Looked After Reviews

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This procedure is based primarily on IRO Handbook 2010 and 'Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations - Volume 2: Care Planning, Placement and Case Review'.

A separate chapter has been developed to set out Local Authority Responsibilities in the Appointment of IROs and Establishment of an Effective IRO Service Procedure.

Looked After Review Timetable Matrix

The Hertfordshire Access to Resources Panel (see Authorisation for a Child to be Looked After and Funding Agreements Outside East and West Practice and Resources Panel Procedure) has a key role in the allocation of resources for the support of Children Looked After.

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 or Youth Detention Accommodation.


Section 4, Convening Looked After Reviews and Section 5, Invitations and the Child / Parent's Participation were updated in March 2019.

1. The Purpose of Looked After Reviews

The purpose of the Looked After Review is to:

  • Ensure that appropriate plans are in place to safeguard and promote the overall welfare of the Child Looked After 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 that 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.

'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….It will be for the IRO and the social worker, in consultation with the child, to agree the best way to manage the process…IRO Handbook, Chap 3.6.

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

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

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

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

Delegated Authority arrangements should also be reviewed to ensure consent arrangements put in place are working effectively and are meeting the needs of the child or young person, (see Hertfordshire Delegated Authority Policy).

2. Frequency of Looked After Reviews

2.1 Normally, Looked After Reviews should be convened at the following intervals:
  • 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.
2.2 In relation to children placed with prospective adopters or where there is Authority to Place for Adoption, see the Adoption Reviews Procedure.

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 the child suggests his/her placement is no longer appropriate;
  • Where a significant change to the child's Care Plan or Placement 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 authority proposes to cease to provide accommodation for a Child Looked After.


Adjournment of Reviews

The IRO has a new power to adjourn reviews on a single occasion for a period of up to 20 days (regulation 36(2)). 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;
  • Appropriate planning and paperwork is not available) and that such omissions will adversely affect the efficacy of the review;
  • 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 and the reconvened meeting must take place within 20 working days.

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

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

Where a decision has been 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 of the review of the child's case.

3. Chairing of Reviews

Independent Reviewing Officers (IRO's) will chair reviews. The IRO's responsibilities are outlined in Section 8, Independent Reviewing Officer's Responsibilities and the IRO Handbook. If the allocated IRO cannot attend the meeting and it is important that the review meeting is not delayed, the meeting will be chaired/attended by a substitute IRO.

4. Convening Looked After Reviews

First Reviews

Dates for first reviews are arranged at the time the child first becomes Looked After by the Brokerage Accommodation Team (BAT), who allocate the first review date. BAT send out a notification that includes the time and date of the initial review and who the IRO will be. (If at all possible, BAT will check a suitable date with the Social Worker).

All initial reviews are held in the respective offices and rooms are block booked by BAT for this purpose. (On occasion, in order to facilitate attendance of the child, it may be that the social worker and IRO agree a different arrangement, if this can be organised within timescales). Children are allocated to Stevenage or Apsley according to their home address.

The Brokerage Service will advise the Manager of IRT of all dates of first reviews. Please note that changes to first reviews are especially challenging given the timescale that have to be met, and should not be made or requested unless there is no alternative. Other changes should be discussed between the IRO and social worker but should be avoided as much as possible.

The child's Social Worker must complete an invitation checklist, giving the names and contact details of all those to be invited to the review, and pass this (within 8 days of the child becoming looked after) to the IRT Business Support Team for processing.

On receipt of the BAT notification, the IRO is expected to contact the social worker to discuss the case and confirm the arrangements. The social worker is required to complete the invitation form and return this to the IRO Business Support Team (as described on the notification). This needs to be done properly in order that invitations can be sent in a timely way.

The Business Support Team will, on receipt of the invitation list, send out the invitations as requested and also send a 'Coming Into Care' pack to the young person.

Arranging Second and Subsequent Reviews

At the end of each review the IRO will set the date, time and venue of the next review, taking account of what is convenient for review participants, but particularly the child. Invitations are not sent from the IRO service, but the date for the next review will be included in the outcome of the review, distributed by the IRO Business Support Team. If any additional participants are required, then the social worker will need to invite them, in discussion with the IRO.

Review dates cannot be rearranged unless there are exceptional circumstances and then only if the rearranged meeting can take place within statutory timescale's. A new date within timescale's should be agreed by the social work Team Manager, the Manager, Independent Review Team and the IRO. See Section 2.4, Adjournment of Reviews.

The expectation is that second and subsequent reviews should be held in a venue of the child's/young person's choice where at all possible. This is likely to be the child's placement or some other suitable venue.  It should not be at the child's school,unless this is clearly the recorded expressed wish of the child/young person. If the review is planned for an office venue the social worker is required to book the room.

Should there be any changes to the time and date of the review, the team responsible for initiating this change should take responsibility for advising attendees. Thus, if the social worker wishes to make changes then their team needs to notify all others, but if the change arises from the IRO, the IRO service will undertake this task. In reality, this often becomes a shared task as is most practical.

5. Invitations and the Child's and Parent's Participation

Discussions should take place between the social worker and the child (subject to age and understanding) at least 20 days before the meeting about who the child would like to attend the meeting and where the meeting will be heldAt least 10 days before the meeting, consultation documents will be sent by the Independent Review Team Business Support Team (IRT).

Participation Invitations are sent out by the IRT for the first review only. For 2nd and subsequent reviews the social worker will need to invite and additional attendees who did not attend the first review.

Attendees are advised of the date of the next meeting, as the information is included when the minutes are sent out.

Consideration should be given to inviting the following people:
  • 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, carers and any significant people or specialists involved in the child's case;
  • The supervising social worker, if the child is placed with foster carers;
  • The key worker if the child is in residential care;
  • The most appropriate teacher at the child's school, where appropriate should be the designated teacher for Children Looked After;
  • A Personal Adviser, if the child is over the age of 16;
  • An Independent Visitor, if involved;
  • If required, an interpreter;
  • The officer with lead responsibility for implementing the authority's duty to promote the educational achievement of its Children Looked After;
  • Any other person thought to be relevant e.g. current carer; health professionals: GP; Local Authority in whose area it is proposed that a child will be looked after;
  • Children's Guardian if child is subject to Care Proceedings.

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 to request written contributions from agencies rather then invite them to attend.

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 and appropriate, in a face to face meeting. To assist in preparation for the review the IRO will speak to the social worker at least 15 working days before the review meeting. See also Supporters and Interpreters.

Parental Attendance

Should the parent(s) of a child subject to a Placement Order hold Parental Responsibility and wish to engage and participate in reviews, they should be invited to attend the review meeting if the child has not yet been placed for adoption. If however, it is felt that the parents' attendance carries a risk to the safety of the child or the stability of the foster placement, the parent should not attend. Similarly, in instances where a child expresses a wish for their parent(s) not to attend a review, the rights of the child will be the deciding factor as to whether or not the parent(s) attend.

A decision not to invite a child or parent(s) to a review for any reason 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.

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

In cases where it is not appropriate or practicable for a carer to attend, the reasons why the carer was excluded must be recorded in case records. Arrangements should be made to ensure the carer is able to contribute to the process and decisions taking place in the review.

6. The Role of the Social Worker, Supporters and Interpreters

The child's social worker must discuss the purpose of the review with the child, parents and carers and consult the child about invitations. The following actions are required:

  • Ensure that the child is prepared for the review and discuss with them their wishes in respect of venue, who should attend and what the child would like to see addressed in the review;
  • Confirm attendance with those invited and obtain information from, and the views of, those unable to attend;
  • Seek information from, and the views of, individuals or organisations who have not been invited to the review, but nonetheless have relevant information;
  • Ensure the child's LCS records have been completed and are up to date;
  • 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, for example by making notes prior to the review, completing consultation documents or by meeting with the IRO prior to or after the review meeting. The social worker should agree with the IRO how this will be achieved.

The child's social worker must also ensure that children and families have been given information about the Complaints, Compliments and Representations Procedure and the Advocacy for Children and Young People Making a Complaint Procedure available to adults and children. 

The child's social worker must inform the child's IRO of any significant changes in the child's life and circumstances including:

  • Any proposed change of Care Plan, for example arising at short notice in the course of proceedings following directions from the court;
  • Where agreed decisions from the review are not carried out within the specified timescale;
  • Major changes to the contact arrangements;
  • Changes in the allocated social worker;
  • Any safeguarding concerns involving the child which may lead to S47 (Child Protection) Enquiries and the outcomes of child protection conferences or other meetings that are not attended by the IRO;
  • Complaints from or on behalf of the 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;
  • If 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;
  • If the child is excluded from school;
  • If the child has run away or is missing from an approved placement;
  • Significant health, medical events, diagnoses, illnesses, hospitalisations or serious accidents;
  • Panel decisions in relation to permanence;
  • Changes to Delegated Authority arrangements.

The IRO must also be advised of the outcome of any other meetings, 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 (see IRO Handbook). 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 and access to statements and reports filed within care proceedings.

The social worker must ensure the following documents are available for the child, parent and IRO 3 working days before an Initial Review and 5 working days before a subsequent review:

  • Review Pre Meeting Report (updated C&F Assessment);
  • Care Plan or Pathway Plan;
  • Placement Plan.

Other relevant reports

  • Health Care Plan;
  • Personal Education Plan;
  • Any other relevant reports by professionals;
  • Hard copies of the Pre Meeting report (updated C&F Assessment) should be brought to the meeting by the Social Worker.

After the review, the social worker is responsible (within 10 days) for updating the Care Plan, and arranging for a Pathway Plan to be completed/updated, if relevant. The social worker should also ensure that the child's Placement Plan is updated. Copies of these documents must be circulated to the Children's Guardian if the child is subject to care proceedings.

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.

For second and subsequent reviews:

  • Check that all the decisions reached at the last review have been actioned or explain why not in the report section of the Review Pre Meeting Report (updated C&F Assessment);
  • Complete any outstanding work on the Assessment and Progress Record;
  • Discuss the case with their manager in supervision;
  • Ensure the Permanence Planning Meeting minutes are available for the review.

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.

7. Independent Reviewing Officer's Responsibilities


Please also Local Authority Responsibilities in the Appointment of IROs and Establishment of an Effective IRO Service Procedure.

The IRO's role is to monitor the appropriateness of the Care Plan (including any Safeguarding issues), its implementation and to establish whether the milestones set out in the plan are being achieved in a timely way.

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;

  • In addition to obtaining the wishes and feelings of children, the views of parents, person with parental responsibility, current carer and any other appropriate person should also be ascertained;

  • Perform any other function which is prescribed in regulations.

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 its Children Looked After of the services they receive. Where IRO's identify more general concerns around the quality of the authority's services to its Children Looked After, the IRO should immediately alert senior managers about wherever gaps are identified in the assessment process or the delivery of service. 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 Children Looked After 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;
  • Making sure that the child understands how an advocate could help and 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.

It is the IRO's responsibility to chair the review meetings of all looked after children. 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."

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 and that the child is consulted about his/her care plan at each review and whenever there is a significant change in the care plan. They should be satisfied that disabled children's contributions are obtained and effectively presented in the review.

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.


Decision making in the Review

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 permanence planning meeting proposes that adoption or long term fostering is the most appropriate way to meet the child's needs, the review considers the recommendation and recommends changes to the care plan as appropriate and the procedures for adoption are then followed. See Adoption and Permanence Procedures.

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. Whether all the required plans (including plans for Permanence) are in place, detailing how the child's needs are to be met, and whether they are up to date;

    See Section 8, The Role of the Looked After Review in Achieving Permanence for the Child;
  1. The extent to which the aims and objectives of the child's Care Plan, Health Action Plan, Personal Education Plan or Pathway Plan have been achieved and any relevant changes in circumstances which have a bearing on the case;
  2. The need for the child to continue to be Looked After and where a Care Order exists, whether an application to discharge the Care Order should be made;
  3. Whether the plans fully cover the necessary actions to meet the following responsibilities:
    1. To protect the child's safety and welfare, preferably within his/her own family or community;
    2. To ensure the child's placement is appropriate to meet the child's needs and that a relevant Placement Plan is in place;
    3. To ensure that Delegated Authority arrangements in place continue to meet the needs of the child, are appropriate and are in the child's best interest;

    4. To promote the educational needs of the child. In this respect the IRO must ensure that the child's Personal Education Plan is relevant and up to date;
    5. To promote the health and well-being of the child. In this respect the chairperson must ensure that the child's Health Care Plan is relevant and up to date and that the actions identified within the Health Care Plan have been completed;

    6. To ensure that the child maintains contact with his/her family and significant friends and that the arrangements are appropriate, or, where there is no contact between the child and his/her family, that there are good reasons for this;
    7. To provide advice, assistance and other support for children with a view to promoting their welfare and preparing them for independence and adulthood;
    8. Where the child is reaching the age of 16, to ensure that a Personal Adviser has been appointed and work has started on the child's Pathway Plan;
    9. To establish whether any additional, specialist or therapeutic assessments or interventions are necessary to meet the child's needs;
    10. Whether the placement safeguards and promotes the child's welfare, and whether any safeguarding concerns have been raised;
    11. To clarify whether a claim for criminal injuries compensation has been made or should be considered;
    12. To establish whether the child has a right to have an Independent Visitor (see Independent Visitors Procedure). Decision to appoint an Independent Visitor must be considered at each review and if agreed, the arrangements and frequency of visits discussed at each subsequent review;
    13. To ensure children and families are aware of the right to complain about either the service or plans and understand the processes available to do so if they require.

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 Case Escalation Process Procedure.

Where necessary the IRO can seek legal advice from the Adults, Children and Education Team in Legal Services. An 'ethical' wall will be maintained between this Team and the Childcare Litigation Unit. However should legal advice entirely independent of Legal Services be required this can be arranged via Legal Services from another local authority's legal department subject to the IRO service meeting the costs of the advice.


Issues to Consider at the Review Meeting

It is a statutory requirement that 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 permanence from the second review onwards. See Permanence Planning and Placement Procedure;
  • 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. See Contact with Parents, Family and Friends Procedure 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. Where a child is the subject of a child protection plan a single planning and review process should be agreed between the IRO and the Child Protection Principal Officer (CPPO). The IRO and CPPO must discuss the case and record the discussion on the child's file. The IRO should attend the Child Protection Review Conference (CPRC) at the point the child has been looked after for 3 months and the protection plan will be transferred to the IRO.


Information that must be Provided to Children at the Review by the IRO

The IRO is under a duty to ensure that the child, where appropriate, has been informed of his/her right to apply, with leave, for an order under section 8 of the 1989 Act, and, where the child is in care, for the discharge of the care order and his/ her right to make a complaint and to an advocate (regulation 45). If the child wishes to take legal proceedings under the 1989 Act, the IRO must establish whether there is an appropriate adult able and willing to assist the child to obtain legal advice or bring proceedings on the child's behalf or, if there is no such person, assist the child to obtain such advice.

Taking into account the age and understanding of the child, the IRO will need to consider carefully how best to explain to each child their right to:

  • Apply for an order or seek discharge of an order;
  • An advocate (including an explanation of the role of the advocate);
  • Make a complaint and how to do this;
  • Establish whether there is an appropriate adult able and willing to assist the child to obtain legal advice or bring proceedings on the child's behalf or,if there is no such person, assist the child to obtain such advice.

These are all complex issues to explain to a child and the IRO will need to be able to satisfy him/herself and his/her manager that the child is aware and understands his/ her rights.

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

At the second Looked After Review, there is a requirement to focus on the Permanence Plan (see Permanence Planning and Placement Procedure), to ensure it provides permanence for the child within a timescale which is realistic, achievable and meets the child's needs. Permanence can be achieved in four ways:

  • Through a successful return to the birth family;
  • Placement with Family and Friends (Connected Persons), preferably under a Residence or Special Guardianship Order;
  • Long term foster care;
  • Adoption.

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. If it is considered that the chosen avenue to permanence is no longer viable, the IRO should ensure that the social worker re-convenes a permanence planning meeting as a matter of urgency to consider the most appropriate permanent alternative.

As part of permanence planning the IRO should be satisfied that:

  • The local authority has explained fully to the child and the parents the implications of the permanence plan; and
  • The local authority has provided information on post-adoption or special guardianship support to parents or extended family, where the plan is for adoption or a special guardianship order.

If the care plan is adoption or Special Guardianship Review decisions should include timescales for the completion of:

  • The child's permanence report (CPR) the child's social worker must ensure the IRO has the current copy, prior to any CLA Review, and one week before Adoption Panel;
  • Life story work;
  • Later life letter; and
  • The post adoption/special guardianship plan.

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

Team Managers and Service Managers authorising Child Permanence Reports are responsible for quality assuring those reports.

9. Looked After Reviews Prior to Ceasing Section 20

A review meeting must be held prior to a child ceasing to be looked after or if the local authority withdraws accommodation. The social worker must create a Child in Need (CIN) plan and arrange a Child in Need Review Meeting to be chaired by the IRO. This meeting will need to take place within 28 days of an unplanned ending of a s20 episode of accommodation. The only exception to this being those children returned home by a Court agreement.

10. Looked After Reviews for Children Subject to Long Term Fostering Arrangements

If the decision is that long term fostering is in the child's best interest before placing a child in a long term permanent placement with a foster carer the child can only be placed if :-

  • A Placement Plan for the child has been completed and approved;
  • The placement will safeguard and promote the child's welfare;
  • The IRO has been consulted;
  • The child's relatives have been consulted; and
  • The foster carers intend to act as the child's foster carers until the child ceases to be looked after;
  • The matching of the child and carers has been formally approved by the Matching Panel as a permanent placement.

If a child has been in a long term placement for more than one year, the IRO and child (if appropriate) should be consulted regarding the 6 monthly reviews. In some circumstances, it is not necessary for there to be a face to face review every six months. In these circumstances, there must be at least one annual face to face review and the review cycle must continue as before but with an intervening review taking place as a series of consultations which can be held on the phone.

When a child has been in a long term matched placement for more than one year and it is evident that the placement is going well, the social worker can consult with the child (where appropriate) and IRO about changing the usual review process to an annual face to face review. In order for a non-face to face review to be considered as the intervening review, the child must:

  • Be in a long term matched placement;
  • Be in education, employment or training;
  • Have no outstanding unmet health needs;
  • It must not be the last review before they cease to be looked after or become 18.

If the child and their carers are in agreement with the proposed review schedule, it should be discussed at the next review and if all present are in agreement, it should be recorded as a formal outcomes of the review and in the care plan.

The meeting must also confirm the date by which the next non face to face review will take place and who will be consulted. The meeting should also agree a date for the next annual face to face meeting.

For a non-face to face review, the IRO must always contact the child /young person as part of the process to seek their views. If the child / young person decline such consultation, this must be recorded. All consultations and review of information should take place in the two weeks prior to the completion of the review.

The IRO will record the non-face to face review in the usual way and minutes distributed accordingly.

For subsequent reviews consideration must be given to the effectiveness of the revised review meeting schedule and whether six monthly face to face reviews should be reinstated.

11. Looked After Reviews for Children Subject to Placement Orders

A Placement Order gives authority to a local authority to place a child with prospective adopters. It can only be made in relation to a child who is the subject of a Care Order or where the Threshold Criteria for a Care Order are satisfied or where there is no parent or guardian.

A Placement Order has the effect of suspending a Care Order. If the Placement Order is subsequently revoked, the Care Order may be reinstated through the courts. Parents may challenge the Local Authority if they have not placed the child in an adoptive placement within 12 months.

A Child Looked After Review must be held within 3 months of the making of a Placement Order, and every three months for the duration of the Placement Order until the child is placed with adoptive parents, or the care plan changes.

At the second CLA review, after the making of the Placement Order, the IRO will consider all the family finding activity that has been undertaken for the child, including advertising and consultation within the consortium. If a potential link with an adoptive family is yet to be identified, the IRO may request that the social work team convene a Permanency Planning Meeting and completes, or updates, a sibling checklist. The Permanency Planning Meeting may recommend that a Legal Planning Meeting is held to consider an application to revoke the Placement Order.

The Permanency Planning Meeting will consider whether the plan for adoption remains appropriate and achievable. When siblings are being considered the sibling checklist must be considered, so each individual child's needs, in relation to placement and contact are taken into account.

At the third CLA review the IRO will inform the Heads of Service for Fostering and Adoption, and for the relevant Safeguarding or Specialist Team, if there is still no identified potential link with an adoptive family. A Permanency Planning Meeting will be convened and formally consider whether or not a Legal Planning Meeting should be convened to consider an application to revoke the Placement Order.

12. Looked After Reviews for Children Who Are Subject of Child Protection Plans - under review

Where a child who is on a Child Protection Plan is accommodated, the Child Protection Plan should specify what action needs to be taken before the child is returned home.

(The section below is under review).

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 Child Looked After remains subject to a Child Protection Plan. There must be a discussion between the IRO and Child Protection Chair as to who would be the most appropriate person to chair the CP meeting and if it is agreed that the Child Protection Chair will chair the meeting – the IRO must attend.

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

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

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

The IRO will need to consider together with the Children's Guardian what communication is necessary in order to promote the best possible care planning process for each child. As soon as the IRO has been appointed to a child subject to proceedings:

The IRO service should provide the legal department for the local authority with the name of the IRO and with his/her contact details; and the legal department for the local authority should advise the court of the name of the IRO and of his/her contact details.

The legal department of the local authority should have a system in place to:

  • Pass on the name and contact details of the Children's Guardian, once appointed, to the IRO; and
  • Provide copies of all relevant court documents to the IRO, including court orders and directions, the reports of experts and the reports of the Children's Guardian, within five working days of receipt of them.

The Children's Guardian should be advised of each review meeting and invited.

Each Local Authority should have a system in place to ensure that the legal department of the Local Authority and the Children's Guardian receive a copy of each review record. This is whether or not the Children's Guardian attends the CLA Review meeting.

The record of each review that takes place during the proceedings should be submitted to court.

The IRO should ensure that s/he is in discussion with the Children's Guardian at intervals, as is appropriate for each child's case and that the topics of discussion include:

  • The wishes and feelings of the child;
  • The current Care Plan;
  • Whether details of the Care Plan are subject to a formal dispute resolution process and if so details of this;
  • Any complaints that have been received about the case; and
  • Any issues raised in court in relation to the implementation of the current Care Plan.

Prior to the Issues Resolution Hearing, the local authority should inform the court of any dispute between the local authority and the IRO about the plan for the child and of any issues subject to the local dispute resolution process.

14. Recording of Looked After Reviews

It is the responsibility of the Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) to record the review. A case note containing brief decisions should be placed on the child's file within 5 working days and the outcomes form should be completed within 15 working days of the review. The decisions should have any identifying details removed as necessary (for example the address of the placement). The Independent Review Team Business Support Team will send copies out to all relevant parties as indicated on the SW on the Review Invitation Checklist.

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.

15. Children's Services Response to Review Decisions

Local Authorities are required to have a system in place for a designated senior member of staff (for example a Team Manager) to consider the decisions made at each Looked After Review within five working days of receiving them and to advise the IRO and all those who attended the review if they are unable to agree them.

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

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

In the first instance the IRO should attempt to resolve the issue informally. If this is not successful the IRO can consider activating the local dispute resolution process.

16. 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 Children Looked After, 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 forms 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 Review Team Business Support Team and sent on a monthly basis to the relevant Service Managers.

Where there is evidence of poor practice identified in the review, the IRO should, wherever practicable, address these issues through the normal channels, contacting the social worker's manager and where necessary the Service Manager. Any action taken by the IRO must be recorded on the monitoring form and LCS by case note. Where necessary the process outlined in the Case Escalation Process Procedure will be followed.

17. Conflict Resolution

Where the IRO and the Manager, Independent Review Team, believe that there is a breach of the child's human rights and / or a significant failure on behalf of the Local Authority to address the child's identified needs the dispute resolution process should be followed.