LAC Part 5 - Statutory Looked After Children Reviews
The local authority has a statutory responsibility to review the situation and welfare of all Looked After children. The review is the Child’s Meeting. Its primary purpose is to take stock of the extent to which the child’s needs, as identified in the Child’s Plan, have been met or are being met and to update the Child’s Plan where necessary to safeguard and promote the child’s welfare. The review must have regard not only to the child’s needs in the present, but also to what is needed to secure the child’s wellbeing and development in the longer term.
In addition, children, carers and others need to know how concerns may be formally raised and addressed. However, there is a balance between appropriate monitoring which allows discussion about concerns and unnecessary over-intrusion, particularly when children are settled in long-term, stable and legally secure placements.
Therefore the regulations require us to use appropriate methods to obtain children’s views, without requiring every child to attend every review meeting.
Similarly, we need to facilitate reviews for Children in Foster and Residential Care, in ways which enable them to contribute and feel like it really is their review, for them.
The statutory basis of the Review
Reviews are a statutory requirement. They are the mechanism whereby the local authority ensures that they are fulfilling their obligations to care and plan for the child. Any decisions made by the review about the local authority services should be duly progressed.
The expectations in relation to Looked after Children Reviews are set out in Regulations 44 and 45.
Some conclusions of discussion at reviews may need to be referred elsewhere. These can include
- a request for a Children’s Hearing review if a change in the supervision requirement is indicated, or
- a referral to an additional scrutiny body within the local authority, in particular to the Fostering and Adoption Panel, sometimes to the Placement Services Group.
Frequency of reviews
Regulations 44 and 45 differentiate three groups of Looked After children and there are slightly different provisions about the frequency of their planned reviews.
The following Table provides an overview : Frequency of Reviews Table (PDF)
Step 1 – Setting the Date
The Initial Core Group should agree a date for the first Statutory Review, which should be within 6 weeks of the commencement of the Compulsory Supervision Order, by the Lead Professional liaising with the appropriate Reviewing Officer.
Step 2 – Reports for reviews
The Childs Plan Review should be presented to the review, with an updated Child’s Plan, including any Risk Assessment. This should be a single integrated report, expressing the shared view and combined, up-to-date understanding of the Team around the Child. The lead professional is responsible for coordinating and combining contributions to it. It may be possible to do this within a Core Group Meeting. Children and parents should have the opportunity to read and comment on the report before it is finalized.
Updating a Child’s Plan, where that is necessary, entails a genuine re-assessment of the child’s needs and circumstances, recording the “current assessment” in the relevant sections of the document. Where previously recorded matters are still current, they should remain unchanged. Matters that no longer apply should be removed or, where appropriate, referred to in the historical section. It is not best practice to update a Child’s Plan by simply adding update sections to an existing plan.
Chronologies should also be edited to reflect what is currently relevant.
The views of children and parents should be distinctly reported, particularly where they differ from those of other members of that group. Children, parents and carers always have the right to provide a separate, written report of their views, wishes and intentions and should be encouraged to exercise it if they wish to do so. The child should have the opportunity to complete a “Viewpoint” form, which should be available to the Reviewing Officer
Professionals who see a need to provide a separate report, for whatever reason, may do so, provided that the subjects of that report have had the opportunity, before a formal review, to see and discuss it.
Copies of the reports should be held by all those who comprise the Team around the Child, given their responsibly and accountability for effective joint working. The social worker must ensure the Chairperson has a copy at least 5 working days prior to review.
Step 3 – The Statutory Review Meeting
The Chair person – the chairperson should be a person independent of service delivery, ordinarily a Reviewing Officer, but, where that is not possible, a Team Manager from another team.
The child’s participation
• Consulting the child and taking their views and wishes into account (whilst taking into account also their age and maturity) are essential functions of a review.
• Children express their views and wishes in many different ways and different children will be more or less comfortable expressing their views verbally in a formal meeting.
• A child old enough to express a view has a right to choose whether or not to attend and to participate in the review and all other participants have a responsibility to support the child’s participation.
Written expressions of the child’s views
• Whether or not the child intends to attend the review, he or she should be encouraged to complete the Viewpoint questionnaire.
• A relevant self-report outcome measure, if completed periodically by the child, will also show how the child has experienced life in the period under review, showing what is experienced more positively and what negatively and showing what has changed for the child over time.
Representation on behalf of the child
A child may choose someone to speak on their behalf, including any member of the Team around the Child, and should be made aware of the availability of support from 'Who Cares' to express their views and wishes
Parents’ and carers’ participation
The review must also consult and take into consideration the views of the child’s parents and of anyone else holding parental responsibilities or rights in respect of the child. Parents may be supported at a review by a person of their choosing and should be made aware of this and of the availability of advocacy e.g. from Advocacy North East. It is important that legal parental responsibility is respected in the decision-making process and that this is evident from records, reports, minutes etc.
- The professional participants in the Child’s Review should be those involved in the Child’s Plan. Unless they have genuinely new information or observations to contribute, they should not be introducing significant, additional information that is not included in the written report.
- The purpose of their participation is to reach, if possible, a shared understanding of the child’s welfare and needs and of what should be done, by whom, to meet the child’s needs.
- Professional participants represent their employing agency and should clarify, in advance of the meeting whenever possible, what commitments of time and resource they can make on behalf of their service. They should keep in mind that the review is the Child’s Meeting and should endeavour to express their views in language that is accessible, non-judgmental and non-discriminatory.
- The role of the Reviewing Officer is –
- To facilitate discussion and reaching agreements
- To ensure that appropriate matters are covered and appropriate plans made and progressed
- To challenge assertions, actions, inaction etc, as necessary, on behalf of the child, in order to ensure that appropriate, evidence-based plans are made and that the child’s needs are met, in both the shorter and longer term
Consideration of written reports
It is important to establish whether participants in the review are in agreement with the facts and interpretation set out in the report or with the proposals for further action. This can be done in the course of working through the matters that have to be considered by the review. Less discussion will be required over areas of agreement, but the absence of disagreement cannot always be presumed to signify agreement and each participant should be invited to say whether they agree or not regarding the most significant issues.
Matters for consideration
What (from the agreed plan) has been done?
What has been achieved (including changes evidenced by any specific outcome measures)?
What, if any barriers to progress have been encountered?
What has been done to overcome these barriers and to what effect?
What else has changed?
To what extent are the child’s needs being met now? This must include specific consideration of-
- The child’s current accommodation and care arrangements
- The child’s health and development
- The child’s education
What are the child’s needs now
What does the carer (parent and or substitute carers) need in order to meet the child’s needs
What risks are there in the situation and to whom
Is there progress towards a successful and sustainable re-unification of the child with the family, or will planning be required to achieve sustainable good enough care in some other way.
What outcomes should we aim to achieve now?
What new or continued actions are proposed?
Is there a (continuing) need for compulsion, or can the Child’s Plan be implemented and the child’s needs be reliably met on the basis of a voluntary agreement?
Resolving areas of disagreement
- Identifying and acknowledging disagreement is an important step towards establishing common ground. A Solution Oriented approach should be used, whenever possible, to encourage participants to focus on and extend the positives in a situation, with a view to finding a way forward which results in the child’s needs being met.
- Where disagreements about the facts or their interpretation do not impede agreement about a plan or its implementation, it is acceptable to acknowledge those disagreements and proceed with planning.
- Where it is not possible to reach agreement about the Plan, it will be necessary to refer the matter to the Children’s Hearing for a resolution or decision.
- It is unlikely to help the child, in the longer term, for participants to pressurise children or parents into assenting to something with which they clearly disagree.
Updating the assessment and the Child’s Plan
- Where a new shared understanding of the child’s situation or needs is formed in the course of the review, the integrated assessment, forming part of the Child’s Plan, should be updated by the lead professional. This entails actually “refreshing” the plan so that the whole document reflects the current reality, rather than adding dated “updates” to what has become a historical document. Factors no longer current should be either removed, or included as historical in either the background or chronology sections of the Child’s Plan
- Where new or amended actions are agreed to meet the child’s needs, the Action Plan should be updated following the review
Recording the proceedings, new information and decisions from the Review
- Following the review, the Reviewing Officer must ensure that a record is made of –
- Current understanding in relation to the child’s wellbeing, health, education, etc
- Any new circumstantial information obtained in the course of the review
- Details of the proceedings of the meeting and any related meetings, including –
- those who were present or participated through written information
- the child’s expressed views and wishes
- the parents’ or carers’ expressed views, wishes and intentions
- the nature of significant agreements and disagreements, including which participants held which opposing views
Details of any decisions or arrangements made in the course, or as a result of the review.
Informing the Children’s Reporter
- If it becomes apparent in the course of the review, for a child subject to compulsory measures, that agreement cannot be reached over what action is necessary to meet the child’s needs or that action to meet the child’s needs will be opposed, the Children’s Reporter should be advised by the Lead Professional and be provided with a copy of the record of the meeting, with a view to consideration of the need for an early Review Hearing of the Children’s Panel.
- If such a Hearing is arranged, the social worker will need to provide a brief report, setting out the background to the matters of contention and attaching an updated copy of the Child’s Plan, including any actions proposed for which the Children’s Panel are being asked to consider making conditions of the child’s Supervision Requirement.
- If it becomes apparent in the course of the review, for a child placed on a voluntary basis, that agreement cannot be agreed over what action is necessary to meet the child’s needs and that there is persuasive evidence of a risk of significant harm to the child arising from this, an appropriate risk assessment should be undertaken or reviewed, to inform consideration of the need for action to seek compulsory measures to safeguard the child’s wellbeing.
Providing copies of the records and updated Child’s Plan
- Copies of the record of the review meeting should routinely be provided, by the Reviewing Officer, to participants and invitees and to any other persons with parental rights or responsibilities.
- Copies of the updated Child’s Plan should be provided, by the lead professional, to the participants in the Review and the Plan.
Terminating a supervision requirement
- Where it is agreed at the Review that there is no continuing need for compulsion in pursuing any actions to meet the child’s needs, the Children’s Reporter should be advised of this and provided with a copy of the review and any continuing plan, with a view to an early Review Hearing of the Children’s Panel 1
- If such a Hearing is arranged, the lead professional will need to provide a brief report, setting out the case for compulsory measures being terminated and attaching an updated copy of the Child’s Plan where continued, voluntary action is proposed.
- The ending of compulsory measures of supervision does not mean that contact between the child and/or family and the social worker should automatically cease. This should be based on assessment of on-going needs. During the final reviews, all professionals should:
- discuss whether continuing support may assist the family when statutory supervision ends.
- offer voluntary provision of services with explicit outcomes and methods agreed by the child and his or her family.
Through care and after care
When a young person ceases to be the subject of a Compulsory Supervision Order on, or subsequent to, his or her 16th birthday, then the local authority has a duty to advise, guide and assist the young person unless they are satisfied that his or her welfare does not require it.
For those young people on supervision at home the duty to advise, guide and assist applies just as much as for those placed away from home. Their needs may, however, be different and an assessment of those needs should be made before they cease to be looked after.
In Moray, children who have been on Supervision at Home, the TCAC role is undertaken by the Area team SW.
Follow link to Pathways Materials. These Tools were developed by the TCAC Team to assist Carers, Support Workers and Social Workers in providing appropriate advice, guidance and assistance for young people.
5. Relevant Legislation
5. Relevant Policies and Links
Reviewing Team Contact
Problems / amendments required to LAC Manual?
Please contact Linda Pearce
1. This would require discussion with the Reporter and chair of the Children’s Panel.