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W3C Compliance

7.3.6 Dispute Resolution Process for Independent Reviewing Officers

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This process describes the dispute resolution process for IROs when there is concern with regard to the safeguarding of a child, their well being or the progress of their Plan. Emphasis is placed on an early resolution of such issues between the IRO and Social Worker and/or Team Manager, although there is provision for escalation to the highest levels of the Authority. Ultimately, matter could be referred to the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS).

RELEVANT CHAPTERS

Appointment and Role of Independent Reviewing Officers Procedure

Looked After Reviews Procedure

Dispute Resolution Protocol

This chapter is currently under review.


Contents

  1. Legal Background
  2. Underlying Principles
  3. Problem Solving and Escalation
  4. Escalation Process
  5. Legal Advice

    Appendix 1: IRO Alert Form 1

    Appendix 2: IRO Alert Form 2

    Appendix 3: IRO Alert Form 3

    Appendix 4: IRO Alert Form 4

    Appendix 5: IRO Alert Form 5

    Appendix 6: IRO Alert Form 6

    Appendix 7: IRO Dispute Resolution Flow Chart


1. Legal Background

  1. Independent Reviewing Officer’s Guidance, Adoption and Children Act 2002;
  2. The Review of Children’s Cases (Amendment) (England);
  3. The Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010;
  4. The above legislation and accompanying regulations identifies that one of the Independent Reviewing Officers (IRO) key roles is problem resolution. In cases where the IRO identifies poor practice, they have the mandate to negotiate with the local authority management up to the highest level and have as a last resort, the power to refer a case to CAFCASS. The IRO will also work with the Children Schools and Families Complaints Officers and advocate where necessary for the resolution of a problem.


2. Underlying Principles

  1. To keep the child or young person informed and to advise them of their rights to have an Advocate or to make a complaint in line with the LA complaints procedures. (See Complaints and Representations Procedure);
  2. When a problem is identified, the IRO should make a decision about the timescale in which the problem should be resolved and make this clear at each stage of the resolution process. The timescales should be realistic, but rigorous, and should guard against drift;
  3. The IRO must also make full and appropriate use of the Local Authorities existing problem resolution arrangements. These include the routine attendance at Team Meetings; formal liaison meetings with the Head of Service and regular liaison meetings with the operational teams;
  4. The IRO will monitor progress outside of the review process and timescales. In some cases problem solving may need to start prior to the initial review meeting;
  5. The IRO will need to identify at what stage on the flowchart the problem needs to be raised initially, depending on the nature of the concerns.┬áMost issues can be resolved at Social Worker and Team Manager level but some may need to be escalated higher to the Head of Service as a start point depending on the seriousness or urgency of the matter, the impact on the child and taking into account the child’s best interest;
  6. The IRO’s will use their judgement about the means of communicating to raise and discuss problems, but these concerns should always be recorded;
  7. In most situations the IRO will be involved in sharing information of concern directly with the relevant practitioner or manager but in some cases the IRO and Head of Service (Safeguarding Services) may agree that it is more appropriate for a problem to be taken forward by the Head of Service (Core Social Work/Permanence and Placements Services) separately with supporting information detailing the concerns provided by the IRO;
  8. Issues of concern relating to poor practice in another agency should always be discussed with Safeguarding Head of Service to agree the most appropriate action.


3. Problem Solving and Escalation

  • The attached flowchart is for guidance and details the process;
  • At each stage, a clear timescale for a problem to be resolved should be stated and recorded;
  • If the problem engages a Human Right Act concern for the child, then the IRO may wish to consider the option, without prejudice of following the accepted problem solving process within the Local Authority.


4. Escalation Process

Step 1

IRO raises concerns with Social Worker / ATM. (See Appendix 1: IRO Alert Form 1.)

Step 2

If not resolved, IRO contacts Social Work Team Manager with a copy to be sent to Safeguarding Head of Service. (See Appendix 2: IRO Alert Form 2.)

Step 3

If not resolved, IRO consults with Safeguarding Head of Service following up with the Head of Service (Community Services/LAC) responsible for the team concerned. (See Appendix 3: IRO Alert Form 3.)

Step 4

If not resolved, Safeguarding Head of Service consults with Head of Children’s Social Care for action. (See Appendix 4: IRO Alert Form 4.)

A written report should be completed by the IRO and Safeguarding Head of Service detailing issues of concern and actions taken by IRO and Safeguarding Head of Service to try and resolve the problem and responses from the relevant managers.

Step 5

If not resolved, Safeguarding Head of Service consults with the Director of Children Schools and Families for consideration and action. (See Appendix 5: IRO Alert Form 5.)

Step 6

In the unlikely event that the issue is still not resolved, the report should be sent to the Chief Executive who may then become involved. (See Appendix 6: IRO Alert Form 6.)

Step 7

An IRO may consider a referral to CAFCASS in extreme cases only as a last resort and in the following circumstances:

  1. If all other methods of resolving an identified problem have proved or are proving unsuccessful;
  2. There is a danger of a child’s human rights being breached;
  3. The child is not in a position to initiate proceedings on their own behalf.
In such cases the Director of Children Schools and Families will always have been notified prior to a decision being made by the IRO to make a referral to CAFCASS.


5. Legal Advice

Where an IRO requires Legal Advice on any reviewing matter this should be sought from the Principal Solicitor for LB Merton. Free and independent legal advice is also available to IRO’s through the Coram Foundation Legal Advice Centre.


Appendices

Click here to view Appendix 1: IRO Alert Form 1.

Click here to view Appendix 2: IRO Alert Form 2.

Click here to view Appendix 3: IRO Alert Form 3.

Click here to view Appendix 4: IRO Alert Form 4.

Click here to view Appendix 5: IRO Alert Form 5.

Click here to view Appendix 6: IRO Alert Form 6.

Click here to view Appendix 7: IRO Dispute Resolution Flow Chart.

End