Child in Care Reviews

1. The Purpose of Child in Care Reviews

The purpose of the Child in Care Review is to bring together the child, parents, carers and other professionals to plan for the child and review the Care Plan. This will ensure that everything that needs to be done to enable children to achieve the best outcomes and not drift in the care system is identified and being undertaken. Child in Care Reviews should normally be conducted at a meeting although this may not be required in respect of a child who has been in a designated Long-term Foster Placement for over twelve months (see Section 11, Child in Care Reviews Concerning Children in Long Term Foster Placements).

The Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) seeks to achieve this through the following:

  • Provide key people involved in the child's Care Plan an opportunity to come together;
  • Involve the child and key adult's in the decision making process;
  • Review the child's Care Plan and ensure it Safeguards and Promotes the Welfare of the Child and achieves permanence for them within a timescale that meets their needs;
  • Ensure the Care Plan is of quality, implemented effectively and meets the assessed needs of the child;
  • Monitor the progress of achieving the outcomes set out in the Care Plan to make sure they are being progressed effectively;
  • Make recommendation to change all or part of the plan if it is not working or to meet the changing needs of the child;
  • Ensure that the wishes and feelings of the child and parents are taken into consideration;
  • Ensure the needs of Children in Care as a result of a secure remand are met;
  • To ensure that all eligible Young People post 16 have an up to date Pathway Plan (part 1 assessment and part 2 plan);
  • To ensure that an Eligible Young Person moving into semi-independent accommodation is ready and prepared to move; there must be detailed plans to ensure the young person understands what will happen following their 18th birthday and the impact of a change of status from being a looked after child to one who is no longer a looked after child;
  • For a young person living in foster care, the first Child in Care Review following their 16th birthday should consider whether a Staying Put arrangement (whereby the young person remains in the foster home after the age of 18) should be an option. The Fostering Social Worker and the social worker will need to be clear with foster carers and the looked after child about what happens under a Staying Put arrangement and the changes in payments and expectations. It is important to complete an updated placement arrangements meeting and the IRO should include this in their recommendations for planning transitions.
It is important that decisions taken at Child in Care Reviews are implemented and responsibility for actions clearly defined. A Child in Care Review must take place before any significant change is made to the child's Care Plan, unless that is not reasonably practicable, including a decision to cease looking after a child.

The key plans that should be considered at a Child in Care Review are:

  • Care Plan: Describes the child's needs and how they will be met;
  • Permanence Plan: Describes how security and stability is going to be achieved for the child;
  • Health Action Plan: Describes what support or treatment is being provided to help the child keep healthy and well;
  • Pathway Plan if applicable: Prepares a young person for the transition from care into adulthood;
  • Personal Education Plan (PEP): Describes what support is being provided to help the child do well at school, college or in training;
  • Contingency Plan: Covers identifiable risks such as breakdown in current placement or in the event of not achieving permanence plan within the child's timeframe.

The review should also take account of the child's Placement Plan 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 Child in Care Reviews


Normally, Child in Care Reviews should be convened at the following intervals

  • An initial Child in Care Review should be conducted within 20 working days of the child coming into care;
  • The second Child in Care Review should be conducted within three months of an Initial Child in Care Reviews;
  • Subsequent Child in Care Reviews should be conducted not more than six months after any previous review.
2.2 In relation to children placed with prospective adopters or where there is Authority to Place for Adoption, see the Adoption Partnership South East Regional Adoption Agency Procedures.

Child in Care Reviews should be brought forward by an IRO where the circumstances of an event has a significant impact upon the child's Care Plan, as suggested in the following sorts of circumstances:

  • A proposed change of Care Plan for example arising at short notice in the course of proceedings following directions from the court;
  • Where agreed decisions from the review are not carried out within the specified timescale;
  • Major change to the Contact Arrangements/Family Time;
  • Changes of allocated social worker;
  • Any safeguarding concerns involving the child, which may lead to enquiries being made under Section 47 of the 1989 Act ('child protection enquiries') and outcomes of child protection conferences, or other meetings that are not attended by the IRO;
  • Complaints from or on behalf of the child, parent or carer;
  • Unexpected changes in the child's placement provision which may significantly impact on placement stability or safeguarding arrangements;
  • Significant changes in birth family circumstances for example births, marriages or deaths which may have a particular impact on the child;
  • If the child is charged with any offence leading to referral to youth offending services, pending criminal proceedings and any convictions or sentences as a result of such proceedings;
  • If the child is excluded from school;
  • If the child has run away or is missing from an approved placement;
  • Significant health, medical events, diagnoses, illnesses, hospitalisations, or serious accidents; and panel decisions in relation to permanency.

DfE Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations - Volume 2: Care Planning, Placement and Case Review.

This is not an exhaustive list and the IRO may judge that other events are significant and require an earlier review. The parents and child should also be consulted about the need for an additional review.

3. Chairing of Reviews

Independent Reviewing Officers (IROs) will chair reviews. They are located within the Independent Reviewing Officer Service.

The IRO's responsibilities are outlined in Section 8, Independent Reviewing Officer's Responsibilities.

See also Appointment and Role of the Independent Reviewing Officer Procedure.

If the allocated IRO cannot attend the meeting and it is important that the review meeting is not delayed. Where ever possible the meeting will be chaired/attended by a substitute IRO or an alternative date will be agreed.

4. Convening Child in Care Reviews

4.1 Arranging the First Review

As soon as a child comes into care, the child's social worker must notify the Independent Reviewing Officer Service by e-mail, preferably before, or at the latest within, 2 working days.

Once the IRO service has received the written notification from the social worker that a child has come into care the IRO service will allocate an IRO within 5 working days.

The aim of the service is to ensure wherever possible the child has the same IRO during the time they are in care. Wherever possible siblings will have the same IRO.

The IRO administration assistant will agree with the social worker a date and time when the IRO is available to chair the Initial review and confirm with the IRO and social worker in writing.

4.2 Arranging Second and Subsequent Reviews

At the end of each review the IRO will set the date, time and venue of the next review, taking account of what is convenient for review participants.

Review dates cannot be rearranged unless there are exceptional circumstances and it is agreed by the Service Manager and the IRO Team Manager and 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 Independent Reviewing Officer Service. The social worker will inform the other participants.

In the event of a key participant being ill or unable to attend the review, the meeting will go ahead but the IRO may decide that the review be adjourned to a new date when all participants can attend or hold the meeting in two parts.

Should the child cease to be a Child in Care before the review date, the child's social worker will notify the Independent Reviewing Officer Service who will notify the IRO who will make a decision as to whether the review should still be held. If the decision is that the review will be cancelled the social worker will inform prospective attendees.

5. Invitations and the Child's Participation

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. Where possible, let the child/young person have a say on where the reviews take place and this should be recorded.

The social worker will ensure that invitations to reviews are sent following consultation with the IRO, they will decide who should be invited taking the child views into consideration. Invitations to reviews and consultation documents should be sent out to all those participating in the review at least 10 working days before the meeting.

The following people should normally be invited:

  • The child. There is a presumption that the child will attend the review. A child's disability must not be a bar to the child's attendance;
  • The parents and those with Parental Responsibility, carers and any significant people or specialists involved in the child's case (except as set out below);
  • The Fostering Social Worker, if the child is placed with foster carers;
  • The link worker if the child is in residential care;
  • The most appropriate teacher at the child's school (usually the Designated Teacher for Children in Care);
  • A Personal Adviser, if the child is over the age of 16;
  • An Independent Visitor, if involved;
  • If required, an interpreter or signer;
  • Any other person with a legitimate interest in the child e.g. health care professional, GP, a representative from the Local Authority in whose area it is proposed that the child will be placed (such attendance should always be discussed with the child before invitations are made and his/her views obtained);
  • The officer with lead responsibility for implementing the authority's duty to promote the educational achievement of its Children in Care;
  • The allocated social worker.
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 an appropriate supporter or advocate to the review.

Where the 'supporter' is a legal representative then the IRO should note the Law Society guidance 'Attendance of Solicitors at Local Authority Children Act Meetings' and related Code of Conduct (2011).

All solicitors attending these meetings should be aware of the local policies and procedures in respect of Children Act Meetings.

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 the child and their 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.

A decision not to invite a child or 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 case record.

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.

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

6. The Social Worker's Responsibilities

Before the Review:

  • Before the Review, arrangements are agreed the child's social worker must discuss the purpose of the Review with the child (subject to age and understanding) and with the child's parents and carers and find out what their views are regarding the Care Plan for the child;
  • The IRO will contact the social worker at least 15 days before the review. The social worker should confirm with the IRO who is invited to the Review, for Initial Reviews, why the child is in care and progress made since the child came into care. For second or subsequent review the social worker will update the IRO on progress since the last Review and any issues that need to be discussed;
  • The social worker should ensure that the venue is booked and invitations to Reviews, along with consultation documents are sent out at least 10 working days before the Review meeting;
  • The child and parents should be encouraged and supported by the social worker to prepare for the Review;
  • The child's social worker will ensure that the child has an opportunity to set out their views in whatever way they wish;
  • The social worker must ensure the following documents are available to the IRO at least 3 working days before the Review:
    1. The child/young person Child in Care Review pre-meeting report;
    2. Any written reports from those invited to the review - child's, parents and foster carers completed consultation forms;
    3. An updated child/young person Care Plan, Court Plan (if the child is in proceedings) Personal Education Plan, Pathway Plan (if relevant) Health Action Plan and Placement Plan;
    4. Any other documents including single assessment, risk assessments or viability or Family Group Conference (FGC) plans.

At the Review:

  • The social worker should ensure that the child is supported to enable them to participate to the best of their ability. This may include agreement with the IRO for the Review to be held in separate parts or the child attending part of their review; 
  • If the child is unwilling or unable to attend the social worker will ensure that their views are represented. This might include encouraging the child to put something in writing, draw pictures or to make an audio recording of their views;
  • The social worker will speak comprehensively to the Child Looked After Pre-meeting Report, the Local Authority Care Plan and any other assessments being considered that have been undertaken or commissioned by the Local Authority.

After the Review:

  • The social worker should satisfy themselves that the child understands the decisions made at the Review and the reasons for them. If a decision is against the child's expressed wishes the social worker should give the child a full explanation as to why the decision was made and record this as a case note on the child's Liberi file;
  • The social worker is responsible for updating the Care Plan following any changes agreed at the Review;
  • Before the next Review the social worker should ensure that the Personal Education Plan, Health Action Plan are reviewed and updated as appropriate to the child's case;
  • Once the social worker has been notified that the IRO has completed the decisions and outcome (within 5 working days) and chair's report (review minutes), the social worker will ensure that the full report is distributed to all those present at the meeting;
  • Child Looked After Report Part 2 and the decisions and recommendations have been agreed by the designated manager, the social worker will ensure that the full report is distributed to all those present at the meeting.

Between Reviews:

  • The social worker will keep the IRO informed of any significant events that occur for the child between Reviews and discuss with the IRO whether an early Review should be convened.

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

7. Independent Reviewing Officer's Responsibilities

The IRO's role is to chair Child in Care 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 Child in Care 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 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.

Before the Review:

The IRO must read all relevant documents to ensure they are acquainted with the child's case:

  1. The child's Liberi Care Plan including the court Care Plan if in care proceedings;
  2. The child's Pathway Plan (where appropriate);
  3. Child/young person looked after pre-meeting report;
  4. The child's assessment;
  5. The Placement Plan;
  6. Personal Education Plan;
  7. Health Assessment and Health Action Plan;
  8. Any reports provided by carers and other agencies;
  9. Risk Assessment;
  10. FGC Plan, if relevant;
  11. Any relevant assessments such as needs assessment, psychiatric or psychological assessment, viability assessment.

The IRO will ensure the quality of the Care Plan and the Child Looked After Pre-meeting Report, (Child Looked After Review Part 1) are completed and recorded to the required standard, using the Dispute Resolution process as appropriate.

The IRO will check the quality of statutory visits to the child and ensure:

  • The child is receiving the required frequency of statutory visits?
  • The social worker is using the visits to prioritise safeguarding of the child, to progress the outcomes of the Care Plan and promote participation and engagement;
  • The child has been seen alone?
  • Some visits to the child are unannounced?

The IRO will also check that other statutory duties are being undertaken, including:

  1. The Review is taking place within the required timescales?
  2. The Placement Plan has been completed within the required timescales?
  3. The Assessment or Assessment and Progress Record been completed/updated and of good quality clearly identifying needs and how they will be met;
  4. The child has an up to date PEP which meets their identified educational needs?
  5. The child has an up to date Health Assessment and Health Action Plan;
  6. The child has an up to date quality Care Plan including a Permanence Plan (at the 1st review) based on their assessed needs which incorporates the Placement Plan, PEP, HAP, Contact Plan and Child Protection Plan(where applicable) and identifies clear outcomes and tasks/actions and timescales as to how these will be achieved;
  7. The child, their parents and carers have been properly consulted? If not the reason for not doing so is clearly recorded.

The IRO will speak to the social worker at least 15 days before the review. The IRO will discuss with the social worker, who is invited to the review and where it is to be held. For initial reviews, why the child is in care and progress since being placed. The IRO will check that a referral has been made for an initial Health assessment. For second or subsequent review the social worker will update the IRO on progress since the last review and any issues that need to be discussed.

The IRO will clarify in advance of the review meeting, wherever possible, matters around expenditure for any issue where a likely/possible review decision/recommendation would result with a financial consequence have been agreed.

The IRO will visit or meet with the child before the review and subject to their age and understanding, ascertain their wishes and feelings and their understanding of their Care Plan. The IRO will check how the child wishes to participate and express their views and if there are any issues they wish to be raised at the review meeting. The IRO will also establish with the child whether they wish to chair all or part of their own review.

At the Review:

  • The IRO will ensure that the issues outlined in The Care Planning Placement and Case Review Regulations, Schedule 7 are addressed as part of the review process:
    1. The effect of any changes on the child's circumstances since the last review;
    2. Whether the decisions made at the last review have been successfully implemented and if not the reason why;
    3. Whether any changes should be made to the child's legal status;
    4. The child's Care Plan including the plan for permanence from the 2nd review and contingency plan;
    5. The child's relationship with their family and arrangements for contact;
    6. The child's placement and its suitability to meet the child's needs;
    7. The child's educational needs and progress, including support;
    8. The child's leisure interests;
    9. The child's health based on the most recent assessment and Health Action Plan;
    10. The child's identity including religious, racial, and cultural background;
    11. Where appropriate arrangements for leaving care;
    12. The child's wishes and feelings regarding their Care Plan and the support and services they are receiving, including their placement;
    13. The frequency of visits to the child including seeing the child on their own within the context of the placement i.e. at the placement address, seeing the child in the company of the carers and with some visits unannounced.
  • As well as the issues outlined above the IRO should consider where appropriate:
  • Consultation papers;
  • Updated Assessment or Assessment and Progress record;
  • Information packs;
  • Preparation for transfer to 16 Plus;
  • Criminal injuries compensation;
  • Date, time and venue for next review;
  • Future review meetings should be set at appropriate intervals for the child's case taking into account the maximum statutory intervals between reviews;
  • At each Child in Care Review the IRO must consider whether to confirm or change the Care Plan, what actions need to be taken to implement it, who is responsible for each action and to set timescales;
  • The IRO will ensure that the child's wishes and feelings have been taken fully into consideration. If the decision is against the child's expressed wishes the social worker should give the child a full explanation as to why the decision was made. (The IRO should refer to the IRO Handbook on what constitutes a good Care Plan;
  • If the child wishes to make a complaint the IRO should ensure that that they are aware of the complaints procedure and make sure they have appropriate support to make the complaint either from an appropriate adult or advocacy service;
  • If the child wishes to bring proceedings on their own account the IRO will ensure the child has legal advice or establish whether an appropriate adult can assist.

After the Review:

  • After the review meeting the IRO should ensure that all decisions/actions arising from the review are recorded on the outcomes form in the child's records within 5 working days of the review being held and notify the social worker;
  • The IRO will complete the meeting notes on the child's records within 15 working days of the Review and notify the social worker;
  • The IRO will complete the Quality Assurance form and raise issues of delay or poor practice in accordance with the Dispute Resolution Process, (see Appendix 1: IRO Service Practice Alert). The IRO will continue to follow up until the issue has been resolved satisfactorily;
  • The IRO will also highlight issues of good practice.

Between Reviews:

  • The IRO will continue to follow up on issues of delay or poor practice identified at the review meeting;
  • Between reviews the social worker will inform the IRO of any event / change in the child's life. The IRO will consider with the social worker whether an early review should be convened. The IRO will record the outcome of this discussion on the child's Liberi file;
  • Where a case is in family proceedings the IRO should make early contact with the Guardian and work closely with them and other parties in the proceedings;
  • When the case leaves the court, the IRO will have a handover process with the guardian;
  • The IRO will monitor the progress of the child's case and record this on Liberi to prevent drift and secure permanence.

8. The Role of the Child's Carer(s)

Before the Review:

  • The carer(s) will complete the Child in Care Consultation Paper for Foster Carers and ensure that all relevant appointments are recorded e.g. Dentist, opticians, hospital etc;
  • The carer will go through their consultation paper with the child and fostering social worker;
  • After the social worker consults with the child and prepares them for their review the carer will ensure that the child understands the purpose of their review and support them expressing their wishes and feelings in whatever way they wish;
  • The consultation paper should be returned to the child's or young person's social worker or CIC Review Administrator at least 5 working days prior to the Child in Care Review. The fostering social worker should also receive a copy so this document can also be stored within the carer's electronic case file.
See: Child In Care Consultation Paper for Foster Carers.

At the Review:

  • The carer will speak to their report and give a comprehensive account of the child's progress since placement or the last review.

9. Review Decisions - The Designated Manager's Responsibilities

  • A designated senior manager such as the Children and Young People's Services Manager should consider the decisions made at the review within 5 working days of receiving the IRO report and notify in writing to the child/young person's IRO that they either agree with the decision or highlight areas of disagreement;
  • As well as the IRO, they must notify in writing all those who attended the review, including the child/young person if they are unable to agree the any of the recommendations;
  • If there is not a response from the Service Manager within 5 working days the decisions will be considered agreed;
  • If the Service Manager does not agree decisions, attempts will be made to resolve the issues informally with the IRO within 10 working days. If this is not successful the IRO will initiate the dispute resolution process.

10. The Role of the Child in Care 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.

At the second Child in Care Review, there is a requirement to focus on the Permanence Plan, 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.

At the third Child in Care Review there will be a need for a Twin Track/Parallel Plan to be made where a Permanence Plan has not been achieved. For example where a plan for rehabilitation 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 social worker's manager. No further rehabilitation 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.

Children who are Section 20 Accommodated (Children Act 1989): IROs should pay particular regard to children accommodated under S.20 to ensure there is appropriate progression of their plans and that there are no delays in respect of them having 'permanence', (which should include a return home) (see Herefordshire Council v AB [2018] EWFC 10 rtf). Further, IRO's, should ensure that any conflict resolutions are escalated and responded to robustly (see Section 13, Conflict Resolution).

Where the threshold criteria (for Care/ Supervision Orders) under Section 31 Children Act 1989 are met, (i.e. where a child is at risk of significant harm, or the likelihood of significant harm), then care proceedings should be issued without delay.

11. Child in Care Reviews Concerning Children in Long Term Foster Placements

Paragraph 4.17 of The Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations - Volume 2: Care Planning, Placement and Case Review 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.

12. Child in Care Reviews on Children who are the Subject of Child Protection Plans

It is anticipated that only in exceptional circumstances when a child is subject to a Child Protection Plan and they become a Child in Care will it be necessary to maintain a Child Protection Plan. Decisions regarding this should be informed by the assessed needs of the child, the duration of the care arrangement and the anticipated future plans.

Consideration should be given to the IRO chairing the Child Protection Conference where a Child in Care 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 Child in Care Reviews.

See also: Process for Managing Child in Care Reviews for Children also Subject of Child Protection Plans.

13. Conflict Resolution

Where the IRO believes that the Local Authority is in breach of the child's human rights and has failed in any significant respect to prepare the child's Care Plan; review the child's case or effectively implement any decision in consequence of a review; or are otherwise in breach of their duties to the child in any material respect, the following procedure will apply:

  1. Informal resolution which may include a professionals meeting to include the Team Managers of both the social worker's team and the IRO;

  2. If no resolution is reached at this stage the formal dispute resolution process should be initiated by the IRO. The IRO, with the support of their Team Manager, should continue to follow up through the stages of the dispute resolution process until a resolution is reached.

The IRO has the authority to refer the case to CAFCASS where they consider it appropriate to do so and must consider a referral to CAFCASS where, having drawn any failures as set out above to the attention of persons of appropriate seniority in the Local Authority, the issues have not been addressed to their satisfaction within a reasonable period of time.

Appendix 1: IRO Service Practice Alert

Click here to view Appendix 1: IRO Service Practice Alert.