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LutonChildren's Services Procedures Manual

Safeguarding Alerts and Dispute Resolution Alerts for Looked after Children Procedure

This chapter was added to the manual in September 2017.

Contents

  1. Purpose and Statutory Basis
  2. Introduction
  3. Process
  4. Escalations to other Agencies

    Appendix 1: Informal Pre-Dispute Resolution Email (Local Resources)

    Appendix 2 : The Dispute Resolution Form (Local Resources)

1. Purpose and Statutory Basis

The Independent Reviewing Officer’s (IRO’s) primary focus is to quality assure the care planning and review process for each child and to ensure that his/her current wishes and feelings are given full consideration. To be successful, the role must be valued by senior managers and operate within a supportive service culture and environment.

In Luton, the Safeguarding and Quality Assurance Service consists of both IRO’s and Child Protection Chairs and we utilise the same process to escalate concerns and resolve issues that may impede effective child protection planning or care planning.

An effective IRO service should enable the local authority to achieve improved outcomes for children. Every IRO/CP Chair should feel confident in his/her role and personal authority and understand his/her responsibilities to monitor and review the child’s case and, where necessary, challenge poor practice as well as highlighting good practice.

The Care Planning, Placement and Review Regulations and Statutory Guidance 2010, together with the IRO Handbook (Statutory Guidance) 2010, require Independent Reviewing Officers (IRO's) to take a range of actions if there are concerns about progress of a child’s care plan, the practice and management of the case or the allocation and deployment of resources. The interventions available to the IRO include:

  • Discussion with the local authority, including access to the dispute resolution procedure;
  • Encouraging or supporting use of the Complaints and Representation Procedure either by the child directly or by an adult who is authorised to act on the child’s behalf; or
  • Encouraging or supporting an application to the court for an order under the 1989 Act, either by the child or by an appropriate adult who is able and willing to act.

All local authorities are required to have a formal Dispute Resolution Process to ensure timely resolution for any issues that impede effective care planning.

The individual IRO is personally responsible for activating the dispute resolution process, even if this step may not be in accordance with the child’s wishes and feelings, but may, in the IRO’s view, be in accordance with the best interest and welfare of the child, as well as his/her human rights.

Where problems in care planning are identified through the review process, and in order to support their satisfactory resolution, the accountable IRO will be required to communicate directly with a manager who has the necessary level of seniority to seek resolution.

The Independent Reviewing Service believes in immediate problem solving with team managers and social workers whenever possible. The IRO will begin to address issues in a constructive cooperative manner.

This must always be in the timescale for the child and may be escalated more swiftly through the Dispute Resolution stages if this is necessary to meet the needs of the child, including a referral to CAFCASS as a final stage if the local authority is unable to resolve the issue.

The regulations identify that the key determining factor for the timing of a referral to the Courts via CAFCASS will be based on the child or young person’s needs and the urgency of achieving a resolution. In many cases this will mean that matters can be suitably addressed using the dispute resolution arrangements within the Local Authority.

In some circumstances the level of urgency may require this to be curtailed but should not occur without prior discussion and consultation with the relevant Team Manager and Senior Managers within the organisation.

2. Introduction

While formal processes exist these should not replace professional dialogue. It is expected that the reviewing processes and professional discussion should be utilised to resolve issues before a formal alert is raised, unless the risk is such that to do so would place a child at risk. 

It is important for IRO and CP Chairs to have a collaborative relationship with social work staff and management with the responsibility for ongoing care planning for children in care. As the IRO and CP Chairs fulfil a quality assurance function it is important that they also recognise and report on good practice by individuals or teams.

When the standard of practice impacts on the implementation of care or child protection plans or outcomes for a child, the IRO/CP Chair should ensure that they negotiate with management up to the highest level, if necessary, in order to resolve the dispute by negotiation. Usually alerts will initially be raised at Informal stage and move to formal dispute resolution if not resolved. Alerts will be escalated where there is no response received or the response does not adequately address the concern.

All alerts will be analysed on a quarterly basis by Safeguarding and Quality Assurance Service and included in the Quality Assurance quarterly report to the Quality Assurance and Performance Panel (QAPP). The report will be shared with managers to inform policy, practice and workforce development.

The Safeguarding and Quality Assurance Team Manager is responsible for monitoring the performance of IROs and CP Chairs as well as ensuring that they are discharging their responsibilities in relation to procedures, regulations and this guidance.

Workers and team managers should speak to the CPC or IRO or the Team Manager directly if they have feedback with regard to the CPC/IROs’ performance. If there are concerns about the performance of an IRO/CPC or about the organisation and conduct of a review or conference the matter should be referred to the Team Manager who will arrange an investigation and feedback within 15 working days. If the matter is not resolved satisfactorily escalation to Head of Service, Strategic Safeguarding, Quality Assurance and Practice Improvement will take place.

3. Process

Whenever possible issues of concern about care planning, the implementation or quality of the care plan or decisions relating to it, resources or poor practice should be raised informally with the allocated social worker and their Team Manager, preferably through face-to-face discussions.

Informal Resolution

Following discussion or to alert the Manager to the concern, the ‘Pre-Dispute Resolution’ e-mail header should be used to clarify the concern. The IRO should place a record of this initial informal resolution process on the child’s file and send a copy to the Safeguarding Business Manager to log.

If the matter is not resolved within 10 working days, or an earlier timescale that is appropriate to the child’s needs, the IRO should consider taking formal action as per the Dispute Resolution Process outlined below:

Dispute Resolution Process

Category for Alert:

  • Significant safeguarding concern;
  • Significant drift in permanence planning;
  • Failure to visit as required by regulations/internal protocol;
  • Failure to plan as required by regulations/internal protocol;
  • Key documentation missing e.g. care plan, placement plan, pep, health assessment, pathway plan, social work report, post adoption support plan;
  • Non-implementation of review decisions;
  • Change of care plan without consulting young person;
  • Change of care plan without consulting IRO;
  • Failure to inform IRO of significant event between reviews.

The Dispute Resolution Form: This must be used to record the concern at each stage. A copy of the final resolution must be placed on the child’s case file and a copy sent to the Safeguarding Business Manager when the concern is raised and when it is concluded. The Safeguarding Business Manager will log the date that the concern is raised, the date of any escalation to the next stage, the key themes, the date of conclusion, and the stage it was resolved.

Stage 1: Where the IRO has identified significant issue(s) during/or outside a LAC review meeting, the IRO will consult with their line manager before initiating a Management Alert to the responsible social worker and team manager to notify them of their concerns.

The Team Manager has lead responsibility for responding to the alert in writing in 5 working days.

In the event that no response is received within this timeframe or the IRO considers the response to be unsatisfactory the IRO may proceed to the stages below:

Stage 2: Service Manager

The Service Manager has lead responsibility for responding to the alert in writing within 5 working days.

Stage 3: Assistant Director

The Assistant Director has lead responsibility for responding to the alert in writing within 5 working days.

If the IRO considers the response to be unsatisfactory then a Dispute Resolution Meeting should be convened within 5 working days chaired by either Assistant Director for Specialist Family Support Service or Quality Assurance and Performance Improvement Lead for Children and Learning.

Stage 4: Director of Children and Learning

The Director of Children and Learning has lead responsibility for responding to the alert in writing within 5 working days.

Stage 5: CAFCASS

The formal dispute resolution process within each local authority should have timescales in total of no more than 20 working days.

The IRO may bypass any stage and progress the dispute to the level s/he considers most appropriate. 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 must have access to legal advice independent of that provided to the Local Authority in cases that are already before the courts to help establish whether separate legal action is required. This is available on a reciprocal basis in the Eastern region and IRO’s should approach the Principal Solicitor for details.

At times obstacles to resolving the issue may rest outside or beyond the control of the local authority, for example in relation to staffing, interagency or resources issues. However, if these are impacting on the ability of the authority to meet the needs of a child as identified in the child’s care plan, the IRO should continue to escalate the issue.

At each stage a record of the action taken and the outcomes achieved must be included in the child’s case record by the IRO.

Roles and Responsibilities

The IRO responsibilities:

To ensure when concerns arise the IRO will initiate alerts to the relevant level of management or other agency and notify QA management.

To keep all tracking and monitoring processes up to date.

To consider and, if they are in agreement, act on requests from managers for further time to resolve the matter.

To progress matters to the next appropriate level of management if is not satisfactorily resolved.

To seek independent legal advice if required.

Case-Holding Manager’s responsibilities:

To respond within timescale to the concerns specifically addressing the requested action.

To request further time if required to resolve the alert.

To inform their manager if it is likely that the alert will not be progressed.

Safeguarding & QA Manager’s responsibilities:

To support and assist IRO as necessary.

To monitor IRO alert spread sheet and report to Divisional Director on a monthly basis. Advise operational managers of outstanding alerts on a monthly basis.

Quarterly analysis of alerts for feedback in the QA quarterly report will be circulated to IROs and operational managers. The information and data will be included in the IRO Annual Report.

To monitor and quality assure the performance of IROs and the operation of the Service. This will include auditing of cases via other quality assurance arrangements in which an alert had not been initiated but where practice fell short of expected practice standards.

To advise IRO should they be acting outside of regulation and Luton procedures.

Disputes are likely to be avoided when there are positive working relationships and when

Social workers prepare for reviews in good time and ensure actions within the Care Plan are completed.

Social workers fulfil their statutory obligations.

IROs complete the review record and decisions within timescale.

The team manager confirms acceptance of review decisions within 5 days.

We ensure that children and young people are routinely consulted.

Social workers advise the IRO without delay of any significant change of circumstances failure to carry out decisions.

The social worker and IRO make sure that the young person/child is aware of their right to an advocate to complain.

Quality Assurance Safeguarding Concerns – Resolving issues arising from Child Protection Conference and Child Protection Planning

It is anticipated that in the vast majority of cases the CP Chair will be able to resolve issues and concerns through the initial informal process.

In cases where discussion does not resolve the concern or cases of immediate and serious concern are identified, or if there have previously been concerns raised, the formal alert process will commence.

Child Protection Conference Categories of Concern 

  • Significant safeguarding concern or escalated risk that has not been re-assessed;
  • Failure to visit or hold regular core groups as required by regulations/internal protocol;
  • Key documentation missing e.g. pre-CPC social worker’s report, core group minutes, updated CP Plan, updated Single Assessment (when required), updated chronology of significant events, updated personal details for family members, pre-ICPC invitation list with accurate names and addresses;
  • Non-implementation of Child Protection Plan actions for the local authority;
  • Non implementation of Child Protection Plan actions by family or other professional (state which agency) that has not been challenged or addressed in a timely way.

Resolution Process

There will be four stages for resolving CPC concerns. When a concern is identified at a conference the process will be resolved within two working days in order not to hold up the Outcomes and Child Protection Plan being shared.

Informal Resolution

When a CP coordinator has concerns following a CP conference or after monitoring a case in between reviews the CPC will initially discuss issues with the responsible team manager and resolution will be sought. A summary of the discussion and expected outcome with timescales will be confirmed by e-mail using the ‘pre-dispute’ e-mail and placed on the child’s case record.

Formal Resolution

Stage 1: Where the CP Chair has identified significant issue(s) during/or outside a CPC meeting, the CP Chair will consult with their line manager before initiating a Management Alert to the responsible social worker and team manager to notify them of their concerns.

The Team Manager has lead responsibility for responding to the alert in writing in 5 working days.

In the event that no response is received within this timeframe or the CP Chair considers the response to be unsatisfactory the CP Chair may proceed to the stages below:

Stage 2: Service Manager

The Service Manager has lead responsibility for responding to the alert in writing within 5 working days.

Stage 3: Assistant Director

The Assistant Director has lead responsibility for responding to the alert in writing within 5 working days.

If the CP Chair considers the response to be unsatisfactory then a Dispute Resolution Meeting should be convened within 5 working days chaired by either Assistant Director for Specialist Family Support Service or Quality Assurance and Performance Improvement Lead for Children and Learning.

Stage 4: Director of Children and Learning

The Director of Children and Learning has lead responsibility for responding to the alert in writing within 5 working days.

At times obstacles to resolving the issue may rest outside or beyond the control of the local authority, for example in relation to staffing, interagency or resources issues. However, if these are impacting on the ability of the authority to meet the needs of a child as identified in the child’s care plan, the CP Chair should continue to escalate the issue, using the LCSB Escalations Procedure.

At each stage a record of the action taken and the outcomes achieved must be included in the child’s case record by the CP Chair.

Roles and Responsibilities

The CP Chair responsibilities:

To ensure when concerns arise the CP Chair will initiate alerts to the relevant level of management or other agency and notify QA management.

To keep all tracking and monitoring processes up to date.

To consider and, if they are in agreement, act on requests from managers for further time to resolve the matter.

To progress matters to the next appropriate level of management if is not satisfactorily resolved.

To seek independent legal advice if required.

Case-Holding Manager’s responsibilities:

To respond within timescale to the concerns specifically addressing the requested action.

To request further time if required to resolve the alert.

To inform their manager if it is likely that the alert will not be progressed.

Safeguarding and Quality Assuranxce Manager’s responsibilities:

To support and assist CP Chair as necessary.

To monitor CP Chair alert spread sheet and report to Divisional Director on a monthly basis. Advise operational managers of outstanding alerts on a monthly basis.

Quarterly analysis of alerts for feedback in the QA quarterly report will be circulated to CP Chairs and operational managers. The information and data will be included in the IRO Annual Report.

To monitor and quality assure the performance of CP Chairs and the operation of the Service. This will include auditing of cases via other quality assurance arrangements in which an alert had not been initiated but where practice fell short of expected practice standards.

To advise the CP Chair should they be acting outside of regulation and Luton Child Protection Procedures.

Disputes are likely to be avoided when there are positive working relationships and when

Social workers prepare for reviews in good time and ensure actions within the Care Plan are completed.

Social workers fulfil their statutory obligations.

CP Chairs complete the CP Outcomes record and decisions within timescale.

We ensure that children and young people are routinely consulted.

Social workers advise the CP Chair without delay of any significant change of circumstances or failure to carry out decisions.

The social worker and CP Chair make sure that the young person/child is aware of their right to an advocate to complain.

4. Escalations to other agencies

The Luton Safeguarding Children Board Escalation Policy should be used if the IRO or CP Chair needs to escalate a concern to another agency in respect of their safeguarding duties or their duties as a corporate parent. This can be found in the Bedford Borough, Central Bedfordshire and Luton Safeguarding Children Boards Procedures Manual.

Appendices

Appendix 1: Informal Pre-Dispute Resolution Email (Local Resources)

Appendix 2 : The Dispute Resolution Form (Local Resources)