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.RELATED CHAPTERS
AMENDMENTSection 9, The Role of the Looked After Review in Achieving Permanence for the Child was amended in January 2019 to reflect the outcome of a High Court Judgement in respect of children who were subject to Section 20 and where there were concerns of significant delays in their planning for permanence. The court noted the IROs' recognition and action over a number of reviews but acknowledged that a more robust response had been needed.
A Looked After Review must take place before any significant change is made to the child's Care Plan, unless that is not reasonably practicable, including a decision to cease looking after a child.
Looked After Reviews should normally be conducted at a meeting although this may not be required in respect of a child who has been in a designated Long-term Foster Placement for over twelve months (see Section 10, Looked After Reviews Concerning Children in Long Term Foster Placements).
The purpose of the Looked After Review is to:
It is important that decisions taken at Looked After Reviews are implemented and responsibility for actions clearly defined and evident from the decision making process.
The key plans that should be considered at a Looked After Review are:
The review should also take account of the child's Placement Plan (recorded on the Placement Information Record) 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.
Normally, Looked After Reviews should be convened at the following intervals:
|2.2||In relation to children placed with prospective adopters or where there is Authority to Place for Adoption, see the Adoption Reviews Procedure.|
In the event of a significant change/event in the child's life the IRO should decide whether it is necessary to bring the Looked After Review forward. Such changes include:
Independent Reviewing Officers (IRO's) will chair reviews. In Merton they are located within the Quality Assurance and Practice Development Team and their work is overseen by the Quality Assurance Team Manager (IRO/CP).
The IRO's responsibilities are outlined in Section 8, Independent Reviewing Officer's Responsibilities.
As soon as a child becomes Looked After, the allocated social worker must notify the LAC Safeguarding Administrator within the Quality Assurance and Practice Development Team This would usually be actioned by or secure email by recorded on the social care information system.
Within Merton the social worker may delegate this task through their Team Administrator.
This will trigger the appointment of an Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) for the child. The IRO will then agree the date, time and venue of the child's first Looked After Review. The venue will be agreed in advance with the social worker and the allocated IRO - ideally the review should take place at the child's placement, however in exceptional cases the venue may be, for example the child's school or if in Merton one of the following Council locations:
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 and the views of the child.
Review dates cannot be rearranged unless there are exceptional circumstances and then only if the rearranged meeting can take place within statutory timescales, in which case the new date should be agreed by the social worker with the IRO and the Quality Assurance and Practice Development Team who will inform the other participants.
In the event of a key participant being unwell or unable to attend the review, the meeting will go ahead but the IRO may decide that the review be adjourned to a new date when all participants can attend - see Section 8, Independent Reviewing Officer's Responsibilities.Should the child cease to be Looked After before the review date, the social worker will notify the LAC Safeguarding Administrator within Quality Assurance and Practice Development Team. They will be tasked to notify the IRO and other prospective attendees that the review is cancelled and the reason why.
Fostering best practice the social worker should have a discussion with the child (subject to their age and understanding) before the meeting. This should include sharing who has been invited and where the meeting will be held, if not the child's placement and answering any questions that may emerge from their discussions.
Invitations to LAC reviews will be the responsibility of the allocated social worker. They should have also confirmed the date and time with the LAC Safeguarding Administrator within Quality Assurance and Practice Development Team. Invitations to reviews and consultation documents should be sent out to all those participating in the review no later than 10 working days before the meeting.
The following people should be invited following consultation with the child / young person:
A balance must be struck in relation to who the child wishes to be present and the need for information and input from the professionals and family members involved. Efforts should be made to keep the number present at the review as small as possible. It may be appropriate for information to be provided in writing or at a separate meeting where the contribution is strictly factual.
The involvement of children and young people in LAC reviews must take into account the range of age, ability and communication requirements of the individual child, however ensuring participation of all our children in their LAC reviews should be a priority for social workers and IRO's.
It is important for social workers, IRO's and carers to explore different methods to engage these young people and to help them understand the importance of expressing their views. Young people need to know that their views are valued and respected, even if sometimes they may not get what they want. Feedback and explanation for decisions taken are essential to achieving this. Arrangements for reviews are also important e.g. venue, attendance, timing etc.There may be exceptional circumstances where the child's social worker, in consultation with the IRO decides that the attendance of the carer at all or part of the review meeting will not be appropriate or practicable. Where this is the case, a written explanation of the reasons should be given and other arrangements made for the carer to contribute to the review process. Details of the reasons why a carer is excluded and a record of their input should be placed on the child's case record.
The purpose of the LAC review is to monitor the progress of achieving the goals set out in the care plan and to make decisions to amend the plan as necessary in light of changed information and circumstances.
Reviewing must be understood as a flexible process that will vary in relation to each child. It may be one standalone meeting attended by all the relevant people in the child's life, or a number of meetings, with one central meeting attended by the IRO, the child, the social worker and some of the relevant adults in the child's life. It will be for the IRO and the social worker, in consultation with the child, to agree the best way to manage the process for each child before each review.
A review is made up of a number of elements:
For further information please see the IRO Handbook and The Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations - Volume 2: Care Planning, Placement and Case Review.
The IRO will complete the QA template that will ensure that we are gathering the participation information (this template will be reviewed to ensure that we are collecting relevant information).In addition the IRO will ensure that a questionnaire is completed by children/young people when they leave their review meetings.
The social worker should ensure that the child, their foster carer's and their families have been given information about Merton's Complaints Procedure, if the they wish to complain. They should provide the child with details of an independent advocacy services who may provide support if the child requires it.
A decision not to invite a child or parent(s) to a review should only be made in exceptional circumstances and in consultation with the IRO, prior to the review. The decision should be recorded, together with reasons, on the review document and child's case file record on the social care information system.Where any other invited person cannot attend, the IRO may agree that a delegate attend instead.
The social worker must discuss the purpose of the review with the child, parents and carers and consult the child about invitations before the review meeting.
Where the child wishes to chair their own review, the social worker should inform the IRO.
In all cases, the child and parent(s) should be encouraged and supported by the social worker to prepare for the review, in writing or other ways if they wish, for example by seeing the IRO separately. The social worker should agree with the IRO how this will be achieved. This requires early consultation between the social worker and the IRO and should be part of a thorough preparation of all the key issues for the review.
The social worker must also ensure the child's IRO is kept informed of any significant changes in the child's circumstances and the outcomes of any other meetings held as part of the review process which consider aspects of the child's Care Plan. In addition, the social worker must notify the IRO if they believe that decisions made at a review are no longer appropriate because of a change in circumstances.
Where the child has been or is the subject of Court proceedings, the social worker must ensure the IRO has updated and clear information of the child's legal status and the Court timetable and if the is any risk of the case not concluding at time, due to any other barriers.
Prior to the review, the social worker must ensure the child's case records and plans are up to date on the social care information system, for example, that they include case recording's of the placement visits and the last date when the child's sleeping accommodation was seen. Any changes in the household membership need to be clearly recorded.
The social worker must send the IRO the following documents 3 working days before an Initial Review and 5 working days before a subsequent review:
Copies of these documents should be brought to the review by the social worker for all review participants.
In addition, the social worker should bring to the review the following documents for the IRO:
It is not necessary to copy these for all participants. The IRO may have a pre-meeting with the social worker to review the relevant aspects of the Health Action Plan and Personal Education Plan. The IRO will then summarise these documents during the review and provide information about the discussion with the social worker as appropriate.
After the review, the social worker is responsible for updating the Care Plan within 10 working days, in relation to any changes to the Care Plan agreed at the review.
The social worker should also update the Permanence Plan, Health Care Plan and Personal Education Plan as required and arrange for a Pathway Plan to be completed and updated if relevant.
The social worker should also ensure that the child's Placement Plan (recorded on the Placement Information Record) is updated.
Where the child and/or the parents are unable to attend the review, the social worker must ensure that they are informed in writing of the outcome.See also Appointment and Role of Independent Reviewing Officers Procedure, Duty of Social Worker to keep IRO informed.
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.
The IRO's role is to chair Looked After Reviews and monitor the appropriateness of the Care Plan (on an ongoing basis including whether any safeguarding issues arise), its implementation and to establish whether the milestones set out in the plan are being achieved in a timely way.
See also Appointment and Role of the Independent Reviewing Officers Procedure, which sets out in detail to role of the IRO outside the Looked After Review.
In relation to their role at reviews, a key task for all IRO's is to ensure that the review process is child centred and has a holistic overview and that the child's views and wishes are heard. They should be satisfied that a child with a disability is able to contribute fully and effectively be presented at the review: refer to Merton Council website.The IRO should consult the child about their Care Plan at each review and at any time that there is a significant change to the Care Plan. The IRO should meet the child before the first Looked After Review and arrange to meet the child as appropriate in advance of subsequent Looked After Reviews.
Wherever possible, the child should be encouraged to chair the meeting and in these circumstances the IRO will assist the child. In all other cases, the IRO will chair the review - see Section 3, Chairing of Reviews.
More than one meeting may be required to ensure the views of relevant people inform the review without the meeting becoming too large. For example it may be appropriate to hold a meeting involving the child prior to a meeting involving the parent to obtain information and ascertain the views of both where the child does not wish to attend a review with their parents present.
The IRO is responsible for ensuring that all relevant people, including the child and parents, understand the purpose of the review and have been given appropriate opportunities to contribute and express their views. The IRO should also ensure that relevant consultation has taken place with those professionals who are not in attendance at the meeting.
The IRO must be satisfied that the wishes and feelings of the child's parents, any person who is not a parent but who has parental responsibility and the current carer (foster carer or registered person in respect of a children's home) have been taken into account as part of the review process.
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 friend/supporter, the IRO will need to explain their role, ensuring that the friend/supporter understands that they may clarify information but may not cross-examine any contributor.
The agenda for each review will be agreed at the beginning of the meeting and each participant will be invited to contribute their own items to the agenda and have the opportunity to contribute to the discussion.
The IRO will decide on what actions in principle are necessary to meet the child's reviewed needs and make recommendations as to how these should be achieved.
Where a review considers that adoption or long term fostering is the most appropriate way to meet the child's needs, the recommendation is then submitted to the Adoption. Fostering and Permanence Panel for consideration - see Placement for Adoption Procedure.
The IRO may adjourn a review meeting once, for not more than 20 working days, if not satisfied that sufficient information has been provided by the Local Authority to enable proper consideration of any of the factors to be considered.
The IRO should consider the effects on the child of delaying the meeting, and seek the wishes and feelings of the child, carer and parents where appropriate.
No proposal under consideration at the adjourned review can be implemented until the review has been completed.
It will be necessary for the IRO to ensure decisions are clear and establish who is responsible for action and the timescales agreed for completion. The IRO should ensure that the following are considered and accounted for during the review:
After the review, the IRO will notify the LAC Administrator of the way in which the child participated in the review, together with the outcome and the date for the next review.
Where there is evidence of poor practice, the IRO will consider what action is needed to bring this to the attention of the relevant and appropriate managers - see Section 14, Monitoring of Review Decisions.It is also the IRO responsibility to focus on conflict resolution - see Section 15, Dispute Resolution.
The Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) must check that the child's Care Plan includes a Permanence Plan including Concurrent Planning and Connected Person placements with measurable milestones and a Contingency Plan should the preferred plans not materialise.
At the second Looked After Review, there is a requirement to focus on the Permanence Plan, to ensure it provides permanence for the child within a timescale which is realistic, achievable and meets the child's needs.
If it is considered that the chosen avenue to permanence is not viable, the IRO should ensure that the social worker arranges as a matter of urgency to consider the most appropriate permanent alternative.
Where a plan for rehabilitation of the child has not been achieved, the Review should seek to establish whether the lack of progress is as a result of drift or whether there are valid child-centred reasons, properly recorded and endorsed by the social worker's manager. No further rehabilitation plan should be recommended unless there are exceptional reasons justifying such a plan or where further assessment is specifically directed by the Court. In this case, the Parallel Plan must include the active pursuit of an alternative placement for the child.
All subsequent Reviews should review the progress and validity of the Permanence Plan.
Children who are Section 20 Accommodated (Children Act 1989): IROs should pay particular regard to children accommodated under S.20 to ensure there is appropriate progression of their plans and that there are no delays in respect of them having 'permanence', (which should include a return home). A High Court judgement (see Herefordshire Council v AB  EWFC 10 rtf) was critical of protracted delay in a child's planning and failure to respond to a parent's request to have a child return home to their care under S.20(8). Further, that the IRO, whilst recognising the issues of delay and planning, and highlighting these to managers, did not respond more robustly (see Section 15, Conflict Resolution).
The judgement considered that in circumstances where the threshold criteria (for Care/ Supervision Orders) under Section 31 Children Act 1989 are met, (i.e. where a child is at risk of significant harm, or the likelihood of significant harm), then care proceedings should be issued without delay.
The March 2015 Statutory Guidance - "Permanence, long-term foster placements and ceasing to look after a child" sets out that where a child is placed in a designated long-term foster placement and has been in this placement for more than a year consideration should be given to whether it is necessary to hold a meeting as part of each review.
The guidance requires that the social worker should consult the IRO and the child (where appropriate to age and understanding) in reaching a decision on whether to hold a meeting. Where it is agreed that a meeting will not be held as part of every review a meeting should be held at least once a year. The factors leading to a decision to hold review meetings on a less frequent basis must be recorded in the child's Care Plan.Where a decision is taken that the review process will not include a meeting the IRO must ensure that full consultation with all relevant individuals, including the child, has taken place to inform the review of the child's case.
Where a looked after child remains the subject of a Child Protection Plan, there should be a single planning and reviewing process, led by the IRO, leading to the development of a single plan.
Consideration should be given to the IRO chairing the Child Protection Conference where a looked after child remains subject to a Child Protection Plan. Where that is not possible, it will be expected that the IRO will attend the Child Protection Review Conference.
The timing of the review of the child protection aspects of the Care Plan should be as in Section 2, Frequency of 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.
It is the responsibility of the Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) to record the review. A written record of the decisions and recommendations will be completed by the Independent Review Officer within 5 working days of the meeting. This should also be sent to the designated senior manager who will consider the decisions made at the review - see Section 13, Review Decisions.
The full written record of the review will be completed within 15 working days of the review. The full record should contain an accurate and comprehensive record of the meeting, or meetings, which constituted the review and of the views of all those who attended or were consulted as part of the review process. The record should also reflect the review process for a designated long term foster placement where a meeting did not take place.The SW LAC Administrator will send copies out to all relevant parties who have provided their full name and address on the attendance sheet within 20 working days of the completion of the review.
The decisions should have any identifying details removed as necessary, for example, exceptionally, the address of the placement.
Where parents do not attend the review/part of the meeting and contribute their views in some other manner, a discussion should take place between the social worker and the IRO as to whether it is in the child's interest for the parents to receive a full record of the review, and, if not, what written information should be sent to them. Examples of where this should be a consideration are where there is a 'no contact order' or supervised contact only.
The social worker's supervisory manager, i.e. a Assistant Team Manager or Team Manager should 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 - see Section 15, Dispute Resolution.
The Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) plays an important part in the quality assurance function of the local authority's service for looked after children, it will be important that they recognise and report on good practice by individuals or teams.
It is important for the IRO to have a collaborative relationship with the social workers and their managers.
Monitoring sheets must be completed by the IRO after every review meeting in order that accurate data is reported for audit, quality assurance and individual performance management. This information is then coordinated by the LAC Administrator and sent on a monthly basis to the relevant managers.Where there is evidence of poor practice, the IRO should, wherever practicable, address these issues through the normal channels, contacting the social worker's manager and where necessary the LAC Administrator.
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 following local procedure will apply.
The IRO has the authority to refer the case to CAFCASS where they consider 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 their satisfaction within a reasonable period of time.
Only valid for 48hrs