Child Looked After Reviews
SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
CLA Reviews may not be cancelled in any circumstances without the explicit permission of the Quality Assurance Unit Manager.
Note: 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.
AMENDMENTThis chapter was updated in December 2020.
1. Purpose of Looked After Reviews
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. Where a formal meeting cannot be held, the child's social worker must still consult with the IRO prior to the change of plan.
The purpose of a Looked After Review is to ensure that adequate plans are in place to safeguard and promote the overall welfare of Children Looked After (CLA) in the most effective way and to achieve Permanence for them within a timescale that meets their needs.
The IRO is responsible for ensuring that:
- Plans are being progressed effectively;
- Information that is relevant to the child and their plan outside of the review is being exchanged in a timely manner;
- The voice of the child is being heard and their wishes and feelings acted upon wherever this is possible;
- Permanence is achieved in a timescale that is appropriate for the child;
- The Care Plan that is being presented to the review thoroughly addresses the child's current and future needs;
- Any decisions made in the review are actioned.
No Significant changes in the child or young person's Care Plan should be made until these have been discussed at a review, except in cases of emergency, i.e. the disruption of a placement, which should be notified to the Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) immediately and their views sought and recorded.
The key plan that should be considered at a Looked After Review is the Care Plan or for a young person aged 16 and over the Pathway Plan which incorporates the, Health Care Plan, the Placement Plan (including the delegated responsibility) and Personal Education Plan (PEP)s. (See also Delegated Authority).
The review meeting must be made aware of any concerns around the child's placement, health, educational attendance and attainment, and any involvement in anti-social behaviour and offending. The Independent Reviewing Officer must ensure that any such concerns are being properly addressed. The IRO is responsible for the tracking and monitoring of any recommendations and for ensuring the implementation of the Care Plan; where the IRO is concerned that a child's plan is not being managed effectively, they have the authority to raise their concerns through the dispute resolution process.
2. Frequency of Looked After Reviews
Looked After Case Reviews should be convened at the following intervals:
- An Initial Looked After Review should be conducted within 20 working days of the child being Looked After;
- The Second Looked After Review should be conducted within four months of becoming Looked After;
- Subsequent Looked After Reviews should be conducted not more than six months after any previous Review;
- Following the making of a Placement Order to secure permanence for a child through adoption.
Where the child has not been placed for adoption, arrangements must be made so that an Adoption Review is held:
- No later than 3 months after authority to place the child for adoption has been obtained;
- At least every 6 months thereafter until an adoptive placement is made.
Where the child has been placed for adoption, arrangements must be made so that an Adoption Review is held:
- Within 4 weeks of the placement;
- Not more than 3 months after the first review unless an application for an Adoption Order has been made;
- At least every 6 months thereafter until an adoption order has been made or the adoptive placement ends;
- It is recognised that potentially the vulnerability of any child who is placed outside the Local Authority boundary may be increased due to the distance they are away from family, friends, cultural and support networks, this potential may lead to the frequency of reviews being increased or decreased dependent upon age and individual circumstances.
These are minimum requirements only. The Independent Reviewing Officer may request to convene a Looked After Review at any time where there has been a change in circumstances, or there are no concerns around the progression of the Care Plan.
A review must be convened in the following circumstances, prior to any of the following changes being implemented:
- Whenever there is a proposal for a child to leave care before the age of 18, i.e. for the child to become a relevant child, rather than an eligible child respectively (see Section 23A and Schedule 2, paragraph 19B of 1989 Act);
- Wherever there is a proposal for the child to move placement, in which consideration should be given to the following:
- Prior to children subject to Care Orders being discharged from custody;
- Wherever a change to a child's plan has the potential to disrupt their education or training;
- Where the plan is to place a child on a Care Order at home with birth parents.
Looked After Reviews should be brought forward in the following circumstances:
- Where the child is, or has been, persistently absent from the placement;
- Where the placement provider, parents or area authority are concerned that the child is at risk of harm;
- At the child's request, unless the Independent Reviewing Officer considers that the review is not justified and is able to explain the reasons to the child;
- Where, as a result of a visit, the social worker's assessment is that the child's welfare is not being adequately safeguarded and promoted;
- Where a review would not otherwise occur before the child ceases to be detained in a YOI or secure training centre, or accommodated on remand;
- Where the local authority proposes to cease to provide accommodation for a Child Looked After.
Where there has been a significant change in circumstances, for example a change of placement, change of plan, significant change in risk factors or the start of any Court proceedings, it is the social worker's responsibility to inform the Independent Reviewing Officer so that they can discuss and consider the need for an early Review.Where a child or young person has been made subject of an Interim Care Order, the child's social worker must ensure that a copy of the proposed Care Plan is shared with the Independent Reviewing Officer prior to filing as evidence. All court directions within care proceedings should be made available to the Independent Reviewing Officer via Knowsley MBC Legal Services Department.
3. Chairing of Reviews
Each child looked after will have a named Independent Reviewing Officer who will chair all their Looked After Reviews. An Independent Reviewing Officer will be allocated to each Child Looked After within 5 days of their becoming looked after; it is the responsibility of the IRO to contact the child where age appropriate at the outset of their time in care.
It is the responsibility of IRO's to chair the review meetings of all Children Looked After. 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; it must be remembered that this is the child's meeting and therefore, the review should reflect the child's wishes wherever possible. In principle, the care planning meeting is the forum for multi-agency discussions; the review meeting should be presented with the outcome of the discussions and the proposed Care Plan.
The way in which a review is conducted will be recorded within the child's record.
4. Convening and Coordinating Looked After Reviews
As soon as the child is recorded on ICS as being 'Currently Looked After' the following tasks appear in the social worker's work tray:
- Create Child Looked After Care Plan (including Placement Plan, Health Plan, PEP);
- Child Looked After Review - Write Review Meeting Worker's Report;
- Current Episode of Care.
In addition the task to 'Arrange Child Looked After Review Meeting' is automatically sent to the Quality Assurance Unit Group tray.
The review must be child-centred and discussion should take place as soon as possible between the social worker and the child if age appropriate about who the child would like to attend the meeting and where they would like the meeting to be held. Time must be allowed for discussion about attendance and venue between the IRO and the Social Worker. Written invitations are sent out for initial Reviews, where possible 10 days before the review by the BSA's in QAU. The involvement of the child in this process will be subject to their age, understanding and welfare. The possibility of a child being accompanied to a review meeting by an Advocate should always be considered; it is the responsibility of the child's social worker to refer to the independent advocacy service.
Dates for subsequent Looked After Reviews will be set at the conclusion of each meeting in consultation with the child.
If the arranged date needs to be changed for any reason, the social worker should notify and arrange this directly with the Independent Reviewing Officer.Should the child cease to be Looked After before the Review date, the social worker will notify the Independent Reviewing Officer immediately in order that a review can be held.
Discussion should take place between the social worker and the child (subject to age and understanding) at least 20 working days before the meeting about who the child would like to attend the meeting and where the meeting will be held.
Support to help the child complete a consultation document prior to the review may be provided to the child by a range of individuals involved in their care, including an independent advocate if requested. The consultation document completed by the child should be returned to the Independent Reviewing Officer prior to the Review. The social worker should support the parent in completing the consultation document.
Where the child requires additional support to contribute to their review, for example younger children or children with a disability, This should be discussed in the child's care planning meeting and the necessary support sourced.
The following people should normally be considered for attendance at the review:
- The child;
- The parents or those with any Parental Responsibility;
- A representative from the child's school (usually the Designated Teacher);
- The child's named health visitor or school nurse;
- A Personal Adviser, if the young person has a pathway plan or is currently agreeing their first plan;
- An Independent Visitor or Advocate, if involved;
- The child's foster carer or keyworker;
- The supervising social worker for the foster carer;
- The child's social worker.
The primary focus must be on who the child wishes to be present and the Review should be kept as small as possible. It may be appropriate to request written contributions from agencies rather than invite them to attend. Consideration can be given to holding a series of meetings.
Parents should receive a consultation document. They should be offered assistance to complete the consultation form if it is required.
It is an expectation that the IRO meets with the child prior to their review to ensure that the child has an opportunity to raise any issues. This meeting is a minimum requirement. The relationship between an IRO and a child looked after should become well established; therefore contact by phone, text, email or face to face should be maintained between the IRO and the child in accordance with their age and understanding.
A decision not to invite a child or parent(s) to a Review should only be made in consultation with the Independent Reviewing Officer prior to the Review. The decision should be recorded, together with reasons, on the Review of Arrangements Form.The social worker should send the invitation list for the Review to the Quality Assurance Unit Business Support Assistant staff as soon as they receive the request within 5 working days. The Quality Assurance Unit Business Support Assistant staff will send out invitations to those on the list and send out Consultation Forms as appropriate (see Sections 6, Role of the Social Worker and Section 7, Contributions and Reports).
6. Role of the Social Worker
The social worker is responsible for ensuring that the Care Plan (Placement Plan, PEP, EHCP) presented at the review is current, is outcome focused and that it fully explains the child's Permanence Plan.
Before the meeting, the child's social worker must discuss the purpose of the Review with the child, their parents and carers. The participation of the child should be encouraged and facilitated.
The Review report task appears in the social worker's work tray when a child becomes looked after or following a review. The social worker should complete the report, which will be finalised by the social worker and authorised by their Team Manager. The Care Plan (which includes the Placement Plan, PEP and HAP) should also be presented at the review and should be updated within 10 days of the review. The IRO should be notified when the review report is complete. This must be at least three days in advance of the review. The social work team should circulate written copies of the report to those who are to attend the meeting.
The child and parent(s) should be encouraged and supported by the social worker to prepare for the Review. The Independent Reviewing Officer should agree with the social worker how this will be achieved. The IRO must meet with the child before the review if age appropriate.
The Care plan should be shared with those people who are party to it and a copy made available to the review. Following the second review the Care Plan and review report should state the child's Permanence Plan. The plan for the child should not be presented for the first time at the review, this information should be managed sensitively and presented in a considered manner, in an appropriate setting.
After the Review, the social worker is responsible for updating the Care Plan, within 10 working days.
7. Contributions and Reports
The child's carer should provide a written report to the review. The report should cover the child's progress since the last review.
The foster carers' supervising social worker should assist the carers to prepare for the Review, including helping them to complete the written report if appropriate.All written reports should be forwarded to the Independent Reviewing Officer at least 3 days before the Review unless otherwise agreed with the Independent Reviewing Officer:
- Social workers Child Looked After review report;
- Any other written contributions from those invited to attend;
- The child's Care Plan (which incorporates the Personal Education Plan (PEP), Placement Plan, Pathway Plan (if relevant) and Health Care Plan (HAP);
- The delegated authority document.
The social workers review report should also be circulated to all participants in advance of the Review date 3 working days before. Any other reports to be presented at the Review should also be shared with the child and parents in advance of the meeting.
The review meeting should provide an opportunity to review the care plan previously formulated within a Care Planning Meeting.
8. Advocates and Supporters
The social worker and Independent Reviewing Officer should consider prior to the Review whether either the child or parent(s) would benefit from the presence of an Advocate or supporter and if so, the social worker should ensure the necessary arrangements are made. An advocate/supporter may be either an advocate on behalf of the child such as a National Youth Advocacy Service representative or a supporter for the parent(s) or a person with specialist skills or knowledge.
It may also be necessary to make arrangements for an interpreter to attend.
Children with additional needs who may require more specific support, should always be considered and appropriate assistance arranged where relevant.
In all the circumstances listed above, as well as in others not specified, the Quality Assurance Unit in discussion with the social worker will ensure that relevant individuals are invited to the Review.
Any request by the child or parent(s) for their legal adviser to attend as their supporter should be notified to the Independent Reviewing Officer prior to the Review to enable sufficient consideration to be given to legal issues.
9. Independent Reviewing Officer's Responsibilities
An Independent Reviewing Officer will chair all Looked After Reviews and monitor the appropriateness of the Care Plan (on an ongoing basis including whether any safeguarding issues arise).
The IRO is responsible for ensuring that all relevant people, including the child and their parents, understand the purpose of the Review, have been given appropriate opportunities to contribute and express their views and that the review takes account of their views.
In relation to a child who wishes to bring proceedings on their own account, the Independent Reviewing Officer must assist the child to obtain legal advice and/or establish whether an appropriate adult can assist.
The Independent Reviewing Officer must also advise the child of their right to an advocate and assist the child to obtain the appointment of an advocate (see Advocacy Services).
The Independent Reviewing Officer must also ensure in appropriate cases that an application has been made to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority on the child's behalf.
The review report will consider whether the current plan for the child is meeting their needs and which aspects require updating or amending.
If the parent(s) or the child brings an advocate or supporter, the Independent Reviewing Officer will need to explain the role, ensuring that they understand 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 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 Case Review and arrange to meet the child as appropriate in advance of subsequent Looked After Reviews.
It will be necessary for the Independent Reviewing Officer to ensure decisions are clear about who is responsible for actions and the timescales agreed for completion. The following points 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 support 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 Plan provides a clear framework for promoting the child's health; whether the arrangements are meeting the child's physical and emotional 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 child or young person 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;
- Whether a referral for an Independent Visitor should be made;
- The frequency of the social worker's statutory visits;
- Whether there should be any changes to the delegated authority agreement, which is contained in the Placement Plan;
- CLA review process where there might be deprivation of liberty:
- The nature of the regime in which it is proposed to place the child, identifying and describing, in particular, those features which it is said do or may involve "confinement";
- The child's circumstances, identifying and describing, in particular, those aspects of the child's situation which it is said require that the child be placed as proposed and be subjected to the proposed regime and, where possible, the future prognosis;
- Why it is said that the proposed placement and regime are necessary and proportionate in meeting the child's welfare needs and that no less restrictive regime will do;
- The views of the child, the child's parents and the Independent Reviewing Officer, the most recent care plan, the minutes of the most recent CLA or other statutory review and any recent reports in relation to the child's physical and/or mental health (typically the most recent documents will suffice).
The IRO may adjourn a review meeting once, for not more than 20 working days, if they are 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.When there is a recommendation for a significant change to the child's Care Plan, the IRO will contact the case holding Children's Team Manager within one working day. In the event of an Independent Reviewing Officer believing that the action in relation to a child is not in their best interests, they will give one week's notice that the Head of Service will be informed of the situation. If the situation remains unresolved the Dispute Resolution Protocol should be followed (see IRO Dispute Resolution Guidance Notes for Practitioners).
10. Role of the Looked After Review in Achieving Permanence for the Child
The Independent Reviewing Officer must check that the child's Care Plan includes a Permanence Plan with measurable milestones and a Contingency Plan should be included. At all stages, the need for Concurrent Planning should be considered.
At the second Looked After Review, it is necessary to focus on the requirement for the Care Plan to provide a permanence plan for the child within a timescale that is realistic, achievable and meets the child's needs; the need for Concurrent Planning should also be considered.
At the third Looked After Review there will be a need to consider whether the alternative Plan should become the preferred plan 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 Team Manager.No further rehabilitation plan should be recommended unless there are exceptional reasons justifying such a plan or where the Court has directed a further assessment. In this case, Concurrent Planning, involving the active pursuit of an alternative placement for the child, will be required.
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 Section 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 Section 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 IRO Dispute Resolution Guidance Notes for Practitioners Procedure).
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.
Once a Permanence Plan is agreed through the appropriate process and ratified by the Review, this should be recorded to allow for the appropriate implementation of a social worker's duties and responsibilities as outlined in the care planning framework.
See Permanency Policy and Care Planning Procedure for additional approvals required depending on the planned outcome.
If the Permanence Plan is not endorsed, the Review will make decisions in relation to any changes required to achieve permanence. The decision will be discussed with the relevant Team Manager for consideration and a response. In these circumstances, the Independent Reviewing Officer will consider whether an additional Review should be arranged. In some instances, if an outcome cannot be agreed; the IRO will initiate the dispute resolution process.
11. Looked After Reviews on Children Who are the Subject of Child Protection Plans
Children who have been subject to Child Protection Plans can become Looked After when the Protection Plan has been unable to safeguard a child or when the changes needed to reduce risks through the Pre Proceedings Protocol have not been successful. In some instances, with the consent of the person(s) with Parental Responsibility, the child can be looked after under Section 20 of the Children Act whilst remaining subject to a Child Protection Plan. Dual status should be time limited, it is the responsibility of the child's social worker to notify the Conference Chair that the child is Looked After.
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. It is likely that the Child Protection Plan remains in place until the Interim Care Order is gained. At the point of gaining the court order and the local authority sharing Parental Responsibility; arrangements should be made for the Conference Chair to agree the plan is no longer necessary. All members of the Child Protection Plan / conference will be notified that the plan has ended in writing.The multi-agency contribution to the Child must be reflected in the looked after child's Care Plan.
12. Recording Looked After Reviews
The Independent Reviewing Officer is responsible for recording the review and it's outcomes in ICS, and for setting the date of the next review. The Quality Assurance Business Support Assistant will send a copy of the Review outcomes to those present at the meeting and to those who offered apologies, taking into account the wishes and feelings of the child within 20 working days.The child's social worker must ensure that any changes to key information on the child or young person are recorded onto ICS. The social worker must also ensure that the Care Plan is updated within 10 days of the review and copies forwarded to the Independent Reviewing Officer and other participants.
The review report will consider whether the Care Plan is meeting the child's needs and which aspects of it require updating. The format used currently for the review report has been incorporated into the format in ICS and this will inform the IRO tracking and monitoring process which will be recorded on the child's record.
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.
13. Postponement of Looked After Reviews
- Review dates cannot be changed, unless there are exceptional circumstances. Where a social worker wishes to change the date of a Review they should first obtain the approval from their Team manager and then contact the Independent Reviewing Officer to discuss the options. The review cannot take place out of timescales without the explicit permission of the QAU Manager;
- Where the allocated social worker is ill or not available for a scheduled Looked After Review, the social worker's Team Manager should attend the Review in the allocated worker's absence to present the summary of work and report. The Team Manager can only nominate a deputy if that person has a working knowledge of the child or young person;
- If an older child who is expected to attend is ill or unable to attend due to another important/unavoidable commitment, the Review should wherever possible be rescheduled within the required statutory time-scale;
- Should the child not attend as agreed or expected, the Review should go ahead as planned and the Independent Reviewing Officer should advise the child in writing of the outcome and offer a face-to-face meeting to explain the recommendations and hear any representations from the child.
In the light of any representations from the child, the Independent Reviewing Officer may make amendments to the recommended plan following consultation with key members of the Review (this may be done in writing or by phone);
- If a parent or significant family member who should be present is unable to attend, the Review should go ahead but every effort should be made to seek their views in advance of the meeting. The Independent Reviewing Officer should write to them after the Review, explain the recommendations of the Review and offer a face-to-face meeting;
- If a child is placed at home on a Care Order the parents must always attend the child's review;
- If the Independent Reviewing Officer is ill at the time of a scheduled Looked After Case Review, another Independent Reviewing Officer;
- Postponement of more than one Review per year should be referred to the Quality Assurance Head of Service to consider what, if any further action should be taken.
14. Review Decisions
The Team Manager of the relevant social work team should consider the decisions made at each Looked After Review within five working days of receiving them and they should advise the IRO and all those who attended the review in writing if they are unable to agree them. They should do this within a further 5 days.
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.
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 which must take no more than 20 days. This would involve completing an Issues Log copied to the Team Manager, Head of Service and QAU Head of Service. This would need to be recorded on the child's case record.
The IRO has the authority to refer a child or young person to CAFCASS 'if the IRO considers it appropriate to do so' Section 25B(3), 1989 Act. The IRO will encounter a wide range of situations in which there are concerns about the plan for the child or the service that is being provided. In most cases it will be possible to address these through:
- Dialogue with the local authority, including access to the dispute resolution procedure;
- Use of the complaints procedure, either by the child directly or by an adult who is authorised to act on the child's behalf; and/or
- Application to the court for an order under the 1989 Act, either by the child or by an appropriate adult who is able and willing to act.
When considering whether to make a referral, the IRO should have access to management advice and support in addition to independent legal advice where necessary.