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).
AMENDMENTThis chapter was amended in November 2017 and now links to the Dispute Resolution Protocol for consistency, whilst retaining the key principles and legal issues for IROs.
1. Legal Background
- Independent Reviewing Officer's Guidance, Adoption and Children Act 2002;
- The Review of Children's Cases (Amendment) (England);
- The Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010;
- 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
- 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);
- 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;
- 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;
- 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;
- 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. Most 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;
- The IRO's will use their judgement about the means of communicating to raise and discuss problems, but these concerns should always be recorded;
- 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;
- 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. Merton's Dispute Resolution Protocol
Merton's Dispute Resolution Protocol outlines the roles and responsibilities of the Independent Reviewing Officers (IROs) and CP Chairs (CPC) in accordance with the dispute resolution process.
4. 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 Children's Legal Centre.