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6.12 Protocol between Independent Reviewing Officers and Managers


N.B. This Protocol should be read in conjunction with:

Looked After Review Procedure

Appointment and Role of Independent Reviewing Officers Procedure

IRO Escalation Process


This chapter was updated in March 2017 to reference the re-titled and amended IRO Escalation Process.


  1. Role of Independent Reviewing Officers
  2. Role of Advanced Practitioner in Ratifying Review Recommendations
  3. Communication Between Reviews
  4. Guidelines for Achieving Consensus about Review Recommendations
  5. Guidelines: When Should a Manager Attend a Review with the Social Worker?

1. Role of Independent Reviewing Officers

Independent Reviewing Officers (IRO's) are employed to chair Looked After Reviews, bringing an element of independence to the decision-making process, and seeking to maintain or improve care standards in order to ensure good outcomes and avoid drift for Looked After Children. It is the IRO's role to:

  • Actively consult the child and ensure their views are given appropriate weight;
  • Ensure the Human Rights of the child are not breached;
  • Ensure the child has access to an independent Advocate if required;
  • Initiate problem solving procedures within the local authority and via CAFCASS if necessary when there is failure to implement decisions of Looked After Reviews;
  • Escalate concerns where there is a repeated or significant failure to pursue the duties of Southwark as corporate parent. This will include:
    • Repeated poor practice /compliance with Looked After Review decisions;
    • Significant drift in Permanence Planning;
    • Change of Care Plan without consultation with IRO or child;
    • Issues of Human Rights (including discriminatory practice);
    • Repeated failure to meet statutory requirements /Performance Indicators;
    • Repeated failure to inform IRO of significant events between Reviews.

The IRO will coordinate discussion during the review process, facilitate the meeting, and make recommendations as to plans or actions, which are considered to be in the child's best interests. It is noted that Review recommendations need to be realistic and feasible.

IRO's will aim to provide continuity by continuing to chair an identified case until such a point is reached when the Chair's own independence needs to be reviewed.

2. Role of Advanced Practitioner in Ratifying Recommendations

At present the Advanced Practitioner is the 'Ratifying Officer'. It is his or her role to endorse or otherwise the Looked After Review recommendations on Mosaic. If the manager consents to all recommendations, he or she should sign off the Review. 

If there is any dissent or proposed changes/additions to Looked After Review recommendations, the Advanced Practitioner notes his or her view and reasons for it in the section entitled "Case Manager Comment" on the LAC review record. Thereafter the guidelines for achieving consensus outlined below would apply.

3. Communication Between Reviews

3.1 Social Worker/ Practice Supervisor's role

The Review of Children's Cases (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2004 introduced the duty for local authorities to inform the IRO of:

  1. Any significant failure to make arrangements in accordance with Review decisions;
  2. Any significant change of circumstances occurring after the Review that affects those arrangements.

The following significant changes must be reported to IROs:

  • Change of Care Plan;
  • Outcomes from Panels;
  • Outcomes from Court Hearings and Court Orders;
  • Unexpected change of placement;
  • Unexpected change in family circumstances of birth/foster family circumstances (births/deaths/moves etc.);
  • Out of education/exclusion for more than 5 days;
  • Serious injury/illness of child or young person;
  • Change of social worker or team;
  • Involvement in serious criminal activities;
  • Breakdown or significant change in contact arrangements;
  • Unexpected discharges or proposed discharges from care;
  • Missing from care for more than 3 days;
  • Significant delays in completing Looked After Review decisions or in Adoption Plans;
  • Complaint from child, parent or carer;
  • Allegations against carer;
  • Child protection issues;
  • Pregnancy/ Birth of baby to child or young person.

3.2 IRO's role

Where a Looked After Review has been very difficult and the social worker may be in need of immediate support, the IRO will alert the practice supervisor and in certain circumstances (e.g. threats of violence), the social worker's team manager.

Where there are issues of competency and/or a sub-standard review report and/or where significant decisions have not been carried out, the IRO will inform the Advanced Practitioner, Practice Group Lead and the social worker as appropriate, using the IRO Escalation Process.

Where there are examples of exemplary practice, the IRO will inform the social worker's Advanced Practitioner so that the social worker can receive praise for their work.

When a child protection disclosure/allegation has been made at a Looked After Review, the IRO will inform the Advanced Practitioner.

The IRO will communicate urgent recommendations for action by the social worker's team manager and/or practice supervisor as appropriate.

3.3 Guidance regarding complaints arising during a Looked After Review

It is the role of the IRO to explain the Complaints procedure to the child and the possibility of the child consulting an Advocate as necessary. The IRO will also record the nature of any complaint and briefly note relevant discussion. It should be noted that the child should already have been informed of these areas by the social worker when becoming Looked After.

The IRO should ensure that the social worker's managers are made aware of any complaint. 

In some cases the IRO may also point out other means of resolution of conflict such as a child's right to apply to the Court themselves for various orders. 

The IRO may recommend that advocacy arrangements be made for a particular child. The emphasis will be on the speedy resolution of problems informally by negotiation if possible.

The IRO needs to stay involved with a complaint until it has been resolved. In circumstances where there is a complaints officer and an Advocate, it will be good practice for them to agree channels of communication and their respective roles in trying to resolve a complaint.

4. Guidelines for Achieving Consensus about Review Recommendations

4.1 Guidance regarding Pre-meets and Social Work Reports

A pre-meet, at least via telephone, should take place in respect of each Looked After Review. For complex cases, pre-meets should take place in person. A completed social work report and Care Plan agreed by the Advance Practitioner should be sent to the IRO at least one week prior to the Looked After Review.

It is inevitable that at times tension may exist between the views and recommendations of the IRO and the views of the social worker. Differing viewpoints can be very helpful in working out what is in a child's best interests. In the vast majority of cases consensus is achieved without controversy.

4.2 Resolution of differences of opinion

  1. Where a difference of opinion is anticipated prior to the pre-meet/discussion. The Advanced Practitioner¬†should be invited to the pre-meet so that a full discussion can take place. Where a case is very complex or controversial, the Advanced Practitioner should also consider attending the Looked After Review meeting in order to hear and partake in any discussion;
  2. Where a difference of opinion becomes apparent at the pre-meet discussion with the social worker. In this situation it is the responsibility of the IRO to discuss the case as soon as possible, i.e. prior to the Looked After Review, with the Advanced Practitioner either by phone or in person;
  3. Where actual or potential difference of views between the operational service and the IRO becomes apparent at the Looked After Review meeting itself, the IRO should record the disparity of views. The IRO may consider adjourning the discussion, suggesting that a meeting is convened where the Advanced Practitioner can be present;
  4. Where the Advanced Practitioner disagrees with any review recommendation. Please refer to Section 2, Role of Advanced Practitioner in Ratifying Review Recommendations above regarding this;
  5. Where the Advanced Practitioner and IRO are still in disagreement after discussion has taken place. In this eventuality the IRO Dispute Resolution Process and Flowchart will be initiated and the IRO Escalation Form used.

5. Guidelines: When Should a Manager Attend a Review with the Social Worker?

We suggest that everyone bear in mind that a Looked After Review should only have the minimum number of people present in order to ensure its effectiveness and enable children and parents to participate fully and allow for effective decision-making.

The following is a list of circumstances when a manager should consider attendance:

  1. Where the complexity of the case justifies the attendance of the Advanced Practitioner or another member of the practice group;
  2. Where interpersonal dynamics (such as an aggressive attitude or behaviour) justifies the attendance of the Advanced Practitioner;
  3. Where the social worker is inexperienced and/or needing support/guidance from their manager;
  4. When a social worker is not able to attend, the Advanced Practitioner may attend in their place.