7.3.4 IRO Dispute Resolution Process and Route for Referring Cases to CAFCASS


This chapter should be read in conjunction with Independent Reviewing Officers Guidance and Supervision Guidance.


In August 2015, Section 4, The Dispute Resolution Process was amended.


  1. Background - Role / Responsibility
  2. IRO, The Complaints Procedure and Independent Advocates
  3. Triggers for Initiating the Dispute Resolution Process
  4. The Dispute Resolution Process

    Appendix A: Monitoring RAG Form

1. Background - Role / Responsibility

The Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2011 and associated guidance (including the IRO Handbook) set out detailed arrangements in relation to care planning and the review of care planning for children Looked After. Walsall Metropolitan Borough Council, (WMBC), in keeping the above, alongside legislative duties under the provision of the Children and Young People Act 2008, Section 10, provides the following protocol in recognition of the role of the IRO.

Roles / Responsibility of the IRO

The primary task of the Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) is to ensure that the Care Plan for the child / young person reflects the child’s current needs and that the actions set out in the plan are consistent with the Local Authority’s legal responsibilities toward the child or young person.

The IRO is responsible for:

Ensuring that the wishes and feelings as well as the rights of the child or young person and other relevant parties (i.e. parents, carers) are being raised and considered throughout the review process.

Accountable for ensuring that the child or young person’s Looked After Review takes place within the statutory timescales and makes decision for agreement or action by the relevant Team Manager.

Where issues in care planning are identified through the review process and in order to support their satisfactory resolution, the accountable IRO will be required to communicate directly with a Manager who is in the position to impact on frontline practice / operational oversight of casework.

The IRO is responsible for determining the timescale in which identified problems should be resolved.

2. IRO, the Complaints Procedure and Independent Advocates

The IRO may work with WMBC’s complaints officers and advocates where necessary for the resolution of any problem that arises in relation to care planning for the child / young person. IRI’s do not have a role in instigating and the complaints procedure themselves, and should not stand in the way of a complaint being made. However the designated complaints officer may talk to the IRO about options available and the IRO may have a role in communicating both with the child and the complaints service. While not prejudicing the complaints process, their work may help to speed up the process or find a resolution.

IRO should only become involved in serious complaints involving the child / young person’s Care Plan, not minor complaints about a child’ day to day care. The IRO needs to determine whether a problem, via a complaint, is serious enough to constitute a breach of the child / young person’s human rights or whether it would be better to await a resolution through formal complaints procedure, with or without the additional support of the IRO.

The IRO does have a duty in inform the child / young person that they have a right to make a complaint and of Walsall’s responsibility to provide them with an independent advocate. The process of advocacy and complaints can run alongside the IRO’s actions in working to resolve an issue

3. Triggers for Initiating the Dispute Resolution Process

The regulations are clear that the decisions in the review should be made in response to the identified needs of the child / young person. The Care Plan sets out the actions to be taken to meet the child / young person’s needs and WMBC is responsible for ensuring the identified actions happen. The role of the IRO is to check that WMBC has made the appropriate arrangements to ensure that the actions take place.

The Care Planning Arrangements and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010 and associated guidance requires that IRO’s should be informed of any “significant event”, which take place between Reviews that may impact on a child / young person’s Care Plan

Significant Event” in this context includes:

  • Any proposal that a child / young person be moved to a new placement (foster care or a child’s home);
  • When a child / young person in care is due to be discharged from custody or a secure children’s home;
  • Child Protection Assessments (and their outcomes) involving the child / young person, a child / young person in placement or their carers;
  • A significant delay in the anticipated timescales set out in the previous review or Care Plan.

As a result of receiving notification the IRO should consider whether or not to convene an earlier review meeting or take other action.

4. The Dispute Resolution Process

It is important for the IRO to have a collaborative relationship with social work colleagues and Team Manager peers, who the operational responsibility for ongoing care planning for children and young people in care of the local authority sits. As the IRO fulfils a quality assurance function, it is important that we recognise and report on good practice by individuals or teams.

Where poor practice is identified that impacts on the implementation of the Care Plan or outcomes for the child or young person, the IRO should ensure that they negotiate with the management up to the highest level, if necessary, in order to resolve the disagreement by negotiation.

The IRO’s Group Manager (Safeguarding and Reviewing Service) is responsible for monitoring the performance of the IRO and ensuring that they are discharging their responsibilities in relation to the regulations and guidance which governs their role.

There may be cases where the IRO is sufficiently concerned that the situation requires the consultation process to begin at a more senior level than that detailed at the beginning of the process. Where possible, the IRO should seek to resolve difficulties face-to-face or by talking on the telephone to the Practice Manager first and then the Team Manager as necessary rather than relying on e-mail. Discussion can then be confirmed via e-mail thereafter.

The IRO should consult with the Group Manager Safeguarding and Reviewing Service as necessary.

The following guidance is predicated on best practice principles; minimising any significant time delay for the child and yet ensuring a fair time frame for the agency to review and reconsider its decisions. The process for seeking dispute resolution where there is non-agreement or ratification of significant Looked After Review decision is set at six distinct stages.

This time frame should be seen as setting a minimum standard and that very opportunity for taking less than the proposed times should be encouraged.

Note: The following dispute resolution outline works with the monitoring RAG form which had been built onto Mosaic. A copy of which is attached at Appendix A.

Appendix A: Monitoring RAG Form

Click here to view Appendix A: Monitoring RAG Form