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3.3.5 Parental Participation at Looked After Reviews

This protocol considers ways to improve parental participation during the Looked After Review process i.e. at the stages of Preparation for the Review, throughout the Review meeting and Post Review.

It should be read in conjunction with the Looked After Reviews Procedure.

The guiding principle is to consider each case individually - maximising parental participation within the overall framework of the child’s interests being paramount.

In this protocol Parent also includes reference to those who hold Parental Responsibility.


  1. Introduction
  2. How can we Facilitate Maximum Participation?

1. Introduction

Why do we need to maximise parental participation at reviews?

  1. Human Rights of the parent require they are consulted.
    Relevant articles of the Human Rights Act 1998 are:

    Article 6: the right to a fair trial in relation to decisions which affect a person’s civil rights
    Article 8: the right to respect for privacy and family life.
    Note; this is not an absolute right. The State may interfere with family life if necessary for the protection of others - interference has to be proportionate.
  2. Section 22(4) and (5) of the Children Act 1989 states that before making any decision with respect to a Looked After Child the Local Authority must take into account the wishes and feelings of the child/his or her parents and any person who has Parental Responsibility.
  3. Research demonstrates many children return to their family of origin when they leave care. However one study found that in two-thirds of reviews held prior to leaving care, no family member was present. (Hunt & Macleod 1999). Maximising parental participation may address this incongruence.
  4. Achieving a working partnership with parents is likely to facilitate productive care planning, for instance in promoting continuity of family attachments or speeding a return home. If the parent feels empowered to participate in a review, the Local Authority may be more likely to achieve a shared perception of what has gone wrong and what needs to be done.
  5. Research indicates parents have often experienced review meetings as uncomfortable and frustrating (Algate & Turnstill 1995). Giving space to parents to express their views, facilitating their involvement and following constructive protocol may help.
  6. Parents need to participate as fully as possible in reviews because they hold key information essential to care planning; for example about the child’s needs and interests, family and child history, religious practices, other family members who could help or offer care etc.

Parents where children are looked after under Section 20

Where accommodation is by agreement and not under a Court Order,

Parental Responsibility remains with the parent(s). It is therefore essential that parents are kept informed about and in agreement with the care planning for the child. The Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) needs to check that the Care Plan, agreed with the parents, has been circulated. If agreement cannot be achieved, the Local Authority will need to consider legal options.

Parents where children are looked after under section 31/38/other

The Local Authority must still seek to work in partnership and reach agreement with parents wherever possible.

Individual assessment/discussion needs to take place between the child’s social worker and the IRO at the pre meeting stage as to how to maximise parental participation as appropriate to the particular case. This must include consideration of the child’s wishes and feelings and paramountcy of the child’s needs. Any limitations, for instance where a parent is invited to attend part rather than the whole of the meeting, should be explained by the social worker to the parent prior to the meeting - and reinforced by the IRO at the review meeting. Open practice should be pursued as far as possible.

2. How can we Facilitate Maximum Participation?

Pointers for good practice:

Social Worker’s Role:

Prior to the meeting

  • Confirm date/time/venue with parents at least 2 weeks prior to the date of the review.
  • Explain the purpose of the review, the agenda of the review, the fact that there will be an Independent Chairperson, and the aim that the meeting should be as small, informal and child centred as possible.
  • Encourage the parent to think about key issues and express their thoughts via consultation papers provided at least 2 weeks prior to the date of the review; providing support if the parent has literacy/other needs.
  • Explain to the parent that they may also use an advocate to express their views or speak by telephone with the IRO.
  • Agree any practical help needed e.g. to escort the parent to the meeting or provide funds for transport or childcare where appropriate. Provide directions/travel information.
  • Explain that the parent can request to bring an advocate, family friend or relative to support them. If this is requested the social worker should discuss this with the IRO and agree arrangements.
  • Offer to provide contact details for the IRO if the parent is not going to/is unable attend.
  • If the child does not want the parent to attend, liaise with the IRO to discuss alternate arrangements for consulting with or meeting the parent.
  • Where there may be issues of disagreement or hostility between parents, discuss whether alternative arrangements e.g. separate times/meetings would be helpful with the parent and subsequently with the IRO.
  • Address any issues of potential discrimination, such as physical access to the venue, need for an interpreter etc.
  • Provide a copy of the social work report. Explain anything the parent does not understand in the social work report.

During the meeting

  • Help the parent to express any known views as necessary

Post meeting

  • Debrief after meeting in a sensitive and honest manner.
  • Ensure prompt distribution of the review minutes to parents.
  • Offer to go through minutes of IRO’s Report with the parent or ensure they have someone appropriate to do so if necessary.

IRO’s Role:

Prior to meeting

  • Clarify, in the pre-meeting discussion, that the social worker has fulfilled their role as listed above.
  • Offer to meet/telephone the parent/s prior to the meeting if this is likely to be helpful.

During the meeting

  • Welcome the parents.
  • Explain the IRO’s role and the purpose of the meeting
  • Allow adequate time to discuss and plan, ensure a child friendly venue and time for the parents to interact naturally with their children as well as space for the parents to express their views/concerns/suggestions.
  • If the parent is not present, consider any views relayed to the meeting by alternative means.
  • Ensure that the parent has received - and understood - a copy of the Care Plan for the child.
  • Clarify that the parents received previous minutes if this was agreed.
  • Ditto school and health reports, photographs etc.
  • Consider whether any further written agreements need to be made with the parents.
  • Check that the parent has been informed about the Local Authority’s complaint procedures.
  • Explain parental rights issues including the complaints processes, advocacy services etc
  • Value constructive input.
  • Be clear and proactive in setting boundaries for acceptable behaviour as necessary
  • Explain arrangements for time out /brief adjournment of meeting if emotions run high or the parent and/or the child becomes upset.
  • Clarify that the parent has understood important areas of discussion at the meeting especially the child’s Permanency Plan, any contingency plans and contact arrangements - and recommendations made.
  • Consider any resource need for the parents’ attendance, i.e. travel/childcare/expenses and explain the process for requesting these.
  • Prior to adjourning the meeting ask the parents if they have any questions. Where possible, given child’s needs are paramount, accommodate the parent’s needs when setting the date/time of the next review.
  • Thank the parents for attending

Post meeting

  • If a parent has not attended the meeting or conveyed their views by alternate means, the IRO should make reasonable efforts to obtain their views within 3 weeks in person, in writing or by phone.
  • Ensure the review minutes are completed to timescale so that they can be promptly circulated to the parents.

Foster Carer’s Role:

During meeting

  • Make the parent welcome.
  • Provide information for the parents as agreed e.g. school reports, photographs etc
  • Familiarise the parent with the venue (location bathroom etc) as necessary.
  • Facilitate contact arrangements agreed where possible

Post meeting/ongoing

  • Help to facilitate better relationships and understanding between children and their parents where possible

Supervising Social Worker’s role


  • Help the foster carers with the above.
  • Debrief the foster carers as necessary with regard to any feelings/ difficulties engendered in response to the parent’s participation
  • Help the foster carers understand the pressures on the parents and the parents’ perspective.

Circumstances where parents will not be invited to attend Reviews

Where there is a conflict of interests the child’s needs are paramount

At the pre-meeting stage each case requires individual assessment including risk assessment / discussion as to how / if the parent can participate. The IRO and the child’s social worker will decide at the pre meeting stage who will undertake this and what information the parents will receive. Even if the parents are not going to attend or receive full minutes, they still have a right to be consulted and know the results of review meetings. Another consultation and feedback method may therefore need to be decided. The social worker must convey the results of any risk assessment of the parent(s) to the IRO at the pre-meeting stage.

Examples of where a parent will not be invited to a review include:

  • Where a parent’s presence is likely to be detrimental/abusive to the child or abusive to other participants or detrimental to the Care Planning process;
  • Where permanency plans such as adoption may exclude natural parents - see Adoption Reviews Procedure
  • Where the parent is outside the UK,
  • Where the parent is in prison,
  • When the parent has a physical or mental illness that prevents attendance

The IRO must record the reasons for not inviting a parent clearly in the review minutes and what alternative efforts were made to consult with them. Alternative methods of consultation may include separate meetings with the IRO, telephone discussions with the IRO, written communication or the parents may name an advocate to express their views.

Other Pointers to Remember:

  • To consult the child’s views as age appropriate. The Children Act 1989 states that the child/young person should be consulted with regard to those who they wish to be invited to their review.
  • Parents in some circumstances may need assistance to make a positive contribution, e.g. a parent in prison/hospitalised/with learning difficulties could be supported to write a letter or complete consultation documents or convey their views via a social worker’s visit or a telephone call with the IRO or by engaging an advocate.
  • Research shows Fathers are more likely to be overlooked in consultation processes. Be proactive in including them.
  • Fathers who have not been actively involved in parenting or who do not hold Parental Responsibility are still significant persons in the child’s identity and where possible should be consulted if not invited and not overlooked
  • When parents have not been the main carers prior to the child coming into care, the carers e.g. grandparents (whether they have Parental Responsibility or not) should be consulted or invited
  • When parents have not been in contact for some time, assumptions that they do not wish to participate in the future should not be made. The need for re-investigation of their circumstances should be discussed at each review and if necessary addressed in review decisions.