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4.5 Children's Review Guidance

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

A number of procedures in this Handbook relate to the review of children’s plans; each contains procedures for those involved in convening and conducting reviews. This Guidance is also designed to assist those convening or conducting other meetings with children and families, such as Family Group Meetings.

This Guidance is designed to complement procedures but where the contents of this chapter and the procedures conflict, the procedures take precedence.

Also see the following procedures:

Child In Need Plans and Reviews Procedure
Emergency Review Procedure
Placement Plan Review Procedure
Looked After Reviews Procedure
Secure Accommodation (Criteria) Reviews Procedure

AMENDMENT

This chapter was amended in December 2011 to reflect the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010 and Associated Guidance.


Contents

  1. Guidance for All
  2. Purpose of Reviews
  3. Timing of Reviews
  4. Merging of Reviews
  5. Who Should Chair Reviews
  6. Venue and Facilities
  7. Date and Time of Reviews
  8. Who Should Attend Reviews
  9. Invitations and Exclusions
  10. Failure or Refusal to Attend
  11. Contributions and Reports
  12. Supporters
  13. Chairperson’s Responsibilities


1. Guidance for All

We often associate Reviews, in relation to children, with Looked After Reviews held on Looked After Children, or with Child Protection Reviews held on Children who are the subject of a Child Protection Plan.

These reviews are critical but they only reflect part of the picture in the delivery of children’s services.

There are many other reviews and meetings designed to review or monitor the delivery of services to children and families.

Therefore, whilst these guidelines are designed to assist those involved in formal review processes, the principles apply equally to any situation which involves the evaluation of work achieved and forward planning.


2. Purpose of Reviews

Reviews form part of a continuous planning process: reviewing decisions to date and planning future work. Reviews enable forward planning.

The overall purpose of Reviews is to ensure that children’s interests are being safeguarded and promoted in the most effective way.

Reviews should:

  • Bring significant people together, including the child concerned;
  • Enable examination and analysis of previous decisions, agreements, objectives or recommendations;
  • Promote forward planning, including further assessments if necessary.


3. Timing of Reviews

Review procedures state when reviews should be convened. They provide the maximum timescales before an initial or standalone review should be convened, or the maximum timescales between ongoing reviews.

For example, procedures dictate that Emergency Reviews, conducted when children are Accommodated in a children’s home in an “Emergency”, must occur within 72 hours of the child being placed.

Also procedures state that the first Looked After Review held on a Looked After or Accommodated child should occur within 20 working days of the child's first placement.

These are MAXIMUM timescales. Such reviews should occur as soon as practicable; within the above timescales. They should not occur after the timescale has expired. For further details see Looked After Review Procedure.

Procedures further state the maximum timescales between reviews; for example Looked After Reviews, Child Protection Review Conferences or Casework Reviews should each occur within specified maximum timescales.

The difference here is that such reviews can wait until the end of the required period between reviews unless the circumstances of the case suggest that a review should be convened earlier. 

Ongoing reviews, such as Looked After Reviews or Child Protection Review Conferences should be convened early if the need arises for substantial changes to the plan; where, for example, plans previously agreed are failing to protect a child.


4. Merging of Reviews

Some children are subject to different review processes. For example, a Looked After Child may be subject to a range of reviews (e.g. Placement Plan Reviews, Looked After Reviews, Education, Health and Care Reviews). 

Each of these reviews will be subject to different timescales; each will focus on different needs and objectives.

Therefore, it is usually better to conduct reviews separately; but this is not an absolute, unless specific Review procedures state this. The circumstances of the case may suggest that reviews be merged, or that they should be convened on the same day.

If this is proposed, the chair of each review should be consulted, agreement reached about how processes and agendas should be formulated and in what order matters should be addressed.

In relation to looked after children who are the subject of child protection plans, see Children subject to Dual Planning Process - Looked After Reviews and Child Protection Conferences Procedure.


5. Who Should Chair Reviews

Procedures usually prescribe who should chair reviews. 

Where procedures state that reviews should be chaired by the manager, this responsibility can be delegated to another person so long as the person undertaking the role is clear about the function and their responsibilities and authority.


6. Venue and Facilities

Meetings should be arranged at a place most likely to promote the relaxed participation of all those attending, secure the attendance of those identified as necessary and allow serious discussion and planning to take place.

Consideration should be given to assisting parents with travelling costs or the provision of, for example child care arrangements if it would otherwise be difficult for them to attend.

Any decision about the venue and facilities which may be required by participants should be made in consultation with the child, parents and other key people.

For example:

Reviews should not be convened in buildings where participants may have difficulty gaining access. The person arranging the venue should ensure there is adequate access and toilet facilities for wheelchairs users.

  • The person arranging the venue should enquire whether any participants have hearing disabilities or may need the assistance of an interpreter; and if so, make arrangements to suit their needs;
  • The person arranging the venue should also make necessary arrangements for refreshments;
  • In the case of Looked After Reviews, it is the responsibility of the child’s social worker to arrange the venue. 

In other cases, unless the procedures specifically state otherwise, the chairperson of the review is usually responsible for making necessary arrangements for ensuring the venue is available, booking it and arranging for adequate facilities to be available


7. Date and Time of Reviews

Meetings should be arranged at a time most likely to promote the relaxed participation of all those attending, secure the attendance of those identified as necessary and allow serious discussion and planning to take place.

The Chairperson should consider the needs and interests of all those invited when agreeing the date and time of the review; it may be necessary to make compromises to suit conflicting needs.

Where the review does have to be arranged on a day or at a time which may present difficulties to a participant, the Chairperson should ensure that explanations are given to those unable to attend as a result. 

For example, reviews should be convened:

  • Outside school hours;
  • Within the normal working hours of professionals or agency staff; 
  • Outside the working hours of parents, or at lunchtimes or breaks.

Attempts should be made to avoid arranging reviews to conflict with other key meetings, such as team or staff meetings.

If the review is postponed or cancelled, the Chairperson is responsible for ensuring all those invited are informed.

8. Who Should Attend Reviews

Procedures usually prescribe who should attend reviews and whether there are any requirements about minimum attendance.

Unless otherwise stated in procedures, the following people should attend reviews:

  1. The child;
  2. The child’s parent(s) and others with Parental Responsibility;
  3. The child’s social worker;
  4. If the child is Accommodated, the child’s foster carer(s), Family Placement worker or Linkworker;
  5. If a Looked After Child is reaching the age of 16, a Personal Adviser or representative from the Adolescent and After Care Service;
  6. Representatives from any agencies/specialisms involved in meeting the child’s needs;
  7. Representatives from agencies/specialisms which may have a role to play in the future.

Where people are unable to attend they should contact the Chairperson to ascertain whether they should arrange to send a delegate and/or forward a written or other contribution.

If there is potential for conflict between participants or a child may be seriously inhibited by the presence of parents or another person, a meeting may need to be arranged in more than one stage.

If participants wish to be accompanied by a manager, supporter or Advocate they should consult the Chairperson beforehand to agree the role this person will play.


9. Invitations and Exclusions

Unless otherwise stated in specific procedures, the following will apply:

The Chairperson is usually responsible for ensuring participants are invited to reviews, but it may be agreed or specific procedures may provide that others, such as the social worker, will undertake the role.

Invitations should be extended verbally and confirmed in writing unless timescales are too short to do so.

Verbal invitations should include the date, time and venue of the meeting, an explanation of its purpose and any expectations of the person invited; for example, to prepare a written or other contribution.

Written invitations should confirm the information given verbally, explain who else has been invited, specify whether participants can be accompanied by a supporter or friend and provide the contact details of the Chairperson should there be any concerns or problems in attending.

A decision to exclude any person should only be taken where the Chairperson is satisfied their attendance may prevent a proper consideration of the child’s needs or may threaten or otherwise place the child or another person at risk.

If a decision is reached to exclude a person they may still be informed about the review and asked to prepare a written or other contribution if they wish. In these circumstances they should also be informed of the outcome of the review.


10. Failure or Refusal to Attend

Failure to attend or refusal to co-operate should not be misinterpreted as lack of interest, particularly on the part of a child or parents.

Few professionals feel relaxed at reviews, children and parents often feel threatened and intimidated. This must be accounted for by the Chairperson.

Chairpersons must do all they reasonably can to gain the confidence and co-operation of children, parent(s) and others. Some professionals may feel uncomfortable too.

Should the child, parent(s) or other key people fail to attend or be unco-operative, the Chairperson must come to a decision about whether it is in the child’s best interests to continue or postpone the meeting, having consulted the others present.

The review should not automatically continue if the child or parent(s) fail to attend or refuse to co-operate; all reasonable efforts should be made to gain their co-operation. This may include conducting the review in a less than perfect manner so long as the ability to make decisions is not seriously compromised.

If the child, parent(s) or others remain absent or unco-operative the Chairperson must ensure that all reasonable steps are taken to obtain and consider their views; or consider as far as possible what they may be.

In these circumstances the Chairperson must ensure the person who refused to attend or co-operate is informed of the outcome and given the opportunity and encouragement to be engaged in future planning and review processes.


11. Contributions and Reports

Unless the procedures state otherwise, the Chairperson is responsible for collating or arranging for written or other contributions/reports to be prepared and furnished on time.

Where participants are requested to provide contributions they should:

  • Ensure that information to be presented by them at the review is known to, and if possible shared with, the child and parents beforehand;
  • Ensure that information is communicated/translated in the most appropriate way taking account of the language and any sensory or learning difficulties of the child or parents.

The Chairperson should decide whether contributions or reports should be produced in advance and whether they should be circulated.

If contributions are not to be circulated the Chairperson must ensure adequate copies are available for all participants and build time into the meeting for everyone to familiarise themselves with them. 

Those invited to prepare contributions/reports should be informed verbally and in writing, together with advice on the matters to address, whether contributions should be furnished in advance and, if so, when and where to send them. 

The child and parent(s) should be encouraged and supported to prepare for the review, in writing or other ways to suit their abilities. 


12. Supporters

The Chairperson should make necessary arrangements to invite a supporter or a professional (for example, an advocate of the child or a person with specialist skills or knowledge) to speak on behalf of the child or child’s parent(s).

They should also make necessary arrangements for an interpreter or other assistance resulting from the child’s or parental disability. 


13. Chairperson’s Responsibilities

In relation to Looked After Reviews, see also Appointment and Role of Independent Reviewing Officers

Apart from the responsibilities outlined in the sections above and contained elsewhere in other specific chapters in this handbook, the Chairperson should arrive at the venue in time to ensure that it has been prepared for the purpose, that there are sufficient chairs, refreshments if required etc.

The Chairperson is responsible for ensuring that everyone who attends understands the purpose of the review and any conditions or restrictions upon the ability of the review to make decisions or recommendations.

The Chairperson must ensure that all those who attend are given appropriate opportunities to contribute and express their views.

Before the review begins the Chairperson should meet the parents and child to ensure that they understand the purpose and decision-making processes which will be undertaken by the review.

If participants bring a friend/supporter, the chairperson must clarify their role, ensuring that they may clarify information but may not cross-examine any contributor.

It will be necessary for the Chairperson to ensure that the aims and objectives of any previous plan have been achieved and identify any relevant changes in circumstances which have a bearing on the case.

If the recommendations or agreements from previous reviews have not been achieved, the Chairperson is responsible for progress chasing them; if necessary by liaising with relevant managers.

The Chairperson is responsible for summarising the discussions, recommendations, agreements and decisions of the review, usually in writing, and for ensuring any new/amended plan that is required is updated and circulated to all those invited and those excluded from the review.

The Chairperson should also ensure that any documentation or records required post review are completed or that those responsible are clear about their role in doing so.

If possible, the Chairperson should set a date for the next review.

Where the Chairperson is concerned about delay in implementation of plans, he or she is responsible for progress chasing and, if necessary, taking matters up with relevant managers for appropriate action to be taken within agreed timescales and progress reported back.

End