, Child Protection Reviews or Secure Accommodation Criteria Reviews (see Secure Accommodation (Criteria) Reviews Procedure). However if this is being considered the following should be taken into account:

  • A meeting cannot be considered as a statutory review if the IRO is not present, they did not co-chair such a meeting and the Care Plan is not available. The IRO needs to be satisfied that all aspects of the child’s plan are covered as fully as they would be if the meetings were not combined;

  • When holding meetings consecutively the chair and the IRO must agree the agenda and chairing responsibilities in advance. Careful consideration must be given to attendees, venue, etc. The IRO must be satisfied that he or she can fulfil their statutory duties;
  • The IRO needs to be satisfied that all the relevant people have contributed, particularly the child or young person, parents and carers;
  • If holding meetings at the same time compromises the contribution of the child, parent or other key person, separate meetings must take place, although some information may be shared elsewhere, avoiding duplication of certain people. This needs to be agreed in advance with the IRO.


11. Quality Assurance

The Independent Reviewing Officers are based within The Safeguarding Children and Quality Assurance Unit. They contribute to the quality assurance function of the unit in a number of ways.

After each review the IRO will complete a statistical return which gives quantitative data about the looked after population. It covers attendance, participation, ICS compliance, compliance with undertaking statutory visits, IRO contact with the child etc. It is amended as different information is required by the Directorate.

As part of the dispute resolution process (see Section 15, Dispute Resolution) the IRO will alert the department to any concerns about individual children. This information is accumulated anonymously to help inform patterns and trends.

The IRO team report directly to the Corporate Parenting Panel every six months. IROs need to be able to operate in their observations and recommendations free from operational line management and this is a mechanism for a direct line of reporting. The IRO Team also report to the Local Safeguarding Children Board every six months.

Quality assurance includes statistical return to central government and identifying good practice as well as gaps in provision and areas for development and support. It can be a method to pick up barriers to access to services, etc and is the most effective way for good services to reflect and improve on the service they provide for Looked After Children.


12. Duty of Social Work Staff

The Review of Children’s Cases (Amendment) (England) 2004 and The Adoption Agencies Regulations 2005 state that the Local Authority must inform the IRO of “(a) any significant failure to make arrangements in accordance with regulation 8, or (b) any significant change of circumstances occurring after the review that affects those arrangements." (Reg 8A and 37(8) respectively).

The monitoring role of the IRO is set out in the 1989 Act (section 25B, 1989 Act).

The IRO should speak to the social worker at least 15 working days before the review. A record of this discussion should be made on the child’s case file.

Between reviews, if the care plan continues to meet the needs of the child there may be no need for any communication between the IRO and the social worker or the child. However, in the event of a change/event in the child’s life that is significant, the social worker must inform the IRO. This includes:

  • Proposed change of care plan for example arising at short notice in the course of proceedings following on directions from the court;
  • Where agreed decisions from review are not carried out within the specified timescale;
  • Major change to contact arrangements;
  • Changes of allocated social worker;
  • Any safeguarding concerns involving the child, which may lead to enquiries being made under Section 47 of the 1989 Act (‘child protection enquiries’) and outcomes of child protection conferences, or other meetings not attended by the IRO;
  • Complaints from or on behalf of child, parent or carer;
  • Unexpected changes in the child’s placement provision which may significantly impact on placement stability or safeguarding arrangements;
  • Significant changes in birth family circumstances for example births, marriages or deaths which may have a particular impact on the child;
  • Where the child is charged with any offence leading to referral to Youth Offending Services, pending criminal proceedings and any convictions or sentences as a result of such proceedings;
  • Where the child is excluded from school;
  • Where the child is running away or missing from the approved placement;
  • Significant health, medical events, diagnoses, illnesses, hospitalisations, serious accidents; and
  • Panel decisions in relation to permanence.

The social worker needs to ensure that the child has been given the opportunity to contribute (see Section, 6 Participation and Consultation), that the relevant people are invited and that the relevant paperwork is made available in advance (see Section 5, Types of Reviews for what is required). They must ensure the Care Plan is up to date.

If there is a request to change a review date the social worker needs to agree the change with the IRO. The IRO will be mindful of the required timescales when considering requests. If there is a change of venue, or allocation of social worker the IRO needs to be informed. If a case is being transferred between social workers the worker transferring the case is responsible for informing the IRO.

The social worker needs to liaise with the IRO in advance if they are aware of any contentious issues.


13. Administrative Process

The social worker will complete a movement form on Carefirst on the day that the child becomes Looked After.

The social work Admin Officer will enter or update the details on Carefirst and will inform the Senior Admin Officer at the Safeguarding Children and Quality Assurance Unit.

In the case of a new admission an IRO will be appointed to the child within 5 working days.

If there is a change of circumstances the IRO will be informed by the social worker and will make a decision as to whether the review should be brought forward.

The IRO and the social worker will agree a date and venue for the review, bearing in mind the required timescales (see Section 2, Timescales).

The social worker will complete the invite list and give it to the social work Admin Team who will send out the invites 4 weeks in advance of the meeting (unless it is a first review or brought forward). Discussions between the social worker and the IRO must take place if consideration is being given to the child or a parent being excluded from the meeting.

At the end of the review, in most cases, a further review date will be set. In some circumstances this may be subject to change later on:
  • The IRO should produce a written record of the decisions or recommendations made within 5 working days of the completion of the review and a full record of the review within 15 working days of the completion of the review. This information will be recorded in the ICS Chair’s Report;

  • The Social Worker and Practice Manager will be advised by the IRO that the report has been completed and it is the responsibility of the Social Worker and/or their manager to notify the IRO if any amendments are requested. Any requests for amendments need to be made before day 20 in this process;
  • When advising the Social Worker and the Practice Manager that the chair’s report has been completed the IRO will also alert them to any recommendations requiring urgent attention;
  • The recommendations of the review should be considered by the agency representative with the delegated responsibility to agree or not agree them. This is generally the Practice Manager. They may make a decision to notify the Head of Service. Should the agency representative disagree with the recommendations they should inform the IRO within 5 working days of receiving the Chairs Report;
  • The full written record of the review, including the decisions, should be distributed within 20 working days of the completion of the review. The Admin Team for the Team with casework responsibility will distribute the chair’s report;
  • All those who attend the review should receive a copy of the record and the decisions, with any identifying details removed as necessary, for example, exceptionally, the address of the placement;
  • All parties receiving copies of the chair’s report will be invited to contact the IRO to discuss any amendments they require within 30 working days of the review meeting.

Where a parent has been excluded from the review or has not attended for other reasons the IRO will make arrangements to provide feedback to them.

The IRO completes a statistical return relating to each review to the LAC Admin Officer (Safeguarding Unit).


14. IROs 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 local authority’s complaints manager 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.


15. Dispute Resolution

The guidance contained in this section is compatible with the Independent Reviewing Officers Guidance.

After the review the IRO will complete the Chairs Report as above.

Before raising a formal Management Alert or before progressing the matter through the stages described below the IRO will agree this course of action with the Service Manager (LAC) at the Safeguarding Unit.

Stage One

There are 2 ways to trigger a move to Stage One:

  • During the course of a review if the IRO is concerned about a case they will alert the Team Manager to the concern;
  • lf an IRO becomes aware of a concern outside of the review meeting or where recommendations have not been acted upon it may trigger a move to Stage One.

The matters which may give cause for concern are as follows:

  • Unreasonable failure by the LA to meet the statutory requirements for the LA child e.g.;
    • Non-allocation of a social worker;
    • Children not being visited regularly and/or seen alone in their placement by the social worker.
  • Care plan implementation:
    • No clear care plan in place;
    • Drift/delay in the implementation of the child’s care plan;
    • Care plan not meeting the individual needs of the child;
    • Failure to implement a significant element of the child’s care plan;
    • Failure of the LA to notify the IRO of significant changes in the child’s care plan such as:
      • Decision to change the child’s care plan;
      • Decision to change the child’s placement;
      • Decision (with reasons) not to implement significant recommendations made by the IRO at the child’s review.
  • Dispute around the provision of services/resources:
    • Concern about whether appropriate resources have been allocated to meet the child’s individual needs;
    • Concern around the suitability of the placement;
    • Concern around professional practice.
  • Safeguarding and protection of the child.

Should the IRO note an area of concern at Stage One they will, in consultation with the LAC (Safeguarding) Service Manager, send a Management Alert Form to the Social Worker and Practice Manager. At this stage, Day 1, there needs to be discussion about addressing the concerns raised and some resolution, with the child’s needs central and in a timely fashion.

Stage 2

Should the issue not be resolved by Day 10, and the matter is crucial to the Care Plan and the welfare of the child, the IRO will progress the alert to stage 2. A reminder will be sent to the social worker and Practice Manager and the operational Service Manager will be notified at this point.

Stage 3

If the issue remains unresolved by Day 15, the matter will be referred to the Head of Service and the Assistant Director.

Stage 4

If the issue remains unresolved by Day 20 the matter will be referred to the Strategic Director for Children’s Services. Consideration will be given to referring the matter to the local authority’s Chief Executive.

If this does not result in a resolution and the IRO believes that a failure to achieve timely problem resolution might constitute a breach of the child’s human rights, and that this matter has not been resolved through the above mechanisms within the Local Authority, then they can refer this matter to CAFCASS (The review of Children’s Cases (Amendments) (England) Regulations 2A [1]1 [c]).

The IRO may bypass any stage and progress the dispute to the level s/he considers most appropriate. The formal dispute resolution process within each Local Authority should have timescales in total of no more than 20 working days.

The IRO has the power to refer the matter to Cafcass at any point in the dispute resolution process (regulation 45) and may consider it necessary to make a concurrent referral to Cafcass at the same time that s/he instigates the dispute resolution process.

There will be times when the IRO may be advised that obstacles in the way of resolving the issue are outside or beyond the control of the Local Authority, for example in relation to staffing, interagency or resources issues. However, if these are impacting on the ability of the department to meet the needs of a child as identified in the child’s care plan, the IRO should continue to escalate the issue.

The IRO should ensure that all actions s/he takes in an attempt to resolve a dispute is recorded on the child’s case record.

Click here to view Dispute Resolution Flowchart.


16. Independent Legal Advice

There is a requirement that IROs have access to independent legal advice and that this is easily accessible. IROs in Salford contact local authority solicitors employed by Oldham Borough Council to access this support. Although Salford and Oldham have amalgamated their legal provision to Children’s Services across both authorities it will be possible to consult with a solicitor who does not have direct knowledge of or involvement in Salford cases.

Role of IRO Managers

In keeping with the spirit of the guidance IROs do not require the consent of their manager to access legal advice. However, prior to seeking advice the IRO is required to discuss with their Service Manager.

Interface with Dispute Resolution Process and Referrals to CAFCASS Legal

Legal advice can be sought at any point before or during the dispute resolution process.

Although referrals for both independent legal advice and CAFCASS legal may take place it is expected that access to independent legal advice will significantly reduce the need to make a referral to CAFCASS legal.


17. Contacting IROs

The IROs are based within the
Safeguarding Children and Quality Assurance Unit
Sutherland House
303 Chorley Road
Swinton
M37 6AY

Tel: 0161 603 4350

IROs will provide mobile telephone numbers to Looked After Children.

Email: IroTeam@salford.gov.uk


18. References

Independent Reviewing Officers Guidance. Adoption and Children Act 2002.

Review of Children’s Cases Regulations 1991.

Review of Children’s Cases (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2004.

The Adoption Agencies Regulations 2005.

The Children (Short-term Placements) (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 1995.

The Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations Volume 2: Care Planning, Placement and Case Review.

The Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations Local authority responsibilities towards former looked after children in custody, April 2011.

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