Resolving Disputes from Child Looked After Reviews
SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
Children's participation in decision making about their lives is a key principle of Bradford Children's Services. In supporting this principle, this procedure aims to provide clear direction for the process of resolving concerns for children's care planning, whilst equally promoting the provisions available to children, as set out under Sections 24D and 26 Children Act 1989.
1. Responsibilities of Independent Reviewing Officers (IROs)
IROs must ensure that in pursuing their concerns about a child's care plan through this process, that they do not override the view's of the child or young person. Children should be empowered to engage and participate fully, in all aspects of their care and decision making. Where there are concerns about a child's care plan, the child must have access to an Independent Advocate, who will support the child in having their own views, wishes and feelings clearly represented and considered, even where they do not wish to complain formally.
Children must be informed of their right to complain, if they are unhappy with any aspect of their care. Children have a right to have their voices heard and have the opportunity of participating in the resolution process under the children's Complaints and Representations Procedure, where the outcomes that they themselves identify, are fully considered.
The Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) will wherever possible attempt to resolve a problem concerning the child's care plan by negotiation and effective communication, fulfilling their key role in conflict resolution.
The IRO has a key quality assurance role in ensuring that care planning and decision making are improved for looked after children. This independent quality assurance role may on occasions involve tensions between professionals who are discharged with implementing the care plan. However, this potential tension must at all times by managed, with the IRO and the involved practitioners and managers maintaining at all times, the welfare of the child as being the paramount consideration.
2. Process for Resolution of Problems: Looked After Children's Reviewing Service Flowchart
3. Resolution Process
The IRO will notify the child's Social Worker and supervising Team Manager (TM) immediately upon having concerns about the suitability, timing and implementation of the child's care plan.
Where the TM does not provide a satisfactory response, which addresses how and when the child's needs will be met, the Service Manager for the Safeguarding and Reviewing Unit (S+RU) will convene a Resolution Meeting with the IRO, the child's Social Worker and supervising manager (TM) with a view to resolving the identified concerns. The Service Manager will notify the responsible Service Manager (SM) for the care planning area so they may attend this meeting. The Service Manager (S+RU) will ensure that the child has access to independent representation.
In the event of the meeting failing to conclude with a satisfactory outcome, the Service Manager (S+RU) will circulate the minutes of the meeting to SM, TM and SW and a report from the IRO, setting out the concerns.
The SM Safeguarding and Reviewing Unit will notify the:
- Manager of Bradford Safeguarding Children Partnership;
- Head of Service.
And ensure they have the documentation in respect of the dispute.
Upon receiving a response from the Head of Service, the PCM Child Protection and Reviewing Unit will immediately communicate this to the IRO and Practice Manager.
In the event of the IRO continuing to believe that the local authority is failing in its duties to the child, they will submit these in writing to:
- SM Safeguarding and Reviewing Unit;
- Manager of Bradford Safeguarding Children Partnership;
- Head of Service;
- Director of Services to Children & Young People.
In the event of an unsatisfactory outcome and response from the Director for Services to Children and Young People, the IRO will submit their report to the Chief Executive.
The Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) will have ascertained the child's wishes and views and will have informed them of their right to complain and be independently represented by an advocate. Equally, even if a child does not want to make a formal complaint, they should still have access to an advocate if required, who can represent the child's own views about all aspects of their daily care and Care Plan.
Utilising the IRO Alert Form the IRO will make clear what their concerns are and will request a response from the TM, providing clear timescales for this to be received.
The IRO must consider whether the child needs independent legal advice via the West Yorkshire Inter Authority Service.
4. Criteria for Referral to CAFCASS
The Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) is responsible for monitoring the local authority's review of the care plan, with the aim of ensuring that actions required to implement the care plan are carried out and outcomes monitored.
Where there is a danger that a child's human rights, as set out under the Human Rights Act 1998, are being breached, the IRO will consider referring the case to CAFCASS so that legal proceedings can be brought, to achieve a satisfactory outcome.
The power to refer to CAFCASS should be considered only as a last resort in extreme cases where:
- All other attempts have been made within the local authority and with all relevant senior managers, including the Chief Executive;
- There is no other person able and willing to take the case on the child's behalf.
Any referral to CAFCASS will be informed by the outcome from the Children's Complaints Procedure, in view of the requirement for the participation of children and young people, in all day to day decision making that concerns them.
IROs will need to make a judgement about whether a problem raised by a child in a complaint, is serious enough to constitute a breach of the child's human rights and justifying a referral to CAFCASS, without waiting for a resolution to be made though the Children's Complaint's Procedure.
The IRO will need to consult with the child and their advocate, to ascertain the child's wishes and views and will also need to consider, the timescales that any legal proceedings may involve.
In ensuring that children with complex needs and disabilities are fully supported in participating in the process and having their views reported and advocated for, the IRO will need to consider timescales that allow for the child's views to be ascertained and represented.
5. Process of Referral to CAFCASS
The referral should be made together with the following papers:
- Copies of the original Care Order and Care Plan;
- The report of the children's guardian immediately preceding the making of any Care Order;
- All subsequent review documents;
- A report by the IRO explaining why the matter is being referred and setting out the steps they have taken to try and resolve the position with the local authority;
- A report by the IRO on the child's wishes and feelings, as expressed by the child or their advocate, including in relation to potential court proceedings;
- Any other documentation considered relevant, including a Chronology and statement of issues, a list of important people in the child's life and their relationship and involvement with the child;
- The outcome of any complaint by the child under the Children's Complaints Procedure.
6. Arrangements for the Support of Independent Reviewing Officers
The IRO will work with the local authority Complaints Officer and Advocates where appropriate to achieve a resolution to the problem and will consider at each stage of the resolution process:
- Whether a concern or a formal complaint made by the child has been resolved;
- What the child's wishes and views are;
- Whether the criteria for a referral to CAFCASS is still met, in view of the outcome of any formal complaint or representation made by or on behalf of the child, by their advocate.
The IRO should consider an acceptable timescale in which the problem should be resolved and must make this clear to the local authority at each stage of the resolution process.
At each stage of the resolution process, the IRO will also need to consider before progressing further, the statutory timescales for responding to children's complaints under the Children's Complaints Procedure.
The Practice Manager for the IRO will ensure that the IRO is supported throughout the process and provided with appropriate advice, guidance and assistance.