Looked After Reviews


This procedure sets out the arrangements for convening and chairing formal Looked After Reviews.


This chapter should be read in conjunction with Practice Standards for Child Protection Conference Chairs and Independent Reviewing Officers.

Section 20 Guidance


In November 2020, this chapter was updated and should be re-read.

1. The Purpose of Looked After Reviews

A Looked After Review must take place before any significant change is made to the child's Care Plan in line with the Care Planning Regulations, unless that is not reasonably practicable, including a decision to cease looking after a child. 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 twelve months.

The purpose of a Looked After Review is to:

  • Ensure that adequate plans are in place to safeguard and promote the overall welfare of Looked After Children in the most effective way and achieve permanence for them within a timescale and timeframe that meets their needs;
  • To ensure plans are being progressed effectively;
  • To make decisions, as necessary, for amendments to those plans to reflect any change in circumstances;
  • To ensure the needs of children looked after as a result of a secure remand are met;
  • To ensure that an Eligible Young Person moving into semi-independent accommodation is ready and prepared to move.

It is important that decisions taken at Looked After Reviews are implemented and responsibility for actions are clearly defined with clear timescales in place.

The key plans that should be considered at a Looked After Review are the Care Plans and Pathway Plans.

The Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) should also take account of the child's Placement Plan the Personal Education Plans and the PHE (ensuring that all the plans are up to date, or that arrangements are in place to update them).

Plans should always be based on an up to date, thorough and holistic assessment of need and risk, covering the three domains. In most cases this will be a Child and Family Assessment, but where relevant the NSPCC Reunification Tool or the Family Safeguarding approach will provide the holistic assessment.

2. Frequency of Looked After Reviews


Normally, Looked After Reviews should be convened at the following intervals (for children in receipt of Short Term Breaks or children placed with prospective adopters, see Section 2.3).

  • An Initial Looked After 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 Looked After Review should be held within three months (91 days) of an Initial Looked After Review;
  • Subsequent Looked After Reviews should be held not more than six months (183 days) after any previous review;
  • Any arrangement to hold a review outside of these timescales must first be discussed with the IROs line manger and team manager in the first instance.
2.2 There must be a meeting at least once a year.

In relation to children in receipt of Short Term Breaks, see Short Term Breaks Referrals and Placements Guidance.

In relation to children placed with prospective adopters, see Adoption@heart.


An Emergency Looked After Review should be convened by an IRO where the circumstances of an event has a significant impact upon the child's care plan, as suggested in the following sorts of circumstances:

  • A proposed change of care plan for example arising at short notice in the course of proceedings following directions from the court;
  • Major change to the contact arrangements;
  • Any safeguarding concerns involving the child, which may lead to enquiries being made under Section 47 of the 1989 Act ('child protection enquiries') and outcomes of child protection conferences, or other meetings that are not attended by the IRO;
  • Unexpected changes in the child's placement provision which may significantly impact on placement stability or safeguarding arrangements;
  • Significant changes in birth family circumstances for example births, marriages or deaths which may have a particular impact on the child;
  • If the child is charged with any offence leading to referral to youth offending services, pending criminal proceedings and any convictions or sentences as a result of such proceedings;
  • Significant health, medical events, diagnoses, illnesses, hospitalisations, or serious accidents; and panel decisions in relation to permanency.

DfE Children Act 1989 guidance and regulations volume 2: care planning, placement and case review

This is not an exhaustive list and the IRO may judge that other events are significant and require an earlier review. The parents and child should also be consulted about the need for an additional review.

3. Chairing of Looked After Reviews

Looked After Reviews are chaired by Independent Reviewing Officers. The term Independent Reviewing Officers (IRO) is used in this chapter. IRO's are located in the Review and Child Protection Unit.

Guidance in relation to Independent Reviewing Officers is provided in Independent Reviewing Officers Guidance.

4. Convening and Coordinating Looked After Reviews

Social workers must, within two working days, ensure that the Review and Child Protection Unit is informed immediately after children become Looked After, with a view to arranging the first Looked After Review; within 20 working days of the placement starting.

Dates for subsequent Looked After Reviews will be set at the conclusion of each Review. If the arranged date needs to be changed for any reason, including where a change in circumstances indicate the need for an earlier review date, the social worker should notify and arrange this directly with the IRO.

Should the child cease being Looked After before the planned review date, the social worker will notify the Independent Reviewing Officer to discuss the planning for the child.

Arrangements including invitations, distribution of consultation forms, arranging the venue and collating contributions will be the responsibility of the social worker.

5. Invitations

Discussion should take place between the social worker and the child (subject to age and understanding) not more than 15 days before the meeting about who the child would like to attend the meeting and where the meeting will be held.

Whenever possible the parent/carer should be included in these discussions too.

Where the child is unable to contribute to the decisions, for example because of their young age, the parent's, carers, social worker and other relevant adults views should be sought.

In consultation with the child and others as above, as well as with the Independent Reviewing Officer, the social worker will invite the relevant people to the Review. 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.

The following people should normally be invited with the child's agreement:

  • The child, parents and those with Parental Responsibility, carers and any significant people or specialists involved in the child's case (except as set out below);
  • The Supervising Social Worker, if the child is placed with foster carers;
  • A representative from the child's school (usually the Designated Teacher for Looked After children) and/or the Education Department;
  • A Personal Adviser, if the child is over the age of 16;
  • If required, an interpreter;
  • An Advocate, Supporter (see Section 8, Supporters, Advocates and Interpreters) or Independent Visitor, if involved and necessary;
  • Any other person with a legitimate interest in the child e.g. health care professional, GP, a representative from the Local Authority in whose area it is proposed that the child will be placed. (Such attendance should always be discussed with the child before invitations are made and his/her views obtained);
  • The officer with lead responsibility for implementing the authority's duty to promote the educational achievement of its Looked After Children.

Consideration should be given to inviting the Children's Guardian where one has been appointed in line with the protocol in place between CAFCASS and the IRO service.

A balance must be struck in relation to who the child wishes to be present and the need for information and input from the professionals and family members involved. When a child is attending a Review efforts should be made to keep the number present at the Review as small as possible. It may be appropriate for information to be provided in writing or at a separate meeting where the contribution is strictly factual.

Children and parents should also be informed that they can arrange to see the IRO separately if they wish or bring a supporter or interpreter to the Review.

The social worker must ensure that children and families have been given information about the local authority's complaints procedure. They should also provide the child with details of the advocacy services who may provide support if the child requires it.

See Section 8, Supporters, Advocates and Interpreters

A decision not to invite a child or parent(s) to a Review should only be made in consultation with the IRO, prior to the Review. The decision should be recorded, together with reasons, on the review document and the child's electronic record.

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.

The social worker is responsible for ensuring participants are sent written invitations informing them of the date, venue and purpose of the Review.

Where an invited person cannot attend, the IRO may agree that a delegate attend instead.

6. Role of the Social Worker

Before arrangements are agreed, the child's social worker must discuss the purpose of the Review with the child, parents and carers and consult them about a suitable date, venue and invitations at least 20 working days before the review meeting.

The social worker must ensure that the child's Looked After Children's review paperwork and other case records are up to date, and include all records of the placement visits and the last date when the child's sleeping accommodation was seen. Any changes in household membership need to be clearly recorded.

Note: Social Workers should take account of the views of the child/ren as part of the review process.

On occasions children looked after may also be subject of court proceedings. It is the social workers responsibility to ensure the Independent Reviewing Office (IRO) has clear information and is kept informed via email or telephone discussion of a child/young person's legal status, the Court timetable (where applicable) and the associated plans.

It is the social worker's responsibility to ensure the Independent Reviewing Officer is kept informed of any significant changes to the placement or Care Plan between reviews for example a placement breakdown or child protection concern.

The child and parent(s) should be encouraged and supported by the social worker to prepare for the Review, in writing or other ways if they wish, for example by seeing the IRO separately. The IRO should agree with the social worker how this will be achieved.

If the child wishes to prepare a written contribution, a Looked After Children's Consultation Paper is designed for the purpose but the child may prepare in another way, which suits him/her.

See Section 7, Contributions and Reports.

Prior to the review, the social worker is responsible for updating the Care Plan and within 10 working days, in relation to any changes to the Care Plan agreed at the review.

The team manager responsible for the child will consider the decisions made at each review within five working days of receiving them and advise the IRO and all those who attended if they are unable to agree them.

The social worker should also update the Permanence Plan, Health Plan and Personal Education Plan as required, and arrange for a Pathway Plan to be completed or updated, if relevant.

The placement plan should be completed prior the placement commencing and if this is not possible within five working days.

The social worker should also ensure that the child's Placement Plan (recorded on the Placement Information Record) is updated. If this record was not updated during the Looked After Review, a Placement Planning Meeting should be convened within 7 days of the Looked After Review.

7. Contributions and Reports

The social worker must ensure that Looked After Children's Consultation papers or other written contributions are forwarded to the Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) and distributed to those invited to the review, prior to the Review Meeting.

Where the child is placed in a foster or children's home, the representative of the home should be asked to contribute a report in writing; a Looked After Children's Consultation Paper is designed for the purpose but a separate report may be prepared and shared with the IRO prior to the review.

The following documents should be prepared five working days and/or brought up to date in time for the review; and the social worker should agree with the IRO whether it is necessary to forward or distribute any of these documents before the review date:

  1. Social Worker's Report;
  2. An up to date copy of the child's Personal Education Plan and a copy of the child's last school report;
  3. An up to date copy of the child's Health Care Plan;
  4. A copy of the child's most recent Placement Plan;
  5. If relevant, a copy of the Pathway Plan;
  6. The assessment of need should be relevant and up to date.

The child, parent(s), carers and other relevant people/agencies must be consulted as appropriate in the preparation/updating of these documents.

8. Supporters, Advocates and Interpreters

The social worker and IRO should consider prior to the Review whether either the child or parent(s) would benefit from the presence of a supporter or advocate and if so, the social worker should ensure the necessary arrangements are made. A supporter may be either an advocate on behalf of the child/parent(s) or a person with specialist skills or knowledge.

It may also be necessary to make arrangements for an interpreter to attend. Special needs, for example those arising from disability, should always be considered and appropriate assistance arranged where relevant.

Any request by the child or parent(s) for their legal adviser to attend as their supporter should be notified to the IRO prior to the Review and arrangements made where appropriate for the attendance at the Review of a local authority legal adviser.

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 SRA 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'.

9. Chairperson's Responsibilities

The IRO's role is to chair Looked After Reviews and ensure the appropriateness of the Care Plan (on an ongoing basis including whether any safeguarding issues arise), its implementation and to establish whether the milestones set out in the plan are being achieved in a timely way.

See also Independent Reviewing Officers Guidance, which sets out in detail to role of the IRO outside the Looked After Review.

The revised care planning regulations are explicit in that the IRO has a duty to ensure that the wishes and feelings of the child's current carer are taken into account as part of the child's case review process.

The revised care planning regulations also require that every looked after review must include consideration as to whether the arrangements for delegation of authority to the child's carer remain appropriate and in the child's best interests. This will be particularly important when a long term placement has been made.

In relation to their role at reviews, a key task for all Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) is to ensure that the review process, and particularly the Review meetings, remains child and family centred. More than one meeting may be required to ensure the views of relevant people inform the review without the meeting becoming too large. For example it may be appropriate to split the review to elicit information and views. A great deal of work will take place in other forums; however the IRO must ensure that information which affects the current placement and the overall Care Plan should be brought back into the review process for decision making.

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 Review and arrange to meet the child as appropriate in advance of subsequent Looked After Reviews.

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.

The child's social worker should ensure the IRO is aware of other meetings and reviews in respect of the child's social worker should ensure they are either kept informed of outcomes, or invited to attend of participate as appropriate. See Independent Reviewing Officers Guidance.

The IRO is responsible for ensuring that all relevant people, including the child and parents, understand the purpose of the Review and have been given appropriate opportunities to contribute and express their views. Any differences of opinion should be referred to the social worker's line manager for possible resolution. Where participants' views are not followed, an explanation of the reasons why needs to be provided by the IRO or the social worker. The record of the Review is written to the child and for the child.

If the parent(s) or the child brings a supporter, the IRO will need to explain his or her role, ensuring that the supporter understands that he or she may clarify information but may not cross-examine any contributor.

The IRO must ensure that the child and parent(s) are aware of their right to make a complaint under the local authority's Complaints Procedure.

The agenda for each Review will be agreed wherever possible in advance with the child.

Each Review should set a date for the next Review.

The IRO may adjourn a review meeting once, for not more than 20 working days, if 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.

It will be necessary for the IRO to ensure decisions are clear and establish who is responsible for action and the timescales for completion.

The IRO should also ensure that the following are considered and accounted for during the Review:

  1. 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;
  2. Whether any change should be sought in the child's legal status;
  3. Whether there is a plan for permanence;
  4. Arrangements for contact/whether there is any need for changes to the arrangements in order to promote contact between the child and parents/other Connected Persons;
  5. 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;
  6. Whether the placement safeguards and promotes the child's welfare, and whether any safeguarding concerns have been raised;
  7. 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 his/her 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;
  8. The child's leisure interests and activities and whether the arrangements are meeting his/her needs;
  9. 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 health needs;
  10. 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;
  11. Whether the arrangements for advice, support and assistance continue to be appropriate and understood by the child;
  12. Whether any arrangements need to be made for the time when the child will no longer be looked after;
  13. The child's wishes and feelings and the views of the IRO about any aspect of the case 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 and whether it would be in the child's interests for an Independent Visitor to be appointed;
  14. Whether the arrangements for delegation of authority to the child's carer remain appropriate and in the child's best interests;
  15. Where the child is placed with parents before an assessment is completed, the frequency of the social worker's visits;
  16. Whether the delegation of authority to take decisions about a child's care continues to be appropriate and in the child's best interests;
  17. Pocket money and savings.

Where there is evidence or allegations of poor practice, the Independent Reviewing Officer, in consultation with their manager will consider what action is needed to bring this to the attention of the relevant and appropriate line managers.

It is also the Independent Reviewing Officer's responsibility to focus on problem resolution. In cases where the Independent Reviewing Officer identifies poor practice or wider corporate parenting issues they will discuss this in the first instance with their line manager with a view to using the Resolution Process.

If all such methods of problem resolution prove unsuccessful and there is a danger of the child's human rights being breached, the Independent Reviewing Officer will consider whether to refer a case to CAFCASS to bring legal proceedings.

10. Role of the Looked After Review in Achieving Permanence for the Child

The Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) must check that the child's Care Plan includes a Permanence Plan with measurable milestones and a Contingency Plan should the preferred plans not materialise.

At the second Looked After Review, there is a requirement to focus on the requirement for the Care Plan to provide a Permanence Plan for the child within a timescale which is realistic, achievable and meets the child's needs.

If it is considered that the chosen avenue to permanence is not viable, the IRO should ensure that the social worker convenes a planning meeting as a matter of urgency to consider the most appropriate permanent alternative.

At the third Looked After Review there will be a need for a Contingency Plan to be made 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 manager. No further rehabilitation plan should be recommended unless there are exceptional reasons justifying such a plan or where further assessment is specifically directed by the Court.

In this case, the Contingency Plan must include the active pursuit of an alternative placement for the child.

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 [2018] 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 Section 15, Resolution of Problems and Referral to CAFCASS).

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.

11. Recording of Looked After Reviews

It is the responsibility of the Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) to record the review. A written record of the decisions and recommendations will be completed and shared with the relevant Team Manager within 5 working days of the meeting.

The full written record of the review, including the permanence plan, will be completed within 15 working days of the review. 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. The Independent Review Unit will send copies out to all relevant parties who have provided their full name and address on the attendance sheet within 20 working days of the completion of the review.

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 Child Arrangements Order' or supervised contact only.

The outcome of the Looked After Review will be recorded on the child's electronic case record.

The following should form part of the child's electronic record as appropriate:

  • The written reports of the consultation exercise;
  • Any written reports submitted to the review;
  • Copy of the agenda.

All review forms need to be seen and considered by the team manager of the team concerned.

12. Review Decisions

The Team Manager should consider the decisions made at each Looked After Review within five working days of receiving them and advise the IRO and all those who attended the review if they are unable to agree them.

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.

If the Manager disagrees with any of the decisions within that initial five working day period, this should be notified in writing to the IRO and all those who attended the review.

The resolution process sets out the local arrangements and timescales where issues relating to the review decisions can be followed internally within Children's Services before matters are escalated to CAFCASS.

13. Overseeing Previous Review Recommendations

The Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) will be responsible for checking that the local authority has taken steps to implement recommendations and changes to the child's Care Plan arising from the review meeting. In some cases, there will be a clear and valid reason for some actions not to take place; the IRO must ensure that the review considers the outcome of these actions. The IRO will complete a Midway check at a midpoint between reviews. This is recorded on MOSAIC

Where the IRO is concerned about delay in progressing the relevant plans for the child, this will be raised with the appropriate team manager with the Resolution process used as required.

14. Ceasing to Look After a Child

The Care Planning and Fostering (Miscellaneous Amendments) (England) Regulations' 2015 include new duties when consideration is being given to ceasing to look after a child who is accommodated. Before the local authority makes any decision it must:

  • Carry out an assessment of the stability of the proposed arrangements for the child's accommodation and care;
  • Assess what services and support the child and, where applicable, their parents might need;
  • Ensure that the child's wishes and feelings have been given due consideration; and
  • Consider whether, in all circumstances, ceasing to look after the child will safeguard and promote their welfare.

The child's care plan must detail the advice, assistance and support that will be provided to the child when they cease to be looked after.

15. Resolution of Problems and Referral to CAFCASS

See: Resolution Process.