SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
This chapter is to assist Business Support staff, social workers, social work managers, and IROs with the procedures and good practice in setting up and conducting reviews of children and young people who are Looked After.
Please read in conjunction with Role of the Independent Reviewing Officer Procedure, the IRO Escalation Process and Dispute Resolution Procedure.
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 or Youth Detention Accommodation.
Consideration should be given to the location of timings and venues of Looked After Reviews and any specialist aids, adaptations that might be required for people with a disability. People who do not have English as their first language will require the use of the interpretation service and may request that they are accompanied by an Advocate.
|CIN||Child in Need.|
|Hard copy||Paper copy as opposed to a representation on a computer screen.|
|IRO Admin||Clerical officer(s) within the IRO team.|
|RNOF||Review Notification and Outcome Form.|
|NFA||No further action.|
|Social worker||The worker in the Group Manager, Area Team, Children and Families Disability Team, or Integrated LAC Team and IYS to whom the child/young person is allocated and who has overall case responsibility.|
|IYS||Integrated Youth Services.|
N.B. in the interests of making the reading of this document more fluent, the Child and Young Person's plan (the Care Plan for a looked after child) is referred to as the Child's Plan; similarly child means child or young person.
Care planning and reviewing are dynamic processes. An effective Care Plan is based on a clear assessment of need and will identify intended outcomes for the child. It will also set objectives for work with the child, the birth family and the carers in relation to the child's following developmental needs:
The purpose of the Review is to consider the plan for the welfare of the child (the Care Plan/Child's Plan) and then to monitor the progress of the plan and make decisions to amend it as necessary in light of changed knowledge and circumstances. Significant changes to the child's Care Plan can only be made at Review meetings, (such as a change of type of placement or a decision being made to cease looking after a child).
It is important to distinguish the two functions of reviewing: firstly, as a process of continuous monitoring and reassessment; secondly, as an event when a child's plan may be considered, reconfirmed or changed with such decisions agreed and recorded in consultation with all those who have a key interest in the child's life, including the child themselves. Whilst meetings can be an efficient way to conduct reviews, much relevant information can be gathered outside of a formal review meeting in order to reduce the number of people required at a meeting and allow the process to be much more child centred.
Inevitably new issues will emerge at reviews, and individuals' responses cannot always be anticipated, and may need skilful management by the chair. However, as far as possible, Reviews are not to be regarded as a forum where known unresolved problems are channelled, neither, as far as possible should the information come as a surprise to the participants. Fundamental areas of disagreement and "breaking news" should, where at all possible, be shared with the appropriate parties before the Review meeting. This should help prevent any unnecessary upset to the child, other family members, or carers who may be attending the Review.
Reviews are periodically held for all children who are looked after and who will have a Child's Plan including those who are:
Under the Care Planning, Placement and Review Regulations 2010, there is a statutory provision that CLA Reviews must take place for children who are looked after as a result of a secure remand.
A Looked After Review should also be held before an Eligible Young Person moves into semi-independent accommodation, which should evaluate the quality of the assessment of the young person's readiness and preparation to move.
Please note that meeting review timescales are a statutory requirement. If a social worker or administrative officer becomes aware that a review is scheduled to fall outside a statutory timescale and it is not immediately possible to resolve this, they must inform their line manager and the reason for the delay should be recorded on the child's record.
The generated date on which a review is scheduled to be due (the "due-by date") can be misleading. In practice, the last possible day for a review to be held is the working day preceding the "due-by date". The review date should therefore be scheduled before the "due-by date"; this allows for the possible emergency re-scheduling of a review within timescales if one of the key attendees is unable to be present.
For Looked After Children or Young People, reviews are as follows:
(For details of timescales for adoption placements and short break placements see Section 5.6, Reviews of Adoption Placements and Short Breaks Procedure, The Legal Basis for Short Breaks and Review.)
The IRO must be notified of any significant changes in the child's circumstances and consider whether the Looked After Review should be brought forward. Where the changed circumstances are likely to mean significant changes to the Child's Care Plan are needed or are being proposed, the IRO should consider whether the review should be brought forward. This could include the following situations:
The Adoption Minimum Standards for England require that a clearly articulated plan for permanence must be prepared by the second review (i.e. not later than 3 months after the Initial Review). Social Workers should prepare for this in consultation with their Team Manager, taking legal advice if necessary.
Social workers, other professionals, birth parent(s) and the child/young person must be clear what the Permanence Plan is, and it must be set out in writing in a way that everybody affected can understand. Where the assessment identifies that parents may be unlikely to make or sustain the necessary changes in their parenting, contingency plans should be made to avoid delay in securing a permanent family for the child. This "twin track planning" requires that both a rehabilitation plan with timescales be in place and a plan for an alternative permanence plan if the rehabilitation plan is unsuccessful. The primacy of the rehabilitation plan should be stressed and parents made aware that the two plans are being made to meet the child's needs and avoid delay.
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 6.5, Looked After Reviews for Children who are also the Subject of Child Protection Plans).
It is necessary to refer to the specific legislation due to the nature of the complications in this arena. In summary, when the care plan is "Adoption" there must be a review within 3 months of the Local Authority being given authority to place the child for adoption, either through the granting of a Placement Order, or the parent signing consent for the child to be placed for adoption in uncontested cases. This is to ensure that there is no delay in implementing adoption plans. There should not, however, be a gap of longer than 6 months from the last Looked After Review and if the child is placed for Adoption in the interim. The timescales for Adoption Reviews come into effect instead i.e. first Adoption Review within 28 days of placement.
Should there be an Adoption disruption (breakdown in placement) a Looked After Review has to be held no earlier than 28 days and no later than 42 days following disruption. These timings refer to calendar days, i.e. between 4 and 6 weeks, again allowing an independent overview of active planning for the child.
The social worker will notify their Business Support team and the IRO concerned in this eventuality, so that the next Looked After Review can be brought forward if timescales demand.
See also Adoption Reviews Procedure.
When a child is placed in a prospective adoptive placement, the 28 days/3 months/6 months pattern of reviewing applies under the Adoption regulations.
Please see Short Breaks Procedure, The Legal Basis for Short Breaks and Reviews.
In certain circumstances it is not possible to gather key people together to hold a review within statutory timescales. This may be because of unforeseen leave, sickness, or serious disruption to a placement. In such circumstances a "review by consultation" may be appropriate, in which the IRO will meet with the social worker and/or the Team Manager and compile a report based on submissions and verbal information available. In these circumstances the IRO should meet the young person and parent/s in a separate meeting. When a review by consultation takes place, a review meeting should be convened within 20 working days, or as directed by the IRO.
The Social worker will inform their Business Support staff member responsible for loading on Liquidlogic all "Events", to make them aware of the commencement of the child's Looked After status.
Business Support staff will load the legal status, placement details and generate the first review on Liquidlogic. When the child is subject to an Interim or Full Care Order, an initial health assessment is also generated.
IRO Admin should generate a Review Notification and Outcome Form (RNOF) which the social worker completes to detail the invitees / consultees and their addresses so that invitations / consultation papers can be sent out for the review on a date agreed with the allocated IRO and other parties.
Invitations to reviews and consultation documents should be sent out to all those participating in the review at least 10 working days before the meeting.
Discussion should take place between the social worker and the child (subject to age and understanding) at least 20 working days before the review about who the child would like to attend the meeting and where the meeting will be held.
Other responsibilities of the social worker include:
The format for the review should fit in as far as possible with the wishes of the child or young person but with due regard to physical and emotional safety issues.
The social worker needs also to consider in advance all of the areas which the review will explore, and have the necessary information available.
These areas include:
Completion or update of Child or Young Person's Plan (or Pathway Plan) and the Social Worker's Report to Review.
These must have been shared with:
in advance of the review, and signatures and comments obtained.
For school aged children, their Personal Education Plan must be up to date and available for the review.
The Health Assessment needs to be up to date.
The social worker also needs to be aware of routine Health and Dental checks, and any acute medical difficulties.
Business Support at the relevant social work team forward the RNOF to IRO Business Support, who will then distribute the invitations and consultations at least 2 weeks before the review date.
Standardised letters are used in the following circumstances:
IRO Business Support should give a copy of the RNOF to the IRO as soon as it is received from the social work Team. IRO admin should maintain their own records of review scheduling and allocation within the IRO team, and ensure returned consultation documentation is provided to the allocated IRO.
The social worker will ensure that the IRO has access to a copy of the Child or Young Person's Plan and Social Worker's Report to Review to the IRO at least 3 days prior to the agreed review date.
The IRO is responsible for bringing the consultation documents to the review, having read these in advance. Should comments within these documents be substantially at odds with the picture of the placement described in the Social Worker's Report to Review or the Child's Plan, this will be explored by the IRO with the social worker beforehand. The IRO will determine how to deal with difficult or sensitive issues within the Review. The IRO should meet with the child prior to the review to discuss what they want addressed at the review. The IRO is responsible for chairing the review.
The IRO may adjourn a review meeting once, for not more than 20 working days, if s/he is not satisfied that sufficient information has been provided by the Local Authority to enable proper consideration of any of the factors to be considered in Section 6, The Review. The Review may also be adjourned if key people are not available or have not been invited, or other arrangements for the review meeting are not conducive to the review being effective. The IRO will notify the IRO Manager of any adjournment.
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.
A scheduled review may be cancelled completely only if the child ceases to be looked after.
The wishes and feelings of the following parties should be obtained regarding the plan and the progress made since the last review:
A key element of the review process is the involvement of relevant parties, including the child or young person. Large numbers of people present at a review meeting may not be conducive to a child-friendly environment and the child may have views about who they would prefer to be present. If a large number of people are involved in planning and providing care for a child but their attendance at the Review would prevent the participation of the child, their contributions could be made in person at another meeting, in person to the IRO or in writing as appropriate.
For reviews of children in foster care, the Fostering Social Worker should always be made aware of the review by the child's social worker. Whether the Fostering Social Worker attends the review will depend upon his or her relationship with the child and other circumstances of the review: attendance of a Fostering Social Worker at a review is not mandatory, but a written submission, suitable for sharing with the child and parents must be supplied in advance of the review meeting.
All children and young people should be involved in their review as far as their age and ability allows and be enabled to make a meaningful contribution. They must be given help to communicate, if this is necessary and consideration be given to arranging an advocate for them. Each review meeting needs to be tailored to suit the individual concerned. Children should be consulted about the venue, time and date, and who they would like at the review meeting, and their views given importance, especially when they are to be present themselves.
The age at which a child is considered old enough to be invited to their review is not set but it is usual for children over 5 years of age to participate either directly in reviews or by submissions of their views Whether a child attends their review should be a matter of discussion between the social worker and the IRO who will consider the child's own wishes, their ability to understand the process, and emotional and physical safety issues. It may be appropriate for a young child to attend only part of their review or to hold two meetings. The review process could encompass different 'stages' or phases, of which a meeting may be one element.
If a child or young person does not want to come to a meeting, or they are too young, the social worker should consider other means of participation, for example completing a contribution form, meeting with the IRO, making a tape or video or identifying an advocate.Please note: the participation of children and young people aged 5 years or over within Reviews is monitored by a local performance indicator.
The child's family should be invited to participate in the review process and helped to attend the meeting or contribute as appropriate. Where it is not helpful to have a parent present at a review meeting either because they are likely to disrupt the meeting, or where there is no contact, the IRO will check that s/he has been adequately consulted or informed, and may meet with the family separately.
The social worker should consider whether family members need transport to the Review. The social worker should explore, and if necessary, support child care arrangements to enable family members to attend a review.
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.
Carers should be invited to all reviews of the child they care for, except in exceptional circumstances and should receive support to attend as necessary.
Other agencies are to be consulted as part of the review process. They do not have to attend every meeting, although sometimes their attendance will be important. Teachers, for example, may be able to provide a written report rather than attending, especially if everything is going well at school. Social Workers will identify which professionals are to be consulted rather than invited, and they will be asked to complete a report.
When Care Proceedings are ongoing, the Children's Guardian should be made aware of reviews during proceedings and may wish to attend. In these circumstances it is anticipated that agreement about attendance can be made by all parties taking into consideration the child's own wishes and the need to keep review attendees at a child-friendly number.
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 Meetings and of their role in terms of 'Working Together to Safeguard Children'.
Factors which must be considered in reviewing each case include:
Responsibilities for ensuring a good quality review can be outlined as follows:
The social worker is responsible for:
Team Manager is responsible for ensuring that the review is informed about any resource issues or other implications of implementing the plan. This will usually be done via the social worker attending the review.
The IRO is responsible for chairing the review, ensuring that all parties have the opportunity to contribute, and that the review is properly informed in order to make appropriate decisions in the best interests of the child. The IRO is also responsible for writing up the Review Recommendations and ensuring their distribution within 5 working days of the Review and then the fuller Review Report for distribution within 20 working days to all relevant parties. The IRO may also write an age appropriate letter to the child to tell him/her of the main outcomes of the Review, according to individual circumstances.
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.
If the IRO is recommending significant changes to the Care Plan, they will alert the Team Manager to this in advance of distribution of the report. In the event of disagreements on such points, refer to the Dispute Resolution Process for steps to be taken.
The IRO will:
A single meeting of those involved with the child's plan is often an efficient review and in most cases this approach will be appropriate and acceptable to the child. A meeting should, however, be viewed as one element of the review process, and there may be circumstances when a review is undertaken on a phased or staged basis. This may include holding more than one meeting, may involve participants meeting with the IRO on an individual basis, and the review may be conducted over a longer period of time in order to obtain all the relevant information (e.g. in circumstances where a parent does not have direct contact with a child). It is the responsibility of the IRO to ensure that the integrity of the reviewing process is maintained, and that parties involved in decision making are properly informed. A decision to hold a staged review should be agreed between the IRO and social worker during the planning stage before the review is held.
All reviews should be chaired by the assigned IRO. Where the assigned IRO is unable to personally chair a meeting a substitute IRO will chair the meeting.
The assigned IRO will endeavour to plan future absences and identify a substitute IRO Chair.In circumstances where a substitute chair is involved, the assigned IRO will make themselves aware of the outcome of that review, and if necessary follow up on longer term issues.
The fundamental decision which a Review makes, is whether the Child's Plan fully meets the needs of the Child or Young Person.
The meeting may then make recommendations on how the plan might be modified to meet the needs more fully.
Assisted by those at the meeting, the IRO will recommend what actions, in principle, are necessary to meet the child's needs and suggest how these should be achieved. The local authority must decide how to implement any recommendations made by the review meeting and will be ultimately accountable for their delivery. There will be instances where the allocation of extra resources requires the agreement of the manager or agency responsible for that resource. Where this is the case, the IRO will make this clear during the meeting. Where resource implications are likely to be an issue at a review, staff of appropriate seniority will need to contribute to the review process.
The responsible Team Manager will consider the recommendations made at each LAC Review within 5 working days of receiving them, will ratify these as decisions and will advise the IRO and all those who attended the review in writing if they are unable to agree them.
In the event of disagreement, 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 Dispute Resolution Procedure)
If no response is received the decisions will be considered to be agreed by the Local Authority and should be implemented within the timescales set out in them.
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 will be a single planning and reviewing process, led by the IRO, leading to the development of a single plan.
Consideration will be given to the same IRO chairing the Child Protection Conference where a looked after child is subject to a Child Protection Plan. Where that is not possible, the IRO will aim to attend the Child Protection Conference.
The Looked After Review, when reviewing the child protection aspects of the plan, should consider whether the criteria continues 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.
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.
Responsibilities after Reviews can be outlined as follows:
Please see Dispute Resolution Procedure which outlines the process for Resolution of Disputes between IROs and the Local Authority regarding Care Planning for Looked After Children (including referral to the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service).
It may be necessary to hold other meetings e.g. planning meetings, as part of the wider review process to consider aspects of the child's care plan, in order to ensure that everyone involved in the child's care is working together effectively to achieve the objectives of the child's care plan or to focus on a particular aspect of the child's care. The social worker should inform the IRO of any meetings which have a significant bearing on the child's plan; it may be necessary to bring forward a review meeting. Significant decisions taken about the care plan outside of review meetings may risk contravening Human Rights legislation.
Grimshaw and Sinclair: Planning and Reviewing Under the Children Act 1989; Research Messages for Local Authorities (National Children's Bureau, 1997) identified a number of guiding principles for reviewing the care plans of looked after children:
The following statements express the principles which underpin our work to involve children and young people looked after by Hull City Council in the decisions, which effect their lives.
Preparation and Support
Maintaining Family Links
Flexibility and Individuality
The above is adapted from Children and Decision Making by Nigel Thomas and Claire O'Kane, International Centre for Childhood Studies, University of Wales Swansea.
Only valid for 48hrs