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5.1.16 Guide to the Care Planning, Placement and Case Reviews Regulations (England) 2010 and Statutory Guidance

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This chapter fully sets out the roles and responsibilities of Independent Reviewing Officers (IRO's) and the purpose of statutory reviews. It also reflects the requirements and expectations for practitioners, other staff working in the Department and partner agencies working with Looked After Children.

RELEVANT CHAPTERS

Staying Safe Services Quality Assurance Framework

Initial and Review Child Protection Conferences Procedure

Appointment and Role of Independent Reviewing Officers Procedure

Looked After Reviews Procedure

AMENDMENT

The chapter was completely revised and rewritten in March 2015 to reflect changes in legislation, regulations and guidance since the implementation of these Regulations in April 2011.


Contents

  1. The Care Planning, Placement and Case Review Regulations (England) 2010, and Statutory Guidance
  2. The Legal Content
  3. The Practice Content
  4. The Care Planning and Review Content
  5. Establishing an Effective IRO Service
  6. IRO’s Functions, Tasks and Responsibilities
  7. The Review Meeting
  8. Monitoring the Case on an Ongoing Basis
  9. Consideration for Specific Groups of Children
  10. Pathway Plans
  11. Dispute Resolution
  12. Complaints
  13. Provision of Independent Legal Advice
  14. Strategic and Management Responsibilities


1. The Care Planning, Placement and Case Review Regulations (England) 2010, and Statutory Guidance 

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

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

Within Bolton each Looked After Child has a named IRO, in accordance with the Children and Young Person Act 2008. The ways in which they can contact them is detailed in Section 6, IRO’s Functions, Tasks and Responsibilities.

While the primary function of the IRO is to review the cases of individual children they play an important role within the department in driving forward good practice and addressing quality assurance.

These regulations came into force in April 2011. The Guidance and Regulations consist of 4 documents:

Brief Overview of the 4 Documents:

The Care Planning, Placement and Case Review Regulations (England) 2010, and Statutory Guidance  

(See also Decision to Look After and Care Planning Procedure).

The regulations include specific requirements for the child’s Care Plan to include:

Significant Changes - A Summary of these Requirements

  • A Care Plan must be prepared prior to placement, or, if it is not practicable to do so, within 10 working days of the child’s first placement (Regulation 4(2)) (currently no specified time limit);
  • A Placement Plan must be drawn up by the social worker before the child is placed, or, if not reasonably practicable, within 5 working days of the start of the placement, and forms part of the Care Plan (Regulation 9) (currently no specified time limit);
  • Emergency placements with a local authority approved foster carer outside the terms of approval can be made for up to 6 working days (currently 24 hours) (Regulation 23);
  • A temporary approval as a local authority foster carer of a relative, friend or other person connected with the child can be extended for a period of up to;
  • 16 weeks (previously 6 weeks) (and the time period can be extended in exceptional circumstances) i.e. for complications re DSB checks (Regulation 25);
  • There is, for the first time, a statutory provision that Looked After Reviews must take place for children who are Looked After as a result of a secure remand;
  • There are new requirements in relation to decisions to make placements out of area, including the requirement to consult with the Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO);
  • Previously there has only been a statutory requirement upon social workers to visit children in foster care or those placed with parents, relatives and friends; the new regulations now require visits to be extended to children’s homes, and the frequency of visits has been changed.

The Sufficiency Guidance

(See also Local Authority's Sufficiency Duty - Accommodation for Looked After Children Procedure).

From April 2011, local authorities must be in a position to secure, where reasonably practicable, sufficient accommodation for looked after children in their local authority area.

Independent Reviewing Officers (IRO Guidance) Handbook

(See also Appointment and Role of Independent Reviewing Officers Procedure).

As discussed in this report.

Short Breaks Guidance

(See also Short Breaks Procedure).

Children may be provided with short breaks in the following circumstances:

  1. Under Section 17 Children Act 1989, in which case they are not Looked After children, the 2010 Regulations do not apply and there is no requirement to appoint an IRO. A Child in Need Plan is required in accordance with the Assessment Framework. As good practice, reviews should be carried out at least every 6 months and more often if required;
  2. Under Section 20 Children Act 1989, with short breaks of not more than 17 days each (where the total number of placement days does not exceed 75 in any 12-month period) in the same setting, but where the family may have difficulty in providing the support while the child is away from home or monitoring the quality of their care. In these circumstances, the child is Looked After, an IRO must be appointed, and a Short Break Care Plan drawn up;
  3. Under Section 20 Children Act 1989, where the short breaks exceed the totals of 17 days per placement/7 days per 12-month period and/or take place in more than one setting. In these circumstances, the child is Looked After, an IRO must be appointed and a Care Plan drawn up. The 2010 Regulations apply in full, including the provisions on frequency of social work visits and Looked After Reviews.

    The following information in this report is in relation to the Statutory Guidance for IRO’s and Local Authorities on their functions in relation to Case Management and Review of Looked After Children:

    This statutory document, produced April 2010, has been provided to improve the outcomes for Looked After children by providing guidance to IRO’s about how they should discharge their responsibilities to Looked After Children.

    It also provides guidance to local authorities on their strategic and managerial responsibilities in establishing an effective IRO service.


2. The Legal Content

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

The role of the IRO was envisaged to:

  • Offer a safeguard to prevent 'drift' in planning the care for Looked After Children;
  • Ensure efforts to review children's cases were focused on meeting the needs of the children;
  • Monitor the activity of the Local Authority as corporate parent in ensuring appropriate actions were taken to meet the child's needs;
  • Ensure that plans for Looked After Children were timely, effective and sensitive to individual need.

IRO's were introduced on a statutory basis in 2004. In 2006-7, the 'Care Matters' Green Paper provided an opportunity to review the role of the IRO whereby some key concerns emerged:

  • IRO's were not sufficiently robust in challenging decisions made by the local authorities in cases where professional practice was obviously poor and not in children's interests;
  • Insufficient weight was being given to the views of the child, carers, parents or other professionals with a role in securing his/her welfare;
  • Care Plans were not rigorously examined instead becoming a 'tick box' exercise.

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

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

S118 of the Adoption and Children Act 2002 amends S26 of the Children Act (Review of Cases of Looked After Children) to require the appointment of IROs to participate in the review of children's cases, to monitor the authority's function in respect of the review and to refer a child's case to CAFCASS if the failure to implement aspects of the care plan might be considered in breach of a child's human rights.

The Regulations state

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

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

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

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

"The independent reviewing officer must:

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

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

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

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

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

Under the Care Planning and Review Regulations 2010 Independent Reviewing Officers (IROs) have been given a more effective and independent oversight of Children's cases. There are now two clear and separate aspects to the function of the IRO:

  1. Chairing a child's review; and
  2. Monitoring a child's case on an ongoing basis including whether any safeguarding issues arise. This includes a requirement that IROs should receive a copy of the Care Plan, be consulted before and notified after a child is moved to a new placement and notified when a child is excluded from school.


3. The Practice Content

The IRO has a crucial role to play in ensuring that the local authority fulfils its responsibilities as a 'corporate parent' for all the children it looks after. The plan for each child must demonstrate how the services provided have fully taken account of the child's wishes and feelings.

The new Guidance states that the review can be adjourned if there is no paperwork - if it is going to adversely affect the meeting.


4. The Care Planning and Review Content

The making of a Care Plan is central in the arrangements that the local authority makes in looking after children. The IRO Guidance states the Care Plan will contain information about how the child's current development needs will be met as well as the arrangements for the current and longer term care for the child. It will ensure that there is a clear plan for the child's future to which everyone is working including family, where appropriate, and carers.

The guidance states that the IRO's primary focus is to quality assure the care planning and review process for each child and to ensure that his/her 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.

The Care Plan must be prepared before the child is first placed by the local authority, or if this is not practical, within ten working days of the start of the placement. (Regulation 4(2)). The Care Plan must set out the long term plan for the child's upbringing and the arrangements to meet the child's development needs, based on an up to date assessment including:

  • Health;
  • Education;
  • Emotional and behavioural;
  • Identity;
  • Family and social contacts;
  • Social presentation;
  • Self care skills.

It is the responsibility of the IRO to chair this review at regular intervals. The IRO must be satisfied that the plan identifies who is responsible for achieving the plan’s objectives and clear timescales set.

Regulation 32(2) makes clear the status of the review meeting:

"The responsible authority must not make any significant changes 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 practical"


5. Establishing an Effective IRO Service

The local authority has a number of duties in relation to this appointment:

  • It should have a system in place where the manager of the IRO service is advised that a child has become Looked After within two working days;
  • IRO must be appointed within 5 working days of a child becoming looked after (section 25A(2), C&Y Persons Act 2008, Children Act 1989);
  • Sibling groups should have the same IRO, unless this makes it unmanageable;
  • The child should be given details of the IRO along with details of how to make contact with him/her - if informed verbally, this to be recorded on the child's records;
  • The IRO should remain the same even if the child leaves and comes back into the system;
  • Where the mother and/or father and their child is accommodated, they should have a different IRO;
  • The local authority must have a written policy regarding the manner in which the child's case will be reviewed and this information should be provided to the child, carers and parents;
  • If the IRO leaves the authority, he/she introduce the new IRO to the child;
  • At no time, apart from the first 5 days should the child be without a named IRO;
  • The name of the IRO and his contact details must be recorded on the child's records;

The IRO should meet the child before the first review.


6. IRO’s Functions, Tasks and Responsibilities

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

  • Phoning the CLA Admin on the Social Work Teams District on the number provided by the social worker or the Conference and Review Manager or Duty IRO on 01204 337460 who will forward any messages;
  • By email directly at: (add name of IRO) @bolton.gov.uk.

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

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

  • Promoting the voice of the child;
  • IRO to speak with the child in private, prior to the first review and before every subsequent review (regulation 36);
  • Ensuring that Care Plans are based on detailed and informed assessments are up to date, effective, meeting the child's needs and includes timescales;
  • Ensuring that the child understands its entitlement to an Advocate;
  • Preventing drift in care planning and delivery of services to them;
  • Ensuring that the local authority gives consideration to the wishes/feelings of the child and that the child, where appropriate, understands the implications of any changes made to the Care Plan.

The IRO has a responsibility to ensure, where appropriate, that the child understands his/her right to make a complaint to the local authority and to have an advocate to provide support with the complaint, should the child so wish.

In circumstances where the child does not have the ability or understanding to instigate a complaint, consideration will need to be given to who is best able to do so on behalf of the child. The right to make a complaint extends to parents, those with Parental Responsibility, local authority foster carers and anyone else that the local authority considers has sufficient interest in the child's welfare. This could include the IRO (section 26(3), Children Act 1989).

An outstanding complaint being addressed within the local authority's complaints procedure should not prevent the IRO from continuing to work to resolve the matter, either informally or by using the local dispute resolution process.

The local authority's complaints manager should advise the IRO of any complaint brought by or on behalf of the child and may enlist the help of the IRO to resolve the problem. In all cases the welfare of the child is the primary concern.

The IRO may consider that it would be reasonable to await a resolution through the formal complaints procedure, and/or use of the local dispute resolution process before considering whether a referral to CAFCASS is required.

The statutory duties of the IRO role are to (Section 25B(1)):

  • 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 the local authority gives due consideration to the child's wishes and feelings.

As part of the monitoring function, the IRO has a duty to identify any areas of poor practice, and where the Care Plan is not meeting the child's needs.

Where IRO's identify general concerns around the quality of the authority's services to its Looked After children, the IRO should immediately alert senior managers about these. Equally important, the IRO should recognise and report on good practice. (See also Section 11, Dispute Resolution)

Management

Role and Functions of the IRO Manager

Each IRO should be managed by a designated manager who will be accountable for the quality of the service that is offered to each individual Looked After child. The role will include providing oversight, professional advice and management support to each IRO.

The manager should ensure that there are policies and procedures in place to ensure the quality of service delivery. This should include regular and routine feedback from parents, children and social workers and an audit of the records and direct observation of the IRO.

Other Functions Include:

  • Establish effective arrangements for Looked After children to communicate with senior managers in children's services and across the other agencies;
  • Ensure that the caseloads enables the IRO to comply with primary legislation, the Regulations and relevant guidance in order to achieve the outcomes for every Looked After Child. This may include having the authority to limit requests made by the local authority for the IRO to undertake additional tasks, which are not part of the IRO role;
  • Ensure IRO's Receive Appropriate Training;
  • Produce an annual report for the scrutiny of the members of the Corporate Parenting Board. The report should be available as a public document.

Caseloads

In relation to caseloads, the IRO manager should take into account the anticipated requirements set out in primary legislation, Regulations and guidance, caseloads in comparable boroughs, outcomes of audits, and ensure the IRO has sufficient time to consult with all relevant persons before each review. The IRO should also have time to:

  • Read all documentation before each review;
  • Meet the child;
  • Chair all meetings that make up the review;
  • Provide full record of the review;
  • Monitor drift and alert the local authority in writing of poor practice;
  • Travel to meetings and undertake training and attend meetings for the purpose of consultation and professional development;
  • It is estimated that a caseload of 50 to 70 Looked After children for a full time equivalent IRO would represent good practice in the delivery of a quality service.


7. The Review Meeting

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

  • A meeting cannot be considered as a statutory review if the IRO is not present, they did not co-chair such a meeting and the Care Plan is not available. The IRO needs to be satisfied that all aspects of the child's plan are covered as fully as they would be if the meetings were not combined;
  • When holding meetings consecutively the chair and the IRO must agree the agenda and chairing responsibilities in advance. Careful consideration must be given to attendees, venue, etc. The IRO must be satisfied that he or she can fulfil their statutory duties;
  • The IRO needs to be satisfied that all the relevant people have contributed, particularly the child or young person, parents and carers;
  • If holding meetings at the same time compromises the contribution of the child, parent or other key person, separate meetings must take place, although some information may be shared elsewhere, avoiding duplication of certain people. This needs to be agreed in advance with the IRO;
  • Note with regard to Secure Accommodation Reviews that they are not the same as a review of the child's overall Plan (para 4.15*) and the child's allocated IRO cannot be a member of the Panel (paras 4.13/4.14*).

*IRO Handbook

In order to promote the welfare of the child, each review meeting must consider the following in the Care Plan:

  • Whether to confirm or change it (the plan);
  • By whom; and
  • Within what timescale?

Preparation

The IRO Guidance states that:

The review should be 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. The child should be consulted, where appropriate, about the venue and timing of the review and who she/he wishes to attend.

The IRO will have independent contact with the young person as part of a review to discuss and discuss the Care Plan, Nature of the review (meeting format, attendees) advocacy/complaints. This information or reasons why not sought should be recorded on the Review Outcomes Form.

Attendance and Location

The review is the child's meeting and discussion should take place between the social worker and the child at least 20 working days before the review, about who she/he wishes to attend. This allows time for the venue and invitations to be sorted.

The review should take place where the child feels most relaxed and comfortable. The child's placement should be considered. In some circumstances it may be more appropriate for the IRO to meet professionals/family separately. The IRO should ensure that everyone involved has expressed their views and that these are considered at the review.

It is expected that the child and parents, where appropriate, will attend the whole of the review, but this depends on each individual case. In exceptional circumstances the social worker in consultation with the IRO may decide that the attendance of the child or parent will not be appropriate or practical for whole or part of the meeting. If a child or parent is excluded, a written explanation or the reasons should be given and recorded within the review minutes. Other arrangements should be made for their involvement in the review process, and details of this should be recorded on the child's records.

IRO will clarify with the young person either during the visit to placement or through telephone conversation if they are happy with everyone being in attendance and discuss/agree how they wish to run the meeting. This is in relation to children aged 7 and over.

There have been occasions where reviews have had to be held in two parts due to the conflicts and tensions between the family members or/and the child/YP. Some examples may be that there are court orders or bail conditions against one parent in respect of the other, the child may not wish for the parent to be in the main meeting, there are serious difficulties between the parents and it would not be feasible for both to remain in the same room or/and the parent/family member is not able to conduct himself without becoming aggressive/threatening or potentially violent.

On these occasions the social worker will alert the IRO about the difficulties and the IRO will meet with relevant people separately either on the same day or as soon as possible after the review or before the review dependant on the nature of the difficulties. Minutes to be provided taking care to only share what is relevant as per the social worker and IRO's agreement.

Timing of Review Meetings

Looked After Reviews (also called a 'Statutory Reviews') are held at specified intervals in relation to all Looked After Children. Looked After Reviews are normally chaired by an Independent Reviewing Officer and are designed to ensure that adequate plans are in place to safeguard and promote the overall welfare of children; and to make recommendations, as necessary, for changes to those plans.

Looked After Reviews are convened at the following intervals:

  • Within twenty working days of the child becoming Looked After;
  • Then within three months of an initial looked after review;
  • Then subsequent looked after reviews should be conducted not more than six months after any previous review.

Reviews must take place sooner if the Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) requests; the social worker's assessment is that the child's welfare is not being adequately safeguarded and promoted, (including persistent absence from the placement); a review would not otherwise occur before the child ceases to be detained in a YOI or secure training centre, or accommodated on remand; the authority proposes to cease to provide accommodation for a looked after child.

The requirement to hold Looked After Reviews ends when the child ceases to be Looked After or when the local authority has authority to place for adoption, in which case there is a requirement to hold Adoption Reviews.

Adjournment of Reviews

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

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

  • IRO not being satisfied that the local authority has complied adequately with all the requirements relating to a review i.e. duty to consult the child, 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 efficiency of the review;
  • Child not being properly prepared for the review.

There are occasions when the IRO, social worker, person with PR or other professionals are not able to attend, due to sickness on the day or other reason. In this case consultation should be held between the IRO or Social Workers line manager to consider avoiding cancelling the review, the line manager will confirm if:

  • The review can go ahead and the IRO or social worker will gather information from other agencies to go through the Care Plan. They will then, within a period not exceeding fifteen working days discuss with the absent party the review discussion and outcomes and this will be recorded as a series of meetings.

Permanency Plan

A range of Permanency Plans exist and achieving permanence for a child will be a key consideration from the day a child becomes Looked After. As part of this planning the IRO should be satisfied that:

  • The local authority has explained to the child and the parents the implications of the permanency plan; and
  • The local authority has provided information on post adoption or special guardian support to parents or extended family, where the plan is Adoption or a Special Guardianship Order.

The review decisions should include timescales for the completion of Life Story Books, and Later Life Letters and the post adoption/special guardianship plan.

Issues in Relation to Adoption

Where the child has a Placement Order, the first review must take place no more than three months after the making of the Placement Order and thereafter not more than six months after the previous one.

Once the child has been placed for adoption, the first review must be held no more than 4 weeks of the move the adoptive placement, then another within three months, then 6 monthly thereafter, reviews may be held more frequently as agreed to prevent any drift.

Outcomes from the Review

The IRO is responsible for completing a review of the record and should produce a written record of the decisions and recommendations made within 5 working days. The full record should be distributed within 20 working days.

Where parents who have not attended, the social worker and IRO should discuss what information can be shared with them taking into consideration the child's needs and interests.

The social worker should update the Care Plan in relation to any changes to the Care Plan agreed at the review.


8. Monitoring the Case on an Ongoing Basis

Under the Care Planning and Review Regulations 2010, Independent Reviewing Officers (IROs) have been given a new more effective and independent oversight of Children's cases. There are now two clear and separate aspects to the function of the IRO:

  1. Chairing a child's review; and
  2. Monitoring a child's case on an ongoing basis including whether any safeguarding issues arise. This includes a requirement that IROs should receive a copy of the Care Plan, be consulted before and notified after a child is moved to a new placement and notified when a child is excluded from school.

If the care planning continues to meet the needs of the child there may be no need for the social worker and the IRO to communicate however the Guidance states that in the event of a change in the child’s life that is significant, the social worker must inform the IRO. This includes:

  • Proposed change of Care Plan - i.e. due to proceedings;
  • Where a proposed placement is a Placement at a Distance;
  • Where agreed decisions have not been carried out;
  • Major change to contact arrangements;
  • Changes to allocated social worker;
  • Any safeguarding concerns involving the child - i.e. Section 47 Enquiries;
  • Complaints from or on behalf of child, parent or carer;
  • Unexpected changes to the child’s placement which may significantly impact on placement stability or safeguarding arrangements;
  • Significant changes in the birth family which may have an impact on the child i.e. births, deaths;
  • Where the child/young person is charged with an offence leading to youth offending services or other criminal proceedings;
  • Where child is excluded from school;
  • Where the child is missing from home or approved premises;
  • Significant health issues leading to hospital admissions, serious accidents operations etc.;
  • Panel decisions in relation to permanence.

A review will not be required for every change and the IRO in consultation with the team manager will determine whether the change requires a review to be convened.

A review must be convened in the following circumstances:

  • Whenever there is a proposal for a child to leave care before the age of 18;
  • Whenever there is a proposal for a child to move from foster care, children's home or other placement to supported lodgings or to other kinds of 'semi independent' lodgings (from Regulated to Unregulated placement – Schedule 6, Care Planning and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010);
  • Prior to children subject of Care Orders being discharged from custody;
  • Whenever any unplanned change of placement is proposed to a child’s accommodation that would disrupt his/her training/education;
  • Where a change of placement is proposed for a child who has remained settled and established with the same carer for a significant period of time;
  • Where a child has been persistently absent from the Placement;
  • Where the Placement provider, social worker or parent are concerned that the child is at risk of harm or is not being safeguarded.

The IRO should ensure that the plan for the move has been subjected to detailed scrutiny in order to establish that it meets the child’s needs and is in his/her interests.

If the IRO establishes that the plan is not likely to promote the child’s welfare, the IRO should request the local authority to freeze the placement move and initiate the problem resolution process.


9. Consideration for Specific Groups of Children

Short Break Care

The plans for children in short break care are reviewed less frequently than plans for other Looked After children. The first review must take place within 3 months of the day of placement and no more than 6 monthly intervals after that (Regulation 48).

The role of the IRO in a series of short break care reviews is limited than for children in longer term. IRO’s have a responsibility to alert the local authority if the placement is not meeting the child’s needs.


10. Pathway Plans

(See also: Leaving Care Service Procedure; Financial Policy for Young People Receiving Leaving Care Services;Staying Put Procedure)

Care Planning and Pathway Plans

Paragraph 19B(4) of Schedule 2 to the Children Act requires that a Pathway Plan must be prepared for all Eligible children and continued for all Relevant and Former Relevant children.

Please see Definitions:

Eligible Children

See Eligible definition.

Defined in paragraph 19B of Schedule 2 to the 1989 Act, and regulation 40 of the Care Planning Regulations as a child who is:

  1. Looked After;
  2. Aged 16 or 17; and
  3. Has been Looked After by a local authority for a period of 13 weeks, or periods amounting in total to 13 weeks, which began after he reached 14 and ended after he reached 16.

Main Statutory Responsibilities:

The local authority has the same statutory obligations in relation to eligible children as they do towards other children Looked After, including a duty to maintain their Care Plan, carry out regular reviews of their case and appoint an Independent Reviewing Officer for the child.

In addition they must:

  • Prepare an assessment of the eligible child’s needs;
  • Prepare a Pathway Plan (which includes the child’s Care Plan);
  • Keep the pathway plan under regular review;
  • Appoint a Personal Adviser for the child.

Relevant Children

See Relevant definition.

Defined in section 23A(2) of the 1989 Act as a child who is:

  1. Not Looked After;
  2. Aged 16 or 17; and
  3. Was, before he last ceased to be Looked After, an Eligible child.

Regulation 3 of the Care Leavers Regulations prescribes a further category of Relevant child who is:

  1. Not Looked After;
  2. Aged 16 or 17; and
  3. At the time he attained the age of 16 was detained (i.e. detained in a remand centre, a young offenders institution or a secure training centre, or any other centre pursuant to a Court order), or in a hospital, and immediately before he was detained or in hospital he had been Looked After by a local authority for a period or periods amounting in all to at least 13 weeks which began after he reached the age of 14.

Regulation 3 of the Care Leavers Regulations also provides that a child who has lived for a continuous period of six months or more with:

  1. His parent;
  2. Someone who is not his parent but who has Parental Responsibility for him; or
  3. Where he is in care and there was a Residence Order / Child Arrangements Order in force immediately before the Care Order was made, a person in whose favour the Residence Order/Child Arrangements Order was made then that child is not a Relevant child despite falling within section 23A(2). Where those living arrangements break down and the child ceases to live with the person concerned, the child is to be treated as a Relevant child.

Main Statutory Responsibilities Include:

The local authority that last looked after the relevant child must:

  • Take reasonable steps to keep in touch with the relevant child;
  • Prepare an assessment of the relevant child’s needs;
  • Prepare a Pathway Plan;
  • Keep the Pathway Plan under regular review;
  • Appoint a Personal Adviser for the child (unless they already did so when he was an Eligible child);
  • Safeguard and promote the relevant child’s welfare by maintaining him, providing him with or maintaining him in suitable accommodation and providing assistance;
  • In order to meet his needs in relation to education, training or employment as provided for in his Pathway Plan.

Former Relevant Children

See Former Relevant definition.

Defined in section 23C(1) of the 1989 Act as a young person who is:

  1. Aged 18 or above, and either;
  2. Has been a Relevant child and would be one if he were under 18; or
  3. Immediately before he ceased to be Looked After at age 18, was an Eligible child. The local authority that last looked after the former Relevant child must.

Main Statutory Responsibilities:

  • Take reasonable steps to keep in touch with the Former Relevant child, and if they lose touch with him, to re-establish contact;
  • Continue to keep the Pathway Plan under regular review;
  • Continue the appointment of the Personal Adviser for the child;
  • If his welfare requires it, provide financial assistance by contributing to the Former Relevant child’s expenses in living near the place where he is, or will be;
  • Employed or seeking employment;
  • If his welfare and educational and training needs require it, provide financial assistance to enable him to pursue education or training;
  • If the former relevant child pursues higher education in accordance with his Pathway Plan, to pay him the higher education.

Former Relevant Children pursuing Further Education or Training

Defined in section 23CA(1) as a Former Relevant child who is:

  1. Aged under 25;
  2. In relation to whom the duties in 23C(2)(3) and (4) no longer apply; and
  3. He has informed the local authority that he wants to pursue or is pursuing a programme of education or training.

Main Statutory Responsibilities:

  • Appoint a Personal Adviser for that person;
  • Carry out an assessment of the needs of that person with a view to determining what assistance (if any) it would be appropriate for them to provide him.

Persons Qualifying for Advice and Assistance (Qualifying Young People)

See Qualifying Young People definition.

Defined in section 24 of the 1989 Act as a person who is:

  1. Aged at least 16 but is under 21;
  2. With respect to whom a Special Guardianship Order is in force (or was in force when they reached 18) and was Looked After immediately before the making of that order; or
  3. At any time after reaching the age of 16 but while he was still a child was, but is no longer, Looked After, Accommodated or fostered.

Main Statutory Responsibilities

The relevant local authority (as defined in section 24(5) of the 1989 Act) must consider whether the person needs help of a kind the local authority can give:

  • Under section 24A - to advise and befriend and give assistance;
  • Under section 24B - to give financial assistance - or where the person is in full time further or higher education, is under the age of 25 and qualifies for advice and assistance, or would have done if he was under 21, assistance in relation to securing vacation.

Brief Summary:

The 1989 Act requires that a Pathway Plan must be prepared for all Eligible children and continued for all Relevant and Former Relevant children, aged from 16 years. Each young person’s Pathway Plan will be based on and include their Care Plan and will set out the actions that must be taken by the responsible authority, the young person, their parents, their carers and the full range of agencies, so that each young person is provided with the services they need to enable them to achieve their aspirations and make a successful transition to adulthood. This plan must remain a “live document”, setting out the different services and how they will be provided to respond to the full range of the young person’s needs.


11. Dispute Resolution

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 Dispute Resolution Procedure in the IRO Handbook will apply:

  1. Informal resolution through a professionals meeting to include the Team Managers of both the social worker's team and the IRO;
  2. If no resolution is reached at this stage a referral should be made by the Independent Reviewing Unit to the relevant senior manager in the local authority;
  3. If there is still no resolution, the matter should be brought to the attention of the Chief Executive.

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.

The IRO has the power to refer the matter to CAFCASS at any point in the dispute resolution process (Regulation 45) and may consider it necessary to make a concurrent referral to CAFCASS at the same time as the dispute resolution.

The individual IRO is personally responsible for activating the dispute resolution process even if this step may not be in accordance with the child's wishes and feelings, but may, in the IRO's view, be in accordance with the best interests and welfare of the child, as well as his/her Human Rights.

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


12. Complaints

The IRO has a responsibility to ensure, where appropriate, that the child understands his/her right to make a complaint to the local authority and to have an advocate to provide support with the complaint, should the child so wish.

In circumstances where the child does not have the ability or understanding to instigate a complaint, consideration will need to be given to who is best able to do so on behalf of the child. The right to make a complaint extends to parents, those with Parental Responsibility, local authority foster carers and anyone else that the local authority considers has sufficient interest in the child's welfare. This could include the IRO (section 26(3), 1989 Act).

An outstanding complaint being addressed within the local authority's complaints procedure should not prevent the IRO from continuing to work to resolve the matter, either informally or by using the local dispute resolution process.

The local authority's complaints manager should advise the IRO of any complaint brought by or on behalf of the child and may enlist the help of the IRO to resolve the problem.


13. Provision of Independent Legal Advice

Each local authority should have a system in place that provides its IRO's with access to independent legal advice in addition to seeking the advice and support of the IRO manager. Prior to seeking legal advice the IRO is required to discuss with their Head of Service.


14. Strategic and Management Responsibilities

Role of the Director of Children's Services

  • Understand the rationale and statutory functions of the IRO and have the capacity to appreciate and support IRO's in their role and execution of their duties;
  • Have a sound understanding of the legal framework and care planning process governing how the authority meets its responsibilities towards Looked After children;
  • Be satisfied that policies and procedures are in place to ensure direct communication between senior managers across the departments and partner agencies;
  • Be accountable for the effective performance of the IRO function;
  • Demonstrate that the child's voice has been placed at the heart of the authority's strategic planning for Looked After children.

REFERENCES

Independent Reviewing Officers Guidance. Adoption and Children Act 2002.

Review of Children's Cases Regulations 1991.

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

The Adoption Agencies Regulations 2005.

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

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

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

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