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Looked After Reviews
Whilst ensuring that the case is progressing in line with the plan, the primary aim of the looked after review is to ensure that the child's welfare continues to be safeguarded and promoted in the best way possible whilst they remain looked after.
Looked after reviews are a statutory requirement which should include the child and parents wherever possible (and appropriate), as well as the current carers of the child and where appropriate other relevant professionals, e.g. Children's Guardian, health/education professionals.
It should be recognised that bringing all these people together, as well as the multi-agency group of professionals involved with the child can cause conflict, and the chair (the Independent Reviewing Officer - IRO) has to make sure that this is managed in a way that is appropriate and allows the child's needs to remain paramount.
Timescales for reviews
Case planning guidance sets out the minimum standard of when a review should be held, as shown above. That said, reviews should take place when the case requires it (i.e. it has to be at least as often as set out above, but there is no reason why they can't be held sooner).
The general guide is that no significant change should be made to a care plan unless it has first been considered at review (unless this is just not possible, e.g. a placement breaks down irretrievably and the child has to be moved that day with no space for negotiation).
What should be classed as a significant change?
Often this can be guided by common sense and a discussion with the IRO if you are not sure. Some key examples are:
- Change of placement or plan for child to stop being looked after
- Major changes in contact arrangements
- Safeguarding concerns including missing/absconding episodes
- Complaints from (or on behalf of) the child or their parent / carer
- The child being charged with criminal offences
- Panel decisions in relation to permanency
Children and their parents / carers can also request that the review is bought forward.
Children and young people over the age of 4 should be encouraged to participate in their review.
1. Discuss with social worker and parent(s) how child can be involved IRO At least 1 week ahead of first review 2. Consider how to involve the child in planning and in the review. Set out an individual strategy to increase involvement for children with additional communication needs and children living away from their home local authority. Consider at each review whether a child requires an advocate. IRO Ahead of each LAC review 3. Visit child. Think with them about the main issues they have, as well as everyone else. Talk through how they might achieve their goals and their involvement in the review. IRO Ahead of each LAC review 4. Involve the child in their review wherever possible IRO LAC Review
There is more information and a growing set of tools in the listening to children section.
In considering the care plan and other appropriate documents, the review should also consider the immediate and long term aims for the child. Long terms aims are not only practical aims, such as the child wanting to join scouts or guides even though they are not yet old enough, it is also about how to secure permanency for the child.
As part of the looked after process, it is therefore expected that permanence planning will take place. As with all other aspects of social work, this is informed by good quality assessment involving contributions from all agencies involved with the child and their birth family.
The IRO will therefore look to ensure that the Care Plan includes a plan around permanence, with this check being in place from the second review. Such a plan should be achievable and within the child's timescales. This means that if, for example, the child is 6 months old, the timescales in which to achieve permanence are a lot shorter than if the child was a teenager.
The plan for permanence must also meet the child's needs.
By the third review, twin-track planning must be in place if rehabilitation home has not happened / is not possible. Twin-track planning is about considering the other options available, for example considering other family members as well as adoption. The purpose of twin-track planning is that should the preferred option fail (e.g. in the above example placing with family members) there is no unnecessary delay in the adoption process caused by having to start from scratch.
Looked after reviews for children also subject of child protection plans
If a child who is subject to a child protection plan becomes looked after, there is a need to consider whether the child protection plan should continue. If the plan is for rehabilitation home then the CP Plan might continue to ensure that the issues that led to the child being looked after are addressed.
Where a CP Plan does continue, there should be a single planning and reviewing process which is led by the IRO.
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Reviewing Officers (ROs) are charged with having 'an effective independent oversight of the child's case and ensure that the child's interests are protected throughout the care planning process'. This section summarises the role of the RO and links to the current guidance that they work to.Read more
Conflict resolution and complaints
Reviewing Officers have a key role in resolving problems that come out of the care planning process. Each IRO is individually responsible for this, with the over-riding principle being that they should act in the child's welfare and best interests.Read more
The looked after review is an important part of the process in ensuring that the needs of any child who is looked after by the Department are met. It is therefore important that you are well prepared for the review with the care plan and other relevant documents up to date.Read more
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