Child Looked After Reviews
AMENDMENTSection 7, The Role of the Child 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.
1. The Purpose of Child Looked After Reviews
The aim of the Child Looked After Review is to assess how far the Care Plan is addressing the child's needs and whether any changes are required to the plan. The focus of the first review meeting will be on examining and confirming the plan.
Subsequent reviews will monitor progress against the plan and make decisions to amend the plan as necessary to reflect any new information and changed circumstances. Reviews take place in order to ensure that the child's welfare continues to be safeguarded and promoted in the most effective way throughout the period that they are looked after.
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 12 months (see Section 8, Child Looked After Reviews Concerning Children in Long Term Foster Placements).
The key plans that should be considered at a Child Looked After Review are:
- Care Plan;
- Permanence Plan;
- Health Care Plan;
- Pathway Plan if applicable;
- Personal Education Plan (PEP).
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.
2. Frequency of Reviews
2.1 Statutory Requirements
When a child first becomes Looked After, the social worker must up date the child's electronic record. At this point the Independent Reviewing Service will be automatically notified, and within 5 working days an Independent Reviewing Officer will be appointed for the child.
The first review must be held within 20 working days of the child becoming looked after.
The second review must be held within 3 months (i.e. 91 calendar days) of the first.
Subsequent reviews must be held at intervals of no more than 6 months (i.e. 180 calendar days).
Note: The timescales for reviews as listed above are the minimum requirements and can be varied at the discretion of the Independent Reviewing Officer.
A Child 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.
2.2 Variations to Statutory Requirements - Short Breaks
For information relating to reviews for children receiving Short Breaks, please see Short Breaks: Assessment, Planning and Review Procedure, The Legal Basis for Short Breaks and Short Breaks: Assessment, Planning and Review Procedure, Reviews.
2.3 When the Child Moves or there is a Change in their Circumstances
When a child moves as part of a plan that was ratified by the last Review, subsequent reviews will continue to be held in line with statutory requirements, i.e. at intervals of no more than 6 months (180 calendar days). It is considered good practice, however, that the review is held as soon as possible into the new placement.
Where a young person becomes subject to a custodial sentence and is still looked after e.g. subject to a Care Order, the next Review will be held in line with the statutory requirement or within 20 working days after the young person's release from prison if there is a change of main placement.
Where a child moves from their placement, as a result of a placement breakdown, a Review should be held within 20 working days of the start of the new placement, and then revert back to the statutory requirements i.e. at intervals of no more than 6 months (i.e. 180 calendar days).
The child's Independent Reviewing Officer should exercise their discretion (in consultation with the child's social worker and/or carer) in deciding on the best timing for the Review.
The IRO must be notified if any significant changes in the child's circumstances and consider whether as a result the Child Looked After Review should be held earlier than the scheduled date. Where the circumstances of an individual case mean significant changes to the child's Care Plan are needed or being proposed the IRO should consider whether the review should be brought forward.
A discussion should be held between the social worker and the Independent Reviewing Officer as to whether this requires a review.
Such changes include:
- A proposed change of Care Plan following direction from the court;
- Where decisions from a review are not carried out within a specific timescale;
- Major change to contact arrangements;
- Changes of allocated social worker;
- Complaints on or on behalf of the child, parent, carer;
- Unexpected change to a placement, placement stability or safeguarding issue;
- Significant change in birth family circumstances;
- The child is charged with an offence;
- Child is excluded, missing from home/school;
- Significant health needs, hospitalisation accidents;
- Panel decisions relation to permanency.
DfE Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations - Volume 2: Care Planning, Placement and Case Review.
This is not an exhaustive list, and the IRO may judge that other events are significant and require an earlier review. The parents and child should also be consulted about the need for an additional review.
To safeguard the welfare of children and young people, Child Looked After Reviews should also be brought forward in the following circumstances:
- Where the child has gone missing / run away 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.
3. Co-ordinating Child Looked After Reviews and Child Protection Conferences
Where a Child Looked After is also the subject of a Child Protection Plan, consideration should be given to allocating the Conference Chair as the child's IRO for continuity.The first Child Looked After Review, should consider whether the criteria continue to be met for the child to remain the subject of a Child Protection Plan in order to advise the Child Protection Conference.
4. Before the Review
4.1 Social Worker Consults the Child
Discussion will take place between the social worker and the child (subject to age and understanding) at least 20 working days before the meeting and the list below (see Section c, Who to Invite) should be used to discuss who the child would like to attend the meeting and where it will be held.
4.2 An Agenda Discussion between the Social Worker and the IRO
The social worker must contact the Independent Reviewing Officer for an agenda discussion/meeting. The discussion/meeting needs to happen at least 15 working days before the review meeting. The social worker and Independent Reviewing Officer should discuss:
- The proposed invitees;
- Progress of the case since the last review;
- The content of any report available to the review meeting;
- Any other relevant information.
The Care Plan, Placement Plan (for children who are placed in residential units), Health Recommendation Plan, Personal Educational Plan, and Pathway Plan (if applicable) will be used as the basis of the discussion. The following will also be discussed:
Review date, time and venue
Venues and times which contribute to a relaxed atmosphere and the participation of all the people present should be chosen;
Travel expenses may be paid by the local authority to assist parents and others attending meetings, subject to prior approval;
As with planning it is essential that there is full consultation with all relevant individuals before the meeting. These would always be:
Any other person whose views are thought relevant. Which may include:
The following Consultation forms for children and young people, parents and carers can be found in the Local Resources:
CCR1 - Your Four Month Permanency Review
CCR3 - A Foster Carer's Guide to Child Care Reviews
CCR4 - Consultation form for Foster Carer and Residential Worker
CCR5 - A Parent's Guide to Child Care Reviews
CCR6 - Consultation form for Parent's and Persons with Parental Responsibility
CCR7 - Consultation Form for Children aged 4-8 years
CCR8 - Consultation Form for Young People aged 9-12 years
CCR9 - Consultation form for Young People aged 13-16+
CCR10 - Child Care Review Feedback Form.
The child should be consulted for views on who should attend the review and their wishes and feelings always accommodated where possible:
In order that both child and parents feel as comfortable and as able to participate as possible the meeting should be as small as possible without reducing effectiveness. Agencies can contribute to reviews by providing information in writing or at a separate meeting (see Section b, Who to consult).
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.
It may not be appropriate to invite a parent:
There may be alternative ways of conducting the meeting which enable any difficulties over child or parental involvement to be overcome.
The reasons for a decision to exclude a parent or child must be fully recorded in the Independent Reviewing Officer's report.The ultimate decision for attendance rests with the child's Independent Reviewing Officer.
4.3 The Next Step
The social worker will request from their pod co-ordinator that the invitations, requests for information and consultation forms are sent to those identified as relevant during the agenda discussion.
The IRO will record the agenda discussion on the form in CASS.
4.4 Review Documentation
The following forms should be completed by the social worker and sent to the IRO 3 or 5 days (see below) before the review:
- Updated Single Assessment;
- Up to date Care Plan;
- Other relevant information provided for the Review including the consultation forms.
All returned consultation forms should be scanned onto the child's file and the hard copy given to the IRO in advance of the Review.
For the Initial Child Looked After Review, all documentation should be on the CASS system 3 working days before the Review and signed off by the manager.
For all subsequent Child Looked After Reviews all documentation should be on CASS 5 working days before the review and signed off by the manager.
5. Independent Reviewing Officer's Responsibilities
Part of the IRO role is to chair Child Looked After Reviews but also to monitor whether the Care Plan is meeting the child's needs and to establish whether the timescales are being achieved.On completion of the Review the IRO will complete a CLA Monitoring Form on the child's file. This is one of the mechanisms for the IRO to feed back to the social worker and Manager their independent view as to whether the plans are progressing and there is statutory compliance.
See also: Appointment and Role of Independent Reviewing Officers Procedure, which sets out in detail to role of the IRO outside the Child 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 and family centred and that the child's views are heard. They should be satisfied that disabled children's contributions are obtained and effectively presented in the review.
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 each Child Looked After Review and complete the Pre Review Consultation Form on CASS.
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.
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.
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.
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 their role, ensuring that the supporter understands that they may clarify information but may not cross-examine any contributor.
Where the 'supporter' is a legal representative then the IRO should note The Law Society guidance 'Attendance of Solicitors at Local Authority Children Act Meetings' and related 'Code of Conduct (2011)'.All solicitors attending these meetings should be aware of the local policies and procedures in respect of Children Act Meeting.
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.
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.
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:
- The effect of any change in the child's circumstances since the last review, any change made to the Care Plan, whether decisions taken at the last review have been successfully implemented and if not the reasons;
- Whether any change should be sought in the child's legal status;
- Whether there is a plan for permanence;
- Arrangements for contact/whether there is any need for changes to the arrangements in order to promote contact between the child and parents/other Connected Persons;
- Whether the placement continues to be the most appropriate available, whether any change to the placement agreement or any other aspect of the arrangements is likely to become necessary before the next review;
- Whether the placement safeguards and promotes the child's welfare, and whether any safeguarding concerns have been raised;
- The child's educational needs, progress and development and whether any change is likely to become necessary or desirable before the next review, including consideration of their most recent assessment of progress and development; whether the arrangements are meeting the child's educational needs; whether the child has a Personal Education Plan (PEP) and whether its content provides a clear framework for promoting educational achievement;
- The child's leisure interests and activities and whether the arrangements are meeting their needs;
- The child's health report, and whether any change in health care arrangements is likely to be necessary or desirable before the next review; whether the content of the Health Recommendation Plan provides a clear framework for promoting the child's health; whether the arrangements are meeting the child's health needs;
- Whether the child's needs related to identity are being met and whether any change is required having regard to the child's religious persuasion, racial origin and cultural background;
- Whether the arrangements for advice, support and assistance continue 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;
- The child's wishes and feelings and the views of the IRO about any aspect of the case and in particular about any changes made since the last review or proposed to be made to the Care Plan; whether the plan fulfils the duty to safeguard and promote the child's welfare and whether it would be in the child's interests for an Independent Visitor to be appointed;
- Where the child is placed with parents before an assessment is completed, the frequency of the social worker's visits;
- Whether the delegation of authority to take decisions about a child's care continues to be appropriate and in the child's best interests;
- Other matters which may arise should also be considered with due regard to the circumstances of the child and the placement.
6. After the Review
It is the responsibility of the Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) to record the review. A record of the decisions of the review will be sent by the IRO to the Manager via the child's electronic file within 5 working days of the review process ending. The Manager should indicate to the IRO and all those who attended the review, within 5 working days whether they are in agreement with the review decisions. If agreement cannot be reached the IRO may need to utilise the Dispute Resolution procedure (see: Practice Disputes in the Management of Children Looked After – Process and Practice Guidance procedure).
The full written record of the review will be completed within 20 working days of the review by the IRO. The Independent Reviewing Service will distribute the record of the meeting to all relevant parties. 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.
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 Practice Manager who will receive an e mail alert that the decisions are available for consideration. The Manager should respond to the Independent Reviewing Officer within 5 working days, indicating whether or not they are in agreement. Attempts should then be made to resolve any disagreement using the informal and formal Dispute Resolution Procedure the outcome of which will be recorded on the child 's electronic file.
The Independent Reviewing Officer should provide feedback on both good and poor practice. Where there are concerns arising from the suitability, timing and implementation of the Child's Care Plan, the Independent Reviewing Officer, in consultation with the Safeguarding Team Manager, Senior Independent Reviewing Officer, will consider what action is needed to resolve the issue. The Independent Reviewing Officer will check progress in between reviews.
7. The Role of the Child Looked After Review in Achieving Permanence for the Child
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.
At the second Child 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.
At the third Child Looked After Review there will be a need for a Twin Track/Parallel Plan to be made where a Permanence Plan has not been achieved. For example 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 9, 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.
8. Child Looked After Reviews Concerning Children in Long Term Foster Placements
The Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations - Volume 2: Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (2015) 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.
9. Conflict 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 following procedure will apply:
- Informal resolution through discussion with the social worker and/or Practice Manager or Team Manager as appropriate;
- If no resolution is reached at this stage the Dispute Resolution Process will be instigated by the IRO – see Dispute Resolution Process (see Practice Disputes in the Management of Children Looked After – Process and Practice Guidance).
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.The Independent Reviewing Officer will attempt to resolve problems by negotiation through the levels of line management, up to the Chief Executive and, as a last resort, will make a referral to Children and Family Court Advisory Support Services (CAFCASS).
10. Concerns or Disagreements
Where disagreements arise in the course of the review process between the child and parents, the child and Children and Young People's Services, or the parents and the Children and Young People's Services, every effort should be made to resolve these.
Where agreement cannot be achieved, the child (if of sufficient understanding), parents, carers and others involved with the child should be reminded of their rights to raise the issue with line management, or to make complaint or representation, or to apply for a Court Order (where applicable).
Children and young people can also seek support from the Children's Rights Service provided by;
Children's Rights, and Advocacy Service,
Centre at Threeways
Telephone - 01422 288254
E-mail - CRAAdmin@calderdale.gov.uk
When a complaint has been made, the Independent Reviewing Officer may have a role in communicating with both the child and the Designated Complaints Officer.
The Independent Reviewing Officer will become involved in serious complaints concerning a child's Care Plan and will need to make a judgement about whether a problem raised via a complaint is serious enough to constitute a breach of the child's Human Rights.
If the child wishes to take legal proceedings under the Human Rights Act on their own account the Independent Reviewing Officer should ensure that either:
- The child is assisted to obtain appropriate legal advice; or
- An adult is able and willing to bring proceedings on behalf of the child;
- If there is a risk that the child's Human Rights are breached, the matter is referred to CAFCASS.