Cumbria County Council Logo


Top of page

Size: View this website with small text View this website with medium text View this website with large text View this website with high visibility

5.2.3 Children 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.

RELEVANT GUIDANCE

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

AMENDMENT

This chapter was amended in February 2017 to note the Law Society guidance ‘Attendance of solicitors at local authority Children Act Meetings’ and their Code of Conduct where the child or family who attend reviews are supported by a legal representative.


Contents

  1. The Purpose of Children Looked After Reviews
  2. Frequency of Children Looked After Reviews
  3. Chairing of Reviews
  4. Convening Children 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 Children Looked After Review in Achieving Permanence for the Child 
  10. Looked After Reviews Concerning Children in Long Term Foster Placements
  11. Children Looked After Reviews on Children who are the Subject of Child Protection Plans
  12. Recording of Children Looked After Reviews
  13. Review Decisions
  14. Monitoring of Review Decisions
  15. Conflict Resolution


1. The Purpose of Children Looked After Reviews

Care planning and reviews are about bringing together children who are Looked After, their families, carers and professionals, in order to plan for the care of the child and to review that plan on a regular basis. Effective care planning and review is underpinned by careful assessment of the needs of a child and making the right decisions about how best to meet those needs. This is a fundamental part of social work, which not only requires an understanding of the importance of planning, but also the relevant conceptual and practice frameworks.

A Children 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 9, Looked After Reviews Concerning Children in Long Term Foster Placements below).

The purpose of the Children 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 Children 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 Children Looked After Reviews are implemented and responsibility for actions clearly defined.

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


2. Frequency of Children Looked After Reviews

2.1

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

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

Children 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.


3. Chairing of Reviews

Independent Reviewing Officers (IRO's) will chair reviews. They are located within the Cumbria Independent Safeguarding Children’s Unit.

The IRO's responsibilities:

A House of Lords judgement in 2002 concluded that a local authority that failed in its duties to a looked after child could be challenged under the Human Rights Act 1998, most likely under article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights relating to family life. The judgement recognised that some children with no adult to act on their behalf may not have any effective means to initiate such a challenge. In response, the Government made it a legal requirement for an IRO to be appointed to participate in case reviews, monitor the local authority’s performance in respect of reviews, and to consider whether it would be appropriate to refer cases to the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS). This is set out in section 26 of the 1989 Act, as amended by the 2002 Act.

Later, the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Reviewed Case Referral) Regulations 2004, made under section 26 of the 1989 Act, extended the functions of CAFCASS so that on a referral from an IRO they could consider bringing proceedings for breaches of the child’s human rights, judicial review and other proceedings.

The 2008 Act extends the IRO’s responsibilities from monitoring the performance by the local authority of their functions in relation to a child’s review to monitoring the performance by the local authority of their functions in relation to a child’s case, as set out in sections 25A-25C of the 1989 Act (inserted by section 10 of the 2008 Act). The intention is that these changes will enable the IRO to have an effective independent oversight of the child’s case and ensure that the child’s interests are protected throughout the Care Planning process.

Together, the amended 1989 Act and the Regulations specify:

  • The duties of the local authority to appoint an IRO;
  • The circumstances in which the local authority must consult with the IRO;
  • The functions of the IRO both in relation to the reviewing and monitoring of each child’s case; and
  • The actions that the IRO must take if the local authority is failing to comply with the Regulations or is in breach of its duties to the child in any material way, including making a referral to CAFCASS.

The IRO’s primary focus is to quality assure that Care Planning and review process for each child and to ensure that his/her current wishes and feelings are given full consideration. To be successful, the role must be valued by senior managers and operate within a supportive service culture and environment. An effective IRO services should enable the local authority to achieve improved outcomes for children.

See also Appointment and Role of Independent Reviewing Officers Procedure.


4. Convening Children Looked After Reviews

4.1 Arranging the first review

As soon as a child becomes Looked After, the child's Social Worker must record this on the ICS system. This will trigger the appointment of an Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) for the child. The Independent Safeguarding Children’s Unit will then arrange the date, time and venue of the child's first Looked after Review in consultation with the child’s Social Worker. The Independent Safeguarding Children’s Unit will organise the CLA review within 20 working days. Delay in the Social Worker recording the child has become, or is in the process of becoming looked after will delay the arrangement of the child’s review. A review for a looked after child forms part of a continuing planning process for that child and is held in order to make plans to safeguard and promote the child’s welfare.

In order to ensure that the meeting remains the child’s meeting as far as is possible, the IRO should always begin from the perspective of the child, listen to his/her views and make sure that s/he is involved as much as possible in the review process.

The IRO is required to speak with the child in private prior to the first review and before every subsequent review [regulation 36]. This should provide the IRO with an opportunity to discuss with the child matters to be considered at the review and for the child to raise any issues. The first review will be important and may set the tone for the longer-term relationship that will develop between the child and IRO. It will be important to work with the child to discuss how s/he is likely to be able to make the most meaningful contribution to the review. The IRO should record their contact with the child, and subsequent visits/meetings with them in between reviews on the ICS system.

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. Review dates should not be changed where possible, however the IRO has a new power to adjourn reviews (regulation 36 (2).

Circumstances in which the IRO may wish to consider 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.

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. Consideration should be given to taking such action and the wishes and feelings of the child, the carer and, where appropriate, the parents should be sought before any decision is made. The IRO should consider the effects on the child of delaying a meeting for which s/he has been prepared and should weigh up the relative disadvantages of proceeding with the meeting on limited information and the delay in decision making which would result from adjournment. Responsibility for deciding whether or not a review should be adjourned rests with the nominated IRO for the child concerned. In such circumstances the review may be adjourned once but should be completed within 20 working days.

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.

4.3 Timing of review meetings

The local authority is required to carry out review meetings in line with timings specified in Regulation 33:

  • The first review of a child’s case within 20 working days of the date on which the child becomes looked after;
  • The second review no more than three months after the first;
  • The third and subsequent reviews no more than six months after the previous one;
  • A review whenever the IRO directs; and
  • A review in all other circumstances as specified in the Regulations.

The date of the review meeting for recording purposes is the date of the first meeting that takes place and the review should be completed within 20 working days of the commencement of the process.

It is the responsibility of IRO’s to chair the review meeting of all looked after children. Reviewing must be understood as a flexible process that will vary in relation to each child. It may be one standalone meeting attended by all the relevant people in the child’s life, or a number of meetings, with one central meeting attended by the IRO, the child, the Social Worker and some of the relevant adults in the child’s life. It will be for the IRO and the Social Worker, in consultation with the child, to agree the best way to manage the process for the child before each review.

The status of review meetings is made clear in regulation 32(2):

The responsible authority must not make any significant change to [a child’s] Care Plan unless the proposed change has first been considered at a review of [the child’s] case, unless this is not reasonably practicable.

In order to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child, consideration must be given at each review to the following issues in relation to the Care Plan:

  • Whether to confirm or change it;
  • What actions need to be taken to implement it;
  • By whom; and
  • Within what timescale?

The IRO must, so far as reasonably practicable, attend and chair the review meeting, or the series of meetings which have been constituted to be the review for the child [regulation 36]. It is hoped that for many older children and young people, especially as they begin to plan for independence, the IRO will hand over at least part of the chairing role to them so that they can take an increased ownership of the meeting.

4.4 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].

Issues to consider at the review:

  • 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 IRO should ensure the Permanence Plan provides permanence for the child within a timescale which is realistic, achievable and meets the child's needs. This should include a Contingency Plan should the preferred plans not materialise;
  • 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 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.


5. Invitations and the Child's Participation

The local authority should provide sufficient administrative support to facilitate the delivery of an efficient and effective review process.

Discussion should take place between the Social Worker and the IRO 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. Subject to age and understanding of the child, the child should be involved in decisions about the date, time and venue of the meeting, the agenda and the invitation list.

The venue should be child friendly and where possible in agreement with the child. It should take place in a setting in which the child feels comfortable and relaxed. The meeting should take place at a time convenient for the child. Meetings should not be arranged at a time that would result in the child being absent from school or college or an essential health appointment. Children and parents should also be informed that they can arrange to see the IRO separately if they wish to bring a supporter or interpreter to the review.

Where the child does not wish to attend the review, the IRO must at the very least speak to the child before the review – wherever possible in a face to face meeting, Invitations to reviews will be sent by the Independent Children’s Safeguarding Unit 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. It is important that the review is child-centred and only involves the necessary number of professionals, alongside the child, his/her carers and his/her parents, except where this is not appropriate. A series of meetings may therefore be the best way to involve all the relevant people. The child should be consulted, subject to his/ her age and understanding, about who s/he wishes to attend the meeting and about the venue of the meeting.

If the parents are excluded from the part of the meeting involving the child, the IRO should be satisfied that consultation documents have been 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 contact order or the parent has consistently indicated that s/he does not wish to meet or be consulted.

The IRO should ensure that all those involved in the meeting(s) make a meaningful contribution to the discussion so that an informed decision can be made about the short and long term actions that will need to be taken to advance the child’s Care Plan. The IRO is well placed to identify any concerns about how a child’s care is being managed and to ensure that the long term objectives agreed through the assessment and Care Planning process are implemented within a timescale appropriate for the child.

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

  • 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.

Every child and his/her parents should be offered the support of an interpreter, if English is not their first language. This is the responsibility of the Social Worker. However, as part of the initial discussion between the IRO and the Social Worker, in advance of the review, the IRO should establish the first language of both the child and the parents. A child may be of the view that his/her use of the language is adequate but it is important that each child can participate appropriately in the process and that his/her views are fully represented. Decisions could be made at a review that will have lifelong implications. It may therefore be helpful for an interpreter to be present, even if his/her services are used for parts of the meeting only. In addition, the local authority should have a system in place for the translation of all written documentation produced for the review and following the review.

Advocacy

When meeting with the child before every review, the IRO is responsible for making sure that the child understands how an advocate could help and his/her entitlement to one. Advocacy is an option available to children whenever they want such support and not just when they want to make a formal complaint. Some children will feel sufficiently confident or articulate to contribute or participate in the review process without additional help. Others may prefer the support of an advocate. This could be a formal appointment from a specialist organisation or might be an adult already in the child’s social network. Every child has the right to be supported by an advocate. The local authority must have a system in place to provide written, age appropriate information to each looked after child about the function and availability of an advocate and how to request one.

The child's Social Worker and IRO must ensure that children and families have been given information about the Complaints and Representations Procedure.

The following people should normally be invited:

  • The child. There is a presumption that the child will attend the review. A child's disability must not be a bar to the child's attendance;
  • The parents and those with Parental Responsibility, carers and any significant people or specialists involved in the child's case (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;
  • 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 a 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 and Interpreters.

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

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

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


6. The Role of the Social Worker

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

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

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

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

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

Prior to the review, the Social Worker must ensure the child's records and plans are up to date, for example, that they include records of statutory visits. The IRO should speak to the Social Worker at least 15 working days before the review.

The IRO should be provided with or have access to any relevant reports/plans or background information, including the current Care Plan, the report from the Social Worker (which should be available at least three working days before the commencement of the review), the current health plan or medical assessment report and the current personal education plan (PEP).

In order to properly consider the Care Plan at each review, the IRO should be satisfied that the assessments upon which the Care Plan is based are comprehensive and adequate, involving the appropriate people and addressing the appropriate issues, that the proposed Care Plan results logically from the assessments and that it’s relevant, reliable and achievable.

It will be important for the Social Worker to provide to the IRO the evidence on which the plan was formulated, for example copies of assessments or minutes of meetings.

In order for the IRO to agree any proposed changes to the Care Plan, s/he should inform the Social Worker in advance of the review. The IRO should outline his/her concerns, clarify questions that need to be answered and identify what action needs to be taken by the local authority.

Written consultation documents should be sent out to children, parents, carers and other relevant adults at least ten working days before the review. All completed consultation documents (the Social Worker is responsible for sending these to the child, carers and family members 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.

Core Functions, Tasks and Responsibilities of the IRO

The statutory duties of the IRO are to [section 25B(1), 1989 Act]:

  • 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 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.

In exercising both parts of this role the IRO must ensure that the child’s current wishes and feelings have been established and taken into account, where appropriate.

As part of the monitoring function, the IRO also has a duty to monitor the performance of the local authority’s function as a corporate parent and to identify any areas of poor practice. This should include identifying patterns of concern emerging not just around individual children but also more generally in relation to the collective experience of it’s looked after children of the services they receive.

Where IROs identify more general concerns around the quality of the authority’s services to it’s looked after children, the IRO should immediately alert senior managers about these. Equally important, the IRO should recognise and report on good practice.

In discharging these duties, the IRO has a number of specific responsibilities.

  • Promoting the voice of the child;
  • Ensuring that plans for looked after children are based on a detailed and informed assessment, are up to date, effective and provide a real and genuine response to each child’s needs;
  • Ensuring that the child understands how an advocate could help, and ensuring that the child recognises his/her entitlement to one;
  • Offering a safeguard to prevent any ‘drift’ in Care Planning for looked after children and the delivery of services to them; and
  • Monitoring the activity of the local authority as a corporate parent in ensuring that Care Plans have given proper consideration and weight to the child’s wishes and feelings and that, where appropriate, the child fully understands the implications of any changes made to his/her Care Plan.

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

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

Copies of these documents should be brought to the review by the Social Worker for all review participants.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.


8. Independent Reviewing Officer's Responsibilities

The IRO's role is to chair Children 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 Children 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 Children Looked After Review and arrange to meet the child as appropriate in advance of subsequent Children 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.

Where the ‘supporter’ is a legal representative then the IRO should note The Law Society guidance ‘Attendance of solicitors at local authority Children Act Meetings’ and related Code of Conduct (2011).

All solicitors attending these meetings should be aware of the local policies and procedures in respect of Children Act Meetings and of their role in terms of ‘Working Together to Safeguard Children’.

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.

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

The March 2015 Statutory Guidance “Permanence, long-term foster placements and ceasing to look after a child” sets out that where a child is placed in a designated long-term foster placement and has been in this placement for more than a year consideration should be given to whether it is necessary to hold a meeting as part of each review.

The guidance requires that the social worker should consult the IRO and the child (where appropriate to age and understanding) in reaching a decision on whether to hold a meeting. Where it is agreed that a meeting will not be held as part of every review a meeting should be held at least once a year. The factors leading to a decision to hold review meetings on a less frequent basis must be recorded in the child’s Care Plan.

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


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

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

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

The timing of the review of the child protection aspects of the Care Plan should be as in Section 2, Frequency of Children Looked After Reviews.

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

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


12. Recording of Children 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 13, 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 Independent Children’s Safeguarding Unit will send copies out to all relevant parties who have provided their full name and address on the attendance sheet within 20 working days of the completion of the review.

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

Where parents do not attend the review/part of the meeting and contribute their views in some other manner, a discussion should take place between the Social Worker and the IRO as to whether it is in the child's interest for the parents to receive a full record of the review, and, if not, what written information should be sent to them. Examples of where this should be a consideration are where there is a 'no contact order' or supervised contact only.


13. Review Decisions

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

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

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

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


14. Monitoring of Review Decisions

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

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

Monitoring sheets must be completed by the IRO after every review meeting in order that accurate data is reported for audit, quality assurance and individual performance management. This information is then coordinated by the Independent Children’s Safeguarding Unit and sent on a monthly basis 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 Independent Children’s Safeguarding Unit Manager.


15. Conflict Resolution

Following the review, the IRO will make a number of decisions and recommendations. If there is disagreement with decisions made, the IRO will need to be notified in writing by the manager within 5 working days. Where the IRO believes that the Local Authority has failed in any significant respect to prepare the child's Care Plan; review the child's case or effectively implement any decision in consequence of a review; or are otherwise in breach of their duties to the child in any material respect, the DRP process will apply.

As part of the monitoring function, the IRO also has the duty to monitor the performance of the local authority’s function as a corporate parent and to identify any patterns of poor practice. Where these more general concerns around service delivery are identified, the IRO should immediately alert senior managers to these concerns. If issues are not able to be resolved informally the DRP process may again be implemented.

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.

End