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4.4.3 Looked After Reviews


Along with all the chapters relating to looked after children this chapter was added to the manual in June 2011.

NOTE: Different provisions apply to children who acquire Looked After status as a result of a remand to Local Authority accommodation or Youth Detention Accommodation. In relation to those children, please see Remands to Local Authority Accommodation or to Youth Detention Accommodation Procedure, Care Planning for Young People on Remand.


Appointment and Role of the Independent Reviewing Officers Procedure


The Preparation for LAC Review Guidance document referred to and linked from Section 3.1, Arranging the first review was updated in April 2017.


  1. The Purpose of Looked After Reviews
  2. Frequency of Looked After Reviews
  3. Convening Looked After Reviews
  4. Participation at Children's LAC Review
  5. Independent Reviewing Officer's Statutory Responsibilities
  6. The Role of the Social Worker
  7. Advocate or Supporter
  8. The Looked After Review in Achieving Permanence for the Child
  9. Looked After Reviews Concerning Children in Long Term Foster Placements
  10. Looked After Reviews on Children who are the Subject of Child Protection Plans
  11. Recording of Looked After Reviews
  12. Review Decisions
  13. Monitoring of Review Decisions
  14. Issue Resolution

1. The Purpose of Looked After Reviews

The review is the fourth component in the cycle of assessment, planning, intervention and review. A review is the child’s meeting.

The IRO (Independent Review Officer) must check with both the child, and other people working with the child, on whether the child is OK and happy where they are living and with their Care Plans. They must regularly ask each child whether they are happy with how things are being done for them, and keep checking what is happening for each child against that child’s plans and the decisions made at their reviews.

The formal element of the review will usually involve a meeting or a series of meetings. Other meetings perhaps solely involving professionals concerned with the child’s care will be held as part of the continuous monitoring of the child’s case but will not form part of the review process. Multi-disciplinary meetings to consider a case are not part of the review process but information gathered can be used to inform the review.

Where a child is in matched long term and stable placement for more than a year consideration needs to be given whether it is necessary to hold a meeting as part of each review. The consultation, information gathering and review process will continue on a 6 monthly cycle and the IRO will visit the child. The Social Worker should consult with the child and IRO where appropriate in reaching this decision and if agreed then a meeting still needs to take place annually. The reasons for this need to be recorded in the child’s Care Plans.

(See Section 9, Looked After Reviews Concerning Children in Long Term Foster Placements).

The purpose of the Looked After Review is to:

  • Ensure that appropriate plans are in place to safeguard and promote the overall welfare of the Looked After child in the most effective way and achieve permanence for him or her within a timescale that meets his or her needs;
  • To monitor the progress of the plans and ensure they are being progressed effectively;
  • To make decisions, as necessary, for amendments to those plans to reflect any change in knowledge and/or circumstances;
  • To ensure the needs of children looked after as a result of a secure remand are met;
  • To ensure that an Eligible Young Person moving into semi-independent accommodation is ready and prepared to move.

It is important that decisions taken at Looked After Reviews are implemented and responsibility for actions clearly defined.

The key plans that should be considered at a Looked After Review are:

The review should also take account of the child's Placement Plan (recorded on the Placement Information Record) and any other plans or strategies (e.g. behaviour management strategy), ensuring that they are up to date, or that arrangements are in place to update them.

2. Frequency of Looked After Reviews


Normally, Looked After Reviews should be convened at the following intervals:

  • An initial Looked After Review should be conducted within 20 days of the child becoming Looked After;
  • The second Looked After Review should be conducted within three months of an Initial Looked After Review;
  • Subsequent Looked After Reviews should be conducted not more than six months after any previous review.

The purpose of the review is to monitor the progress of achieving the outcomes set out in the Care Plan and to make decisions to amend the plan as necessary. From the first LAC review for children in proceedings a Permanency Plan is required following on from Child Protection and PLO Process. For all other LAC Children there is a requirement for a permanency plan at the second LAC review. For relinquished babies the first LAC review takes place within 10 working days to ensure speedy placement see Guardian Role for Relinquished babies.

Subsequent reviews will be occasions for monitoring progress against that the plan and making the decision to amend the plan as necessary, to reflect new knowledge and changed circumstances.


In relation to children placed with prospective adopters or where there is Authority to Place for Adoption.

Where a child is looked after by a Local Authority, even though the agency is authorised to place the child for adoption, the review requirements will continue to be governed by the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010 (the 2010 Regulations) until the child is placed for adoption. AAR 36 however will apply whenever the agency is authorised to place the child for adoption and:

  • The child is yet to be placed;
  • The child has been placed; or
  • The placement has disrupted.

This means, therefore, that while the child is authorised to be placed for adoption but not placed, reviews will need to comply with both relevant sets of regulations.

Cambridgeshire County Council staff can see Guidance for Timescales for Child becomes looked after and review process by clicking here.

3. Convening Looked After Reviews

3.1 Arranging the first review

As soon as a child becomes Looked After, the child's Social Worker / Consultant Social Worker / Unit Coordinator must complete the SOC 408 and send to which will notify the Safeguarding and Standards Unit (SASU) LAC as well as Health Assessments Team and the Virtual School Service.

See Preparation for LAC review guidance.

3.2 Arranging second and subsequent reviews

At the end of each review the IRO will set the date, time and venue of the next review.

Review dates cannot be rearranged unless there are exceptional circumstances and then only if the rearranged meeting can take place within statutory timescales, in which case the new date should be agreed by the Social Worker with the IRO and the Safeguarding and Standards Unit (SASU LAC) who will inform the other participants. Changes of review meetings need to be agreed by the Group Manager SASU. Reviews will be brought forward for reasons identified in the Guidance for Timescales for Child becomes looked after and review process.

In the event of a key participant being ill or unable to attend the review, the meeting may go ahead but the IRO may decide that the review be adjourned to a new date when all participants can attend - see Section 5, Independent Reviewing Officer's Statutory Responsibilities.

4. Participation at Children's LAC Review

Discussion should take place between the Social Worker and the child (subject to age and understanding) at least 20 working days before the meeting about who the child would like to attend the meeting and where the meeting will be held. If an initial LAC review this should be agreed at least 10 days prior to the LAC review.

LAC reviews should be child centred and only involve the number of professionals alongside the child, his / her carers and his / her parents. Except where this is not appropriate. For children who are too young to participate in reviews s/he must be observed in placement. The IRO needs to give consideration whether a series of meetings is required to involve relevant people to ensure that those with a meaningful contribution have the opportunity to participate and if it is not relevant for parents to attend the review with the child. Consideration should be given to the following attending if relevant:

  • Independent visitor;
  • Advocate;
  • Interpreter;
  • Foster carers support worker;
  • Link worker;
  • Family Finder;
  • ESLAC Worker.

For children in Court Proceedings the Child’s Guardian should always be invited.

A balance must be struck in relation to who the child wishes to be present and the need for information and input from the professionals and family members involved. Efforts should be made to keep the number present at the review as small as possible. It may be appropriate for information to be provided in writing or at a separate meeting where the contribution is strictly factual.

Children and parents should also be informed that they can arrange to see the IRO separately if they wish or bring a supporter or interpreter to the review.

Where the child does not wish to attend the review, the IRO must, at the very least, speak to the child before the review - wherever possible in a face to face meeting.

The child's Social Worker must ensure that children and families have been given information about the Complaints Procedure. They should provide the child with details of independent advocacy services who may provide support if the child requires it.

The IRO will enable any child or young person to chair their own review and they will discuss this at every review - offering creative ways of undertaking this. Young people may feel more comfortable about chairing part of their review in the first instance.

There may be exceptional circumstances where the child’s Social Worker, in consultation with the IRO decides that the attendance of the carer at all or part of the review meeting will not be appropriate or practicable. Where this is the case, a written explanation of the reasons should be given and other arrangements made for the carer to contribute to the review process. Details of the reasons why a carer is excluded and a record of their input should be placed on the child’s case record.

Parental Involvement

A decision not to invite parent(s) to a review should only be made in exceptional circumstances and in consultation with the IRO, prior to the review. The decision should be recorded, together with reasons, on the review document and child's record. If parents are not invited then they need to be consulted with either in a separate meeting or by telephone by the IRO and their views recorded in the review document.

When a child is in an adoption placement the parent will not be involved in the review meeting, although agreements about contact / letter box will be discussed.

In respect of 16-17 year old homeless young person who has requested that key professionals or family members are not to be invited or to participate in the review meeting, the Social Worker should consider the potential risks this may have to the young person’s well being and implications for their Care Plan. Young people should be made aware that when they become looked after that their parents will be communicated with and therefore the IRO will be making separate calls / visits to the parents to update and ascertain their wishes and views. If there are exceptional circumstances or specific safeguarding issues - the IRO will record their reasons for not communicating directly with parents.

LAC reviews, which are held in the absence of the young person, their family or any professional who has established a relationship with the young person, should be postponed and rescheduled.

Where any other invited person cannot attend, the IRO may agree that a delegate attend instead.

5. Independent Reviewing Officer's Statutory Responsibilities

The IROs role is to chair Looked After Reviews and monitor the appropriateness of the Care Plan (on an ongoing basis including whether any safeguarding issues arise), its implementation and to establish whether the milestones set out in the plan are being achieved in a timely way.

See also Appointment and Role of the Independent Reviewing Officer Procedure, which sets out in detail to role of the IRO outside the Looked After Review.

In relation to their role at reviews, a key task for all IROs is to ensure that the review process is child and family centred and that the child's views are heard. They should be satisfied that disabled children's contributions are obtained and effectively presented in the review.

The IRO should consult the child about their Care Plan at each review and at any time that there is a significant change to the Care Plan. The IRO should meet the child before the first Looked After Review and arrange to meet the child as appropriate in advance of subsequent Looked After Reviews.

The IRO must be satisfied that the wishes and feelings of the child’s parents, any person who is not a parent but who has parental responsibility and the current carer (foster carer or registered person in respect of a children’s home) have been taken into account as part of the review process.

Wherever possible, the child should be encouraged to chair the meeting and in these circumstances the IRO will assist the child. In all other cases, the IRO will chair the review.

More than one meeting may be required to ensure the views of relevant people inform the review without the meeting becoming too large. For example it may be appropriate to hold a meeting involving the child prior to a meeting involving the parent to obtain information and ascertain the views of both where the child does not wish to attend a review with his or her parents present.

The IRO is responsible for ensuring that all relevant people, including the child and parents, understand the purpose of the review and have been given appropriate opportunities to contribute and express their views. The IRO should also ensure that relevant consultation has taken place with those professionals who are not in attendance at the meeting.

Where participants' views are not followed, an explanation of the reasons why needs to be provided by the IRO and/or the Social Worker. Any differences of opinion should be recorded in the minutes.

If the parent(s) or the child brings a supporter, the IRO will need to explain his or her role, ensuring that the supporter understands that he or she may clarify information but may not cross-examine any contributor.

The agenda for each review will be agreed at the beginning of the meeting and each participant will be invited to contribute their own items to the agenda and have the opportunity to contribute to the discussion.

The IRO will decide on what actions in principle are necessary to meet the child's reviewed needs and make recommendations as to how these should be achieved.

Where a review considers that adoption or long term fostering is the most appropriate way to meet the child's needs, the recommendation is then submitted to the Adoption Panel or Agency Decision Maker (Adoption) as appropriate for consideration.

The IRO may adjourn a review meeting once, for not more than 20 working days, if not satisfied that sufficient information has been provided by the Local Authority to enable proper consideration of any of the factors to be considered.

The IRO should consider the effects on the child of delaying the meeting, and seek the wishes and feelings of the child, carer and parents where appropriate.

No proposal under consideration at the adjourned review can be implemented until the review has been completed.

It will be necessary for the IRO to ensure decisions are clear and establish who is responsible for action and the timescales agreed for completion. The IRO should ensure that the following are considered and accounted for during the review:

  1. The effect of any change in the child's circumstances since the last review, any change made to the Care Plan, whether decisions taken at the last review have been successfully implemented and if not the reasons;
  2. Whether any change should be sought in the child's legal status;
  3. Whether there is a plan for permanence;
  4. Arrangements for contact/whether there is any need for changes to the arrangements in order to promote contact between the child and parents/other Connected Persons;
  5. Whether the placement continues to be the most appropriate available, whether any change to the placement agreement or any other aspect of the arrangements is likely to become necessary before the next review;
  6. Whether the placement safeguards and promotes the child’s welfare and whether any safeguarding concerns have been raised;
  7. The child's educational needs, progress and development and whether any change is likely to become necessary or desirable before the next review, including consideration of his/her most recent assessment of progress and development; whether the arrangements are meeting the child's educational needs; whether the child has a Personal Education Plan (PEP) and whether its content provides a clear framework for promoting educational achievement;
  8. The child's leisure interests and activities and whether the arrangements are meeting his/her needs;
  9. The child's health report, and whether any change in health care arrangements is likely to be necessary or desirable before the next review; whether the content of the Health Plan provides a clear framework for promoting the child's health; whether the arrangements are meeting the child's health needs;
  10. Whether the child's needs related to identity are being met and whether any change is required having regard to the child's religious persuasion, racial origin and cultural background;
  11. Whether the arrangements for advice, support and assistance continue to be appropriate and understood by the child;
  12. Whether any arrangements need to be made for the time when the child will no longer be looked after;
  13. The child's wishes and feelings and the views of the IRO about any aspect of the case and in particular about any changes made since the last review or proposed to be made to the Care Plan; whether the plan fulfils the duty to safeguard and promote the child's welfare and whether it would be in the child's interests for an Independent Visitor to be appointed;
  14. Where the child is placed with parents before an assessment is completed, the frequency of the Social Worker's visits;
  15. Whether the delegation of authority to take decisions about a child’s care continues to be appropriate and in the child’s best interests;
  16. Other matters which may arise should also be considered with due regard to the circumstances of the child and the placement.

6. The Role of the Social Worker

The child's Social Worker must discuss the purpose of the review with the child, parents and carers and consult the child about invitations at least 20 working days before the review meeting. For initial LAC review this will be 10 working days before the review - see above.

Where the child wishes to chair his or her own review, the Social Worker should inform the IRO.

In all cases, the child and parent(s) should be encouraged and supported by the Social Worker to prepare for the review, in writing or other ways if they wish, for example by seeing the IRO separately. The Social Worker should agree with the IRO how this will be achieved. This requires early consultation between the social worker and the IRO, and should be part of a thorough preparation of all the key issues for the review.

The child's Social Worker must also ensure the child's IRO is kept informed of any significant changes in the child's circumstances and the outcomes of any other meetings held as part of the review process, which consider aspects of the child's Care Plan. In addition, the Social Worker must notify the IRO if he or she believes that decisions made at a review are no longer appropriate because of a change in circumstances.

Care Plans to be discussed in Unit Meetings prior to the review, these should be updated with proposed care plan and copies sent to the LAC review. Updated Care Plan should reflect agreed outcomes of LAC review decisions and to be discussed in Unit Meetings post review with agreed timescales of who does what and when. The updated Care Plan should be recorded on to ICS (ONE) 10 days after receiving completed review document.

Cambridgeshire County Council staff can see Guidance for Care Plans by clicking here.

Where the child has been or is the subject of Court Proceedings, the Social Worker should ensure the IRO has clear information of the child's legal status and the Court timetable.

Prior to the review, the Social Worker must ensure the child's records and plans are up to date, for example, that they include records of the placement visits and the last date when the child's sleeping accommodation was seen. Any changes in household membership need to be clearly recorded.

After the review, the Social Worker is responsible for updating the Care Plan within 10 working days of receiving the completed review. The Care Plan needs to be discussed in the unit meeting and any changes to the Care Plan including the Permanence Plan, if this was recommended at the review.

The Social Worker should also complete or update the Pathway Plan, if relevant and recommended in the review.

Where the child and/or the parents are unable to attend the review, the IRO must consult and ensure they are informed of the outcome of the review.

See also Appointment and Role of Independent Reviewing Officer Procedure, Duty of Social Worker to keep IRO informed.

7. Advocate or Supporter

The Social Worker and IRO should consider prior to the review whether either the child or parent(s) would benefit from the presence of a supporter or advocate and if so, the Social Worker should ensure the necessary arrangements are made. A supporter may be either an advocate on behalf of the child/parent(s) or a person with specialist skills or knowledge.

It may also be necessary for the Social Worker to make arrangements for an interpreter to attend. Special needs, for example those arising from disability, should always be considered and appropriate assistance arranged where relevant.

Any request by the child or parent(s) for their legal adviser to attend as their supporter should be notified to the IRO prior to the review and arrangements made where appropriate for the attendance at the review of a Local Authority legal adviser.

8. The Looked After Review in Achieving Permanence for the Child

The Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) must check that the child's Care Plan includes a Permanence Plan with measurable milestones and a Contingency Plan should the preferred plans not materialise. For relinquished babies or children in Care Proceedings this needs to take place at the first LAC review.

At the second Looked After Review, there is a requirement to focus on the Permanence Plan for all children, to ensure it provides permanence for the child within a timescale which is realistic, achievable and meets the child's needs.

If it is considered that the chosen avenue to permanence is not viable, the IRO should ensure that the Social Worker arranges as a matter of urgency to consider the most appropriate permanent alternative.

There may be a need for a Parallel Plan to be made where there is more than one options for a Permanence Plan. For example where a plan for reunification of the child has not been achieved, the Review should seek to establish whether the lack of progress is as a result of drift or whether there are valid child-centred reasons, properly recorded and endorsed by the Consultant Social Worker's. No further reunification plan should be recommended unless there are exceptional reasons justifying such a plan or where further assessment is specifically directed by the Court. In this case, the Parallel Plan must include the active pursuit of an alternative placement for the child.

All subsequent Reviews should review the progress and validity of the Permanence Plan.

See Family Finding Flow Chart.

9. Looked After Reviews Concerning Children in Long Term Foster Placements

The March 2015 Statutory Guidance 'Permanence, long-term foster placements and ceasing to look after a child' sets out that where a child is placed in a designated long-term foster placement and has been in this placement for more than a year consideration should be given to whether it is necessary to hold a meeting as part of each review.

The guidance requires that the Social Worker should consult the IRO and the child (where appropriate to age and understanding) in reaching a decision on whether to hold a meeting. Where it is agreed that a meeting will not be held as part of every review a meeting should be held at least once a year. The factors leading to a decision to hold review meetings on a less frequent basis must be recorded in the child’s Care Plan.

Where a decision is taken that the review process will not include a meeting the IRO must ensure that full consultation with all relevant individuals, including the child, has taken place to inform the review of the child’s case.

10. Looked After Reviews on Children who are the Subject of Child Protection Plans

Where a looked after child remains the subject of a Child Protection Plan, there should be a single planning and reviewing process, led by the IRO, leading to the development of a single plan.

Consideration should be given to the IRO chairing the Child Protection Conference where a looked after child remains subject to a Child Protection Plan. Where that is not possible, it will be expected that the IRO will attend the Child Protection Review Conference.

The timing of the review of the child Protection aspects of the Care Plan should be as in Section 2, Frequency of Looked After Reviews.

The Looked After Review, when reviewing the child protection aspects of the plan, should consider whether the criteria continue to be met for the child to remain the subject of a Child Protection Plan by the second Looked After Child Review when the Permanence Plan should be in place.

Consideration must be given to ensuring that the multi-agency contribution to the review of the Child Protection Plan is addressed within the review of the Care Plan.

11. Recording of Looked After Reviews

It is the responsibility of the Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) to record the review. A written record of the decisions and recommendations will be completed and circulated by the Independent Review Officer to the Consultant Social Worker within 5 working days of the meeting - generally the whole review document will be available.

The full written record of the review will be completed within 10 working days of the review if not completed within the 5 working days. The Safeguarding and Standards Unit (SASU) will send copies out to all relevant parties who been invited to the review meeting unless identified not to.

The decisions should have any identifying details removed as necessary, specifically, the address of the placement.

Where parents do not attend the review/part of the meeting and contribute their views in some other manner, a discussion should take place between the Social Worker and the IRO as to whether it is in the child's interest for the parents to receive a full record of the review, and, if not, what written information should be sent to them. Examples of where this should be a consideration are where there is a 'no contact order' or supervised contact only.

Cambridgeshire County Council staff can see Guidance for LAC review by clicking here.

12. Review Decisions

A designated senior member of staff (Consultant Social Worker) should consider the decisions made at each Looked After Review within five working days of receiving them and to advise the IRO and all those who attended the review if they are unable to agree them.

If no response is received the decisions should be considered agreed by the Local Authority and should be implemented within the timescales set out in them.

If the Consultant Social Worker disagrees with any of the decisions within that initial five working day period, this should be notified in writing to the IRO and all those who attended the review.

In the first instance the IRO should attempt to resolve the issue informally. If this is not successful the IRO can consider activating the local issue resolution process. See below.

13. Monitoring of Review Decisions

The Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) plays an important part in the quality assurance function of the Local Authority's service for looked after children. It will be important that they recognise and report on good practice by individuals or teams.

It is important for the IRO to have a collaborative relationship with the Social Workers and their managers.

Between LAC reviews the IRO will ensure that they follow up actions and timescales to ensure that they are achieved. Where agreed LAC reviews they will make contact with the children and young people to ensure that the plan is progressing as agreed.

14. Issue Resolution

The job of the IRO is to: “Make sure that everyone does what they are meant to, make sure the child gets their say and make sure things get done”.

Roger Morgan, Children’s Rights Director for England.

The individual IRO is personally responsible for activating the issue resolution process (‘dispute resolution' as identified in the IRO Handbook 2010) if in accordance with the best interest and welfare of the young person as well as his/her human rights. However it is expected that they will discuss with their Group Manager in SASU before initiating the process. Both informal and formal alerts need to be recorded by the IRO.

1. When to do it - i.e. in what circumstances

Where the IRO is of the view that the responsible Authority:

  • Has failed to address the needs of the child set out in the revised plan; and/or
  • Has failed to review the case in accordance with the Regulations; and/or
  • Has failed to implement effectively any decision made at a review; and/or
  • Is otherwise in breach of its duties to the child in any significant way;

The IRO must advise staff at an appropriate level of seniority of this failure.

It will be important that senior managers then work to resolve the failure within a timescale that meets the needs of the individual child.

The duty of the IRO is to:

  • Make sure that the person responsible for implementing decisions made at a review is identified; and
  • Identify a timescale for the implementation of the decision.

If the decision is not implemented within that timescale, or only partially implemented, the IRO may consider activating the IRO alert and issues.

Where the delay is having a negative impact on the child’s welfare, the IRO should not be deflected from fulfilling core IRO functions by issues relating to staffing or budget limitations that are given by others as reasons for delay. The timescale for the child must be the deciding factor.

Within Cambridgeshire IRO raise informal alerts and formal issues. Within the same process the IROs will identify thematic issues and good practice.

Cambridgeshire County Council staff can see Guidance IRO Alerts and Issues by clicking here.

2. CAFCASS procedure

  • The IRO has the power to refer the matter to CAFCASS at any point in the dispute resolution process and may consider it necessary to make a concurrent referral to CAFCASS at the same time that s/he instigates the dispute resolution process;
  • Where the IRO has reached a decision to curtail the dispute resolution process within the Local Authority, to meet the needs of the child and refer the matter to CAFCASS, the IRO should explain the reasons for this to the senior officer;
  • When considering whether to make a referral to CAFCASS, the IRO should consider the impact that a referral would have for the child. In some cases, there will be time available to pursue the full dispute resolution procedure within the Local Authority before referring to CAFCASS. In other situations, the matter will be of sufficient urgency that the dispute resolution process needs to be curtailed. It is the responsibility of the IRO to make the decision about whether and when a referral is necessary, based on the timetable for the child;
  • The IRO can make a referral to CAFCASS by contacting CAFCASS Legal initially by telephone, but the referral should always be confirmed in writing to the duty lawyer who will provide contact details to the IRO. Contact details can be found on the CAFCASS website.

3. Independent Legal Advice

Each Local Authority should have a system in place that provides its IROs with access to independent legal advice. To start this process, contact the Head of Community Services Law by email, who will contact Bedfordshire, with whom we have a reciprocal arrangement for independent legal advice.

4. General

4.1 Example of when the IRO will raise disputes in order to resolve problems:

  • Interruption of school placement/care placement during KS4 education;
  • Relevant referrals not made to other partners or agencies, when they have been identified in the Care Plan;
  • Failure to resolve a dispute.

4.2 Other things to consider:

  • Be professional and objective;
  • Use evidence that is available to you to support your concerns;
  • Refer to guidance and use the duties of an IRO as your basis for intervention, rather than self-aggrandise or take lack of progress personally;
  • Don’t forget to involve advocates for children/young people.