Practice Standards for Child Protection Conference Chairs and Independent Reviewing Officers


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


Looked After Reviews

Independent Reviewing Officers


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

1. Conference Chair Guiding Principles

  • Walsall uses the Family Safeguarding approach, Restorative Practice and Motivational Interviewing underpin the high support, high challenge way of working;
  • The focus will be on engagement with the family, using Positive Regard, Empathy, Alignment and Curiosity. This a strengths based approach;
  • Thresholds must be based on a sound understanding of S17 and S47 with intervention always at the lowest safe level;
  • A Child Protection (CP) conference is a way of analysing and managing risk;
  • The chair will encourage understanding of where the family is in the change cycle. Families must be given clarity about what needs to change, and their ideas and solutions to achieve this should be central to the plan wherever possible;
  • Child Protection Conference Chair's should quality assure the progress of the child protection plan to oversee and scrutinise improved outcomes for the child. If a higher level of intervention is required the chair will make immediate contact with the relevant social work managers.

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 not attending the meeting with a view to identifying alternative ways to encourage their participation.

The conference chair will support and encourage all children/young people in a developmentally appropriate way to express their views, wishes and feelings; this will usually 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.

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 in this pre-meeting discussion.

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.

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 completing a Midway check at the midway point between meetings to quality assure the child protection plan.

4. Resolution Process for Child Protection

See the Resolution Process for Child Protection.

5. Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) Practice Standards

5.1 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 IRO should 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.

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 local 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 is expected to introduce themselves to the child once they become the allocated IRO. This introduction will be built upon in subsequent meetings.

The IRO should work with the child's social worker to encourage the child to attend their own review. This includes meeting with them prior to their review to help them plan what they would like to say and what they think is important to discuss at their review.

All meetings with children should be recorded on the child's case file as well as recorded as part of the review.

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 should 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; 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. Looked After Child Resolution Process

Please see the Looked After Child Resolution Process.