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6.13 Protocol between Independent Reviewing Officers and Legal Services

This protocol was added to the handbook in August 2012.


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Leads Liaisons/Initial Contact
  3. Pre-Proceedings
  4. Court Proceedings
  5. Children's Guardian
  6. Court Documents
  7. Child Looked After Reviews
  8. Issues Resolution Hearing
  9. Court Hearing Dates


1. Introduction

This protocol sets out the process by which Independent Reviewing Officers (IRO's) and Legal Services will discharge their responsibilities in line with the responsibilities outlined in the IRO Handbook.

The Children and Young Persons Act 2008 (by amending the Children Act 1989) and the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010 set out the statutory duties of the IRO in the care planning and reviewing process.

The overall aim of this protocol is to ensure open, effective and timely communication between the IRO Service, Legal Services, ASAF and CLA Services in order to support IRO's in discharging their statutory functions and communicating their views about the Local Authority’s care planning for children within the court process.


2. Leads Liaisons/Initial Contact

The IRO's should use the legal team’s duty contact number (0207 5252300) or email address (legal duty soc serv) to ascertain information about who is dealing with a specific case. Alternatively the Duty Lawyer can be contacted, using the above number/email address. The Head of Team will act as lead liaison and deal with any issues requiring escalation. The Head of Team will also provide details of management responsibility within the Safeguarding Team & Community Services Legal Team, so that in the absence of the allocated lawyer the IRO can contact their line manager.

Thereafter, it is expected that the IRO will liaise directly with the allocated lawyer regarding a child’s case. If it is not possible to contact the IRO, the QAU Service Manager should be contacted.


3. Pre-Proceedings

Where a child is a Child Looked After (CLA) but not yet subject to proceedings, the allocated social worker will provide the details of the IRO to Legal at the Gateway or Legal Planning Meeting (LPM).The allocated social worker will also be responsible for ascertaining the IRO's views on the proposed care plan directly from the IRO and conveying these to the meeting.

The child’s IRO will inform the appropriate Service Manager within 5 working days if a recommendation has been made in a Looked After Review that a Legal Planning meeting should be convened. It will be for the Service Manager in Children’s Services to facilitate the Legal Planning Meeting.


4. Court Proceedings

If a decision is made to initiate proceedings, Legal will include the IRO's contact details (if known) on the application form. Legal will also copy the IRO (if known) or the generic IRO email address (if not known) into any section 31 proceedings issued where the plan is to remove the child(ren) or the child is already looked after.

Where the child is not already a Child Looked After, Legal Services will notify the IRO service on qaulacadmin within 48 hours of the making of an Interim Care Order (or an Emergency Protection Order if obtained via Legal) by virtue of which the child becomes looked after. Legal Services will also provide details of the allocated Lawyer and Children’s Guardian (if one has been appointed).

Upon receipt of such notification the IRO service will allocate an IRO and inform Legal Services of the name and contact details for the allocated IRO within 5 working days.

Legal Services will be responsible for notifying the Court and CAFCASS (or in the absence of a Children’s Guardian the child’s solicitor) of the name and contact details for the allocated IRO if they are appointed after the application has been issued.


5. Children's Guardian

Legal Services will inform the IRO service once a Children’s Guardian is appointed for a child together with their contact details.

The IRO and Children’s Guardian should establish communication with each other. The Children’s Guardian should be invited to the child’s Looked After Review meetings. It will be the responsibility of the IRO's to facilitate this once the Children’s Guardian’s details are known.

Discussions between the Children’s Guardian and the IRO should be recorded on the child’s case record.


6. Court Documents

When a child becomes looked after by virtue of the granting of an Interim Care Order the allocated lawyer will provide to the QAU Support Services Manager (or the IRO in the case of a child already looked after) within 5 working days, the following documents:

  • The court application form;
  • The initial social work statement;
  • The initial court care plan (if one has been prepared) and
  • The social work chronology.

Thereafter, the allocated Lawyer will provide the IRO, within five working days of receipt of them, copies of:

  • All relevant Court documents, including;
  • Court Orders and directions;
  • Reports of experts;
  • Reports of the Children’s Guardian.

IRO's will not be provided with statements filed by parents/other parties unless they specifically request these from Legal Services.


7. Child Looked After Reviews

The IRO is responsible for ensuring that the allocated lawyer and the Children’s Guardian receive a copy of the report and decisions of all children’s Looked After Reviews that take place after proceedings commence.

The report should be in a format suitable for sharing with all the parties. The IRO is responsible for ensuring that the review is anonymised appropriately - for example if the child’s address is not to be disclosed or if there is confidential third party information.

The allocated lawyer is responsible for serving the Looked After Review on the parties and it is included in the bundle unless directed otherwise.


8. Issues Resolution Hearing

The guidance requires that prior to the Issues Resolution Hearing (IRH) the Local Authority should inform the Court of any dispute between the Local Authority and the IRO about the plan for the child and of any issues subject to the local dispute resolution process. In order for this to happen the allocated social worker or manager should inform the allocated lawyer if there is any dispute between them and the IRO about the local authority’s plan 5 days in advance of the IRH.

If a matter is subject to local dispute resolution the IRO should ensure the operational Head of Service for the IRO's and allocated lawyer and Head of Safeguarding in Legal are informed of the IRO alert which has been raised and any responses to it.

The IRO and social work team will agree the final statement and care plan before it is submitted to legal services. This should be confirmed in the report.

In exceptional circumstances any disagreement about specific areas of the care plan should be clearly recorded on the report.


9. Court Hearing Dates

Legal Services maintain a court diary on outlook, which can be accessed using the legal duty soc serv e-mail address.

The allocated lawyer will, once informed of the IRO’s details, will send them notifications via outlook of future hearings.

The allocated lawyer will also will send the IRO electronic notification of the filing deadline for the LA’s final statement and care plan.

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