IRO Dispute Resolution Guidance Notes for Practitioners


This chapter details the process of resolving differences and conflicts in the Review/Planning process for children and emphasises the monitoring role of the Independent Reviewing Officers (IRO) with regard to children's plans. The process includes a flow chart that reflects a three stage resolution process, which can culminate in informing Cafcass if the issues are not satisfactorily resolved.


DfE, The Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations - Volume 2: Care Planning, Placement and Case Review(2015)


Protocol Between Independent Reviewing Officer and Children's Guardians


This chapter was fully reviewed and refreshed in May 2016. The chapter contains an updated IRO Dispute Resolution Flowchart which describes the stages of the resolution process and an Appendix 1: IRO Dispute Resolution Process Form.

1. Background

The statutory duties of the Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) require them to monitor the performance of the local authority so that the plan for a Child Looked After continues to be appropriate and responsive to the child's individual needs.

As part of the monitoring function, the IRO also has a duty to identify any areas of poor practice, including general concerns around service delivery (not just around individual children). The IRO should immediately alert senior managers if any such areas are identified.

The IRO is responsible for ensuring that the wishes and feelings as well as the rights of the child and parents are given adequate attention and considered throughout the review process.

The IRO is accountable for ensuring that a child's Looked After Review takes place within the statutory timescales and makes recommendations about the care plan, which, if not contested within 5 days, becomes a decision (see Child Looked After Reviews Procedure, Frequency of Looked After Reviews).

Where problems in care planning are identified through the review process, and in order to support their satisfactory resolution, the accountable IRO will need to be able to communicate directly with the manager/social worker who has the necessary level of seniority to seek resolution.

2. Cause for Concern (Informal Stage)

There will be issues that the IRO has concerns in relation to the care planning or anything else in relation to the child which gives cause for concern. This is the informal stage before the IRO actions the formal dispute resolution process.

The issue may be addressed and resolved via informal discussion within 5 working days following the review date.

The IRO has responsibility to escalate concerns immediately in certain situations depending upon the impact and risks to the child/ren. This means that the issue will not be addressed within the informal route but will be managed via the staged dispute resolution process.

At any stage of resolving identified issue the IRO can refer the case to CAFCASS. The IRO must consider whether it is appropriate to refer a case to CAFCASS if:

  • In his/her opinion, 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; and
  • Having drawn this to the attention of persons of appropriate seniority in the Local Authority, the issues have not been addressed to the IRO's satisfaction within a reasonable period of time.

Appendix 1: IRO Dispute Resolution Process Form

Click here to view Appendix 1: IRO Dispute Resolution Process Form.