1.7 Practice Standards for Child Protection Conference Chairs and Independent Reviewing Officers

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This chapter provides guidance on practice standards for Independent Reviewing Officers and Child Protection Conference Chairs.

RELATED GUIDANCE

Looked After Reviews

Independent Reviewing Officers

This chapter was added to the manual in August 2015.


Contents

  1. Conference Chair Guiding Principles
  2. Child Protection Conference Chair Practice Standards
  3. The Role of the Child Protection Conference Chair where a Child Protection Plan is in Place
  4. Internal Escalation Protocol
  5. Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) Practice Standards
  6. Escalation and Formal Resolution Process

    Appendix 1: Formal Resolution Process


1. Conference Chair Guiding Principles

  • A Child Protection (CP) conference is a way of analysing and managing risk;
  • Families must be left in no doubt about what they need to change, what the plan is to achieve change, how the change will be measured and what will happen if this change is not achieved and how they will be helped to achieve that change;
  • In achieving this, Conference Chair’s will practice using a Restorative approach;
  • Child Protection Conference Chair’s should quality assure the progress of the child protection plan to oversee and scrutinise improved outcomes for the child.


2. Child Protection Conference Chair Practice Standards

Initial Child Protection Conference (ICPC) and Review Child Protection Conference (RCPC)

The Child Protection conference chair must be notified in advance of any potentially contentious issues associated with the attendance of parents/carers/supporters so that they can agree a strategy to manage their attendance at the meeting and make it as inclusive as possible.

The conference chair must be notified in advance when a child or young person is indicating they may want to attend their conference so that their participation and involvement can be managed appropriately and in a child friendly way and with due regard to the principals encompassed by ‘Nothing about me without me’.

The conference chair will support and encourage all children/young people in a developmentally appropriate way to express their views, wishes and feelings; this may be by attending the conference, a meeting with the conference chair, consultation document, advocacy, or written views in the social worker’s report.

The conference chair will record any discussion with a child or young person on the child’s individual case record within 5 working days.

Every invitation also provides the opportunity for the person invited to speak to the conference chair prior to the meeting.

The conference chair will meet with parent/carers before the conference; parent/carers will be offered the choice as to whether they want the social worker present.

The decision to exclude any adult from conference can only be made by the conference chair and a clear evidence based rationale must be provided by the social worker and be recorded as such by the social worker on the child/young person’s individual case record. This will be supported by a Management Decision Record (MDR) completed by the Manager and placed on the child’s case file.

Any decision to exclude any adult from a child protection conference must be recorded as part of the opening attendee notice for the conference record.

It is the role of the conference chair to ensure everyone attending the conference has an opportunity to share their views, particularly the parent/carers and any child or young person attending and principally their views regarding the need for a child protection Plan.

Every effort should be made to achieve a consensus regarding the need for a child protection plan; however if this is not possible the final decision sits with the conference chair and will be minuted as such.

All individuals must be made aware of the escalation process by the conference chair should they not agree with the decision and it must be made clear that they are still required to contribute to a plan.

Where the conference chair has agreed to the presence of any legal representation, they are to be advised by the conference chair that they are not part of the conference discussion or decision making.

In order to manage a child protection conference the conference chair must be advised of any restricted information by the relevant agency at least three days in advance.

It is the role of the conference chair to draw together the risks identified, consider any mitigating factors and then to share with conference a risk analysis which will inform the decision whether or not there is sufficient concern to require a child protection plan.

The conference chair must ensure any dissent is recorded as part of the risk analysis record.

Where the decision is reached that a child protection plan is not needed, the relevant Practice Manager will be responsible for deciding, in consultation with other agencies, as to how the child’s needs will be met in the future. This will include issues related to lead agency, Early Help, Child in Need).


3. The Role of the Child Protection Conference Chair where a Child Protection Plan is in Place

The role of the conference chair between the Initial Child Protection Conference (ICPC) and the Review Child Protection Conference (RCPC) and all subsequent RCPC’s will include quality assurance and tracking the child protection plan to ensure progress as follows:

  • An MDR has been completed following conference and reflects the recommendations;
  • A mid way MDR captures development and specifies appropriate actions to ensure the child is sufficiently safeguarded and the case is making suitable progress;
  • The Core Group has met within timescale;
  • A record of the core group is on the child/young person’s file;
  • The child protection plan is updated after each core group.

Where no change to the CP Plan is needed, the social worker will make a record within case notes at the Core Group minutes outcome: CP plan no change, see Core Group minutes.


4. Internal Escalation Protocol

Where concerns exist regarding insufficient progress and drift the child protection conference chair will trigger the informal escalation protocol with the Manager. The Manager will have 5 days to take corrective action, recorded as an MDR and respond to the conference chair in writing.

Where there is no response within 5 days the CP conference chair will trigger the formal escalation protocol and refer the concerns to the appropriate Manager for the service with the Group Manager for the Safeguarding & Review Service and the Head of Safeguarding, Quality & Assurance copied in. The Manager for the appropriate service will have 5 days to respond in writing.

If at any point safeguarding concerns are identified the formal escalation protocol must be initiated immediately and will supersede the informal protocol.

Where insufficient progress remains a concern, the conference chair will consider in discussion with the Safeguarding &Review Group Manager the need to bring the RCPC date forward and escalate the concerns to the Head of Service for Safeguarding.

Any RCPC that is brought forward will be highlighted within monthly data report.


5. Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) Practice Standards

5.1 Practice Context

The IRO’s primary focus is to quality assure the care planning and review process for each child and to ensure that his/her current wishes and feelings are given full consideration. To be successful, the role must be valued by senior managers and operate within a supportive service culture and environment. An effective IRO service should enable the local authority to achieve improved outcomes for children.

Every IRO should feel confident in his/her role and personal authority and understand his/her responsibilities to monitor and review the child’s case and, where necessary, challenge poor practice. The IRO Handbook recognises that it is not the responsibility of the IRO to manage the case, supervise the social worker or devise the care plan. Although it is important for the IRO to develop a consistent relationship with the child, this should not undermine or replace the relationship between the social worker and the child.

5.2 IRO Responsibilities

The specific responsibilities of the IRO are to chair the child/young person’s review and monitor the child or young person’s progress on an ongoing basis. Together these are integral to the care planning and review process.

The primary task of the IRO is to ensure that the care plan for the child fully reflects the child’s current needs and that the actions set out in the plan are consistent with the local authority’s legal responsibilities towards the child.

An IRO should be appointed within 5 working days of a child becoming a looked after child. Upon notification of a child becoming looked after the Safeguarding & Review Service will send to the child/young person the details of their IRO.

In order to properly consider the care plan at each review, the IRO should be satisfied that the assessments upon which the care plan is based are comprehensive and adequate, involving the appropriate people and addressing the appropriate issues, that the proposed care plan results logically from the assessments and that it is relevant, viable and achievable.

The responsible authority must not make any significant change to a child/young person’s care plan unless the proposed change has been considered at a child/young person’s review. The only exception will be when, because of the need to take immediate action, this is not reasonably practicable. In these cases the IRO must be informed by the child’s social worker of the issues leading to the need to make a change.

The IRO must speak to the child/young person in private before the initial review and then before every subsequent review, and will ensure that recording of their conversation with each looked after child prior to the child’s statutory review is recorded on the child’s individual file within 5 working days. This must also be recorded as part of the review minutes.

From the second review onwards the IRO should speak to the social worker at least 15 days before the review (see 3.9 IRO Handbook).

The IRO will quality assure all review documents e.g. care or pathway plan, health assessment, placement plan and PEP including the timely availability of documents which should be at least 3 days before the review (see 3.9 IRO Handbook).

The IRO will ensure the review is child centred and only involves necessary professionals alongside the child or young person and his or her carers and parents, except where this is not appropriate. A series of meetings may therefore be the best way to involve all the relevant people. The social worker should consult with the child or young person subject to his/her age and understanding about whom he/she wants to attend and the venue.

Primary consideration should be given to the review taking place in the child/young person’s placement where the child/young person will most likely feel comfortable and relaxed. However, if a review takes place in a venue away from the child or young person’s placement it is important that the IRO also meets with or observes the child/young person in their placement so that consideration is given to the suitability of the placement to meeting the child/young person’s needs.

Meetings should not take place at a time that would result in the child or young person being absent from school or college.

If a parent or carer is excluded from the reviews, the rationale for this must be clearly recorded on the child’s file. The IRO should explain to the parent/carer, in writing, the reason why they have been excluded from reviews and offer to meet with parents. A record of the parent’s response if they refuse such a meeting must be made on the child/young person’s case file within 5 working days.

The IRO should ensure that the child or young person is aware of the role of advocacy and the support they can offer and should encourage older children/young people to chair at least part of their review. The IRO should also ensure the child or young person understands their rights as a looked after child and that they know the route for making a complaint or a compliment.

The IRO is responsible for ensuring that a statutory review for a looked after child are held within the required timescale and any arrangement to hold a review outside of these timescales must first be discussed with the Safeguarding and Review Group Manager and Manager in the first instance.

  • An Initial Looked After Child Review should be held within 20 working days of the child being Looked After. This includes children who have returned home under rehabilitation packages who continue to be Looked After, where there has been a change to the Care Plan and children placed in Secure Accommodation;
  • The Second Review should be held within three months (91 days) of an Initial Looked After Review;
  • Subsequent Reviews should be held not more than six months (183 days) after any previous review;
  • Once a child has been in a long term placement for more than a year there is no requirement to hold a meeting as part of the review process every 6months and the child’s social worker should consult with the child and the IRO to reach a decision about whether or not to hold a meeting as part of each review. Any decision not to hold a meeting at the 6month review must be recorded in the child’s care plan and the IRO must ensure that there is full consultation with the child and all relevant individuals. In these circumstances there must be a meeting at least once a year.

The IRO has the power to adjourn reviews if they feel they do not have all the information they need.

Where a care plan is adoption the IRO should review the plan no more than 3 months after the child’s placement order is made, unless placed with adopters. If the care plan is adoption and the child has not been placed the IRO should consider whether adoption is still a realistic plan at the second review.

Where a looked after child is also a parent of a looked after child, the two should have separate IRO’s and sibling groups should also have the same IRO.

If the IRO changes for any reason the current IRO should introduce the new IRO to the child.

If there are care proceedings there should be close liaison with the child’s guardian and the IRO should have sight of all legal papers being submitted in care proceedings by the local authority.

The IRO will visit the child/young person between reviews and ensure that a record of those visits is placed on the child’s individual case file within 5 working days. The IRO should produce a record of the decisions made at the review within 5 working days and a full written record within 20 days of review meeting or 15 days after the decisions are produced.

An estimated caseload of 50 to 70 looked after children for a full time equivalent IRO would represent good practice in the delivery of a quality service, including the full range of functions set out in the IRO handbook.

Issues to consider at the review

Statutory requirements

As the chair of the review, the IRO should ensure that the following issues are all addressed as part of each review process Schedule 7:

  • The effect of any change in the child’s circumstances since the last review;
  • Whether decisions taken at the last review have been successfully implemented and if not why not;
  • The legal status of the child and whether it remains appropriate – for example, where the child is looked after under Section 20 of the 1989 Act, whether this status provides the basis for legal security for the child so that proper plans can be made to provide him/her with secure attachments that will meet his/her needs through to adulthood;
  • Whether the child’s plan includes a plan for permanence within viable timescales that are meaningful for the child – this must include plans for permanency from the second review onwards;
  • The arrangements for contact in relation to the parents, siblings and other family members or significant others, whether these take into account the child’s current wishes and feelings and whether any changes are needed to these arrangements;
  • Whether the placement is meeting the child’s needs – this should include consideration of the attachment between the child and those who are caring for him/her, how the local authority is ensuring that the placement provides the quality of care that the child needs and whether;
  • Any change to the arrangements is necessary or likely to become necessary before the next review;
  • The child’s educational needs, progress and development and whether any actions need to be taken or are likely to become necessary before the next review, in order to ensure that the child’s educational needs are met and not neglected (this should include consideration of the current PEP);
  • The leisure activities in which the child is engaging and whether these are meeting the child’s needs and current expressed interests;
  • The report of the most recent assessment of the child’s health and whether any change to the arrangements for the child’s health are necessary or likely to become necessary before the next review, in order to ensure that the child’s health needs are met and not neglected;
  • The identity needs of the child, how these are being met;
  • Whether the arrangement to provide advice, support and assistance to the child continues 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, so that the child will be properly prepared and ready to make this significant move;
  • Whether the child’s social worker has taken steps to establish the child’s wishes and feelings, that the care/pathway plan has taken these into consideration and that the care/pathway plan demonstrates this;
  • Whether the child is being visited by the social worker in line with their care plan and at intervals not less frequent than the minimum statutory requirements and when the child requests a visit;
  • That plans and decisions to advance the overall planning for the child’s care have been taken and acted upon in a timely way.


6. Escalation and Formal Resolution Process

The IRO is responsible for setting any remedial timescales if actions have not been taken and there is a risk of drift in the delivery of a plan that will meet the child’s needs and planned outcomes within the child’s timescales.

Early resolution at the lowest level will be sought wherever possible.

The escalation through the Formal Resolution process is staged and ordinarily will follow the order of the stages however the IRO can initiate the Formal Resolution at any stage as deemed necessary to meet the child’s needs.

A set format for raising and responding to issues has been compiled to enable the collation of information and analysis of data. The aim being to identify learning, any common themes, inform and improve future practice and strategic plans.

The use of Formal Resolution at all Stages, and the outcome will be recorded by the IRO on the child’s individual case file within 5 working days.

The 6 stages are as follows:

Stage 1: concerns and issues raised with Manager who has 5 days to respond.

Stage 2: concerns are raised with the relevant Group Managers, including the Group Manager for the Safeguarding and Review Service and the Head of Service for Safeguarding and Quality Assurance. At this stage a meeting of all parties will be convened within 5 working days.

Stage 3: concerns are raised with the Head of Safeguarding and Quality Assurance with the relevant Group Manager for the service and the Group Manager for the Safeguarding and Review Service copied in. The Head of Safeguarding will meet with the Manager and social worker and respond within 5 days.

Stage 4: concerns and issues raised with Assistant Director 5 days to respond.

Stage 5: concerns issues raised with Director of Children's Services 5 days to respond.

Stage 6: concerns and issues raised with CAFCAS and independent legal advice sought.


Appendix 1: Formal Resolution Process

Click here to view Appendix 1: Formal Resolution Process.

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