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4.11.2 Role of the Children’s Independent and Safeguarding Reviewing Officer (CISRO)

RELEVANT GUIDANCE

IRO Handbook

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

AMENDMENT

This procedure was reviewed throughout in line with the Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations - Volume 2: Care Planning, Placement and Case Review in September 2017. In particular, the need for the CISRO to be sensitive to the close and active involvement of parents of a child who is looked after in a series of Short Breaks and problem-solving where there might be difficulties or issues.


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Responsibilities of the CISRO
  3. Appointment of the CISRO
  4. Role of the CISRO
  5. Timing of Reviews in Respect of Looked After Children
  6. Chairing of Reviews and other Meetings
  7. Attendance and Participation in Reviews
  8. Children Subject to Legal Proceedings
  9. Children Leaving Care
  10. Children in Secure Provision
  11. Resolving Problems and Addressing Poor Practice
  12. Referring a Case to CAFCASS
  13. Duty of the Social Worker to keep the CISRO Informed


1. Introduction

If a Local Authority is looking after a child, it must appoint an Independent and Safeguarding Reviewing Officer (CISRO) for that child's case. The name of the CISRO and his / her contact details must be recorded on the child's case record.

The CISRO must be appointed to the child's case and meet the child before the first Looked After Review and as a matter of good practice should be appointed within the first five working days. Sibling groups, whether or not placed together, should have the same CISRO and should be informed that they share the same CISRO as their siblings, except where conflict of interest between siblings makes this inappropriate or the size of the sibling group makes this unmanageable. The issue of sibling contact should also be addressed in the CISRO's annual report.

The child should be given notification of his / her CISRO, along with details about how to make contact with him / her. This could be by email or text. If the child is only informed verbally, then the date that s/he was given this information must be placed on the case record.

The CISRO should be allocated for the duration that the child is looked after and should continue as the CISRO if a child returns to care of the same local authority at a later date, if reasonably practicable.

Where a mother and / or father and their child are looked after, the child should have a different CISRO.


2. Responsibilities of the CISRO

The CISRO must be:

  • Independent of the management of the child’s case; and
  • Independent of the resources allocated to that case.

CISRO's should be suitably qualified and experienced in working with children in need, and must be registered with Social Work England.

The CISRO will be responsible for:

  • Participating in the review of the child’s Care Plan;
  • Monitoring the performance of the local authority’s functions in respect of each Looked After Child;
  • Referring the case to an officer of the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service, (CAFCASS) if they consider it appropriate to do so.


3. Appointment of the CISRO

Caption: Appointment of the CISRO
 
A CISRO must be appointed for all Looked After Children, whether or not they are in their care, to ensure that appropriate actions are taken to meet the needs of the child. This includes Looked After Children who are in an adoptive placement prior to an adoption order being made (see Adoption Reviews Procedure) and those in secure provision, including Secure Training Centres and Young Offender Institutions.
A CISRO should also be appointed for children who are looked after under Section 59 of the Children Act 1989, where a voluntary organisation is the responsible authority.
The independence of the CISRO is essential to enable them to effectively challenge poor practice in the review of cases. The CISRO must be independent of the management of the child's case, as well as being independent of the resources allocated to the case.
When a child becomes looked after and it is anticipated that the child will remain looked after for more than 28 days, the child's social worker must notify the Information Monitoring Section within 1 working day. The Information Monitoring Section will then notify the Manager of the Independent Review Unit within one working day. Therefore the manager should be informed that a child has become looked after within a total of two working days.

When notification has been received that a child has become Looked After, the manager for the Independent Review Unit should ensure that a CISRO is appointed for the case. The CISRO must be appointed to the child’s case before the first Looked After Review and, as a matter of good practice, should be appointed within the first five working days.

Sibling groups, whether or not placed together, should have the same CISRO, except where conflict of interest between siblings makes this inappropriate or the size of the sibling group makes this unmanageable.

The child should be given notification of his/her CISRO, along with details about how to make contact with him/her. This could be by email or text. If the child is only informed verbally, then the date that s/he was given this information must be placed on the case record.

The CISRO should be allocated for the duration that the child is looked after and should continue as the CISRO if a child returns to care of East Riding at a later date, if reasonably practicable.

Where a mother and/or father and their child are looked after, the child should have a different CISRO.

East Riding's written policy regarding the manner in which the child’s case will be reviewed will be provided to the child, the parents and any other person whose views the authority consider to be relevant (e.g. the child’s foster carer) with a copy. This should include information on the role of the CISRO and action that can be taken in the event that decisions made at a review are not implemented.

If the CISRO leaves employment with East Riding, or for any other reason stops being the CISRO for a particular child, s/he should introduce the new CISRO to the child in person.

At no time, apart from in the first five working days, should a looked after child be without a named CISRO.

The name of the CISRO and his/her contact details must be recorded on the child’s case record.

The CISRO should meet the child before the first review.


4. Role of the CISRO

Caption: Extended Role of the CISRO
 
There are two clear and separate aspects to the function of the CISRO: chairing a child’s review, and monitoring a child’s case on an ongoing basis including whether any safeguarding issues arise.
As part of the monitoring function, the CISRO also has a duty to identify any areas of poor practice, including general concerns around service delivery / collective experience of Looked After Children (not just around individual children). Should such concerns arise the CISRO should immediately alert senior managers.

The responsibilities of the CISRO include:

  • A responsibility to consult the child about his/her Care Plan at each review and at any time that there is a significant change to the Care Plan;
  • Ensuring that Care Plans for looked after children are based on a detailed and informed assessment, are up to date, effective and provide a real response to each child’s needs;
  • Identify any gaps in the assessment process or delivery of service;
  • Offer a safeguard to prevent any ‘drift’ in care planning and the delivery of services;
  • Monitoring the activity of the Local Authority: that Care Plans have given proper consideration and weight to the child’s current views, wishes and feelings and that he/she fully understands the implications of any changes to their Care Plan; and
  • Ensuring that, having regard to age and understanding, the child has been informed of the steps he/she may take under the Children Act 1989, and in particular, where appropriate:
    • The right to apply, with leave, for a Section 8 Order/discharge of a Care Order; and if the child wishes to take legal proceedings under the Children Act 1989, the CISRO must establish whether an Appropriate Adult is able and willing to assist the child to obtain legal advice or bring proceedings on his/her behalf, and, if there is no such person, assist the child to obtain such advice;
    • The right to access representations/complaints procedures and how to do this (making sure that the child understands how an advocate could help and his or her entitlement to one);
    • Advising the child of their right to apply for an order or seek discharge of an order;
    • In relation to short breaks:
      • Being sensitive to the close and active involvement of parents of a child looked after in a series of short breaks;
      • Problem-solving where there might be difficulties or issues.
    • Alerting the local authority if there are concerns that the placements is not meeting the child's needs;
  • Considering whether the placement safeguards and promotes the child’s welfare, and establishing whether any safeguarding concerns have been raised.


5. Timing of Reviews in Respect of Looked After Children

Caption: timing of reviews in respect of looked after children table
 
The first review must take place within 20 working days of the date on which the child became looked after or was provided with accommodation. The second review must take place no more than 3 months (91 days) after the first review, and subsequent reviews must be carried out no more than six months (183 days) after the date of the previous review. For further information see Looked After Reviews Procedure.
Where a child is provided with accommodation on a regular basis as part of an agreed serious of short-breaks (respite care), see the Short Breaks Procedure.
The frequency of reviews required by the Regulations is the minimum standard and a review of the child's case should take place as often as the circumstances of the individual case requires.
It is the responsibility of the local authority to ensure that reviews are carried out within the timescales required in the Regulations. However, a review must be carried out before the times specified in the Regulations, if the CISRO so directs.
All significant changes affecting the child's Care Plan, or any inability of the local authority to meet the recommendations and timescales of a review recommendation, must be notified in writing to the CISRO. If the need arises for substantial changes to be made to the child's Care Plan, then the date of the next review should be brought forward. If the CISRO directs that the review should be held prior to the date set for the next review, the team responsible for the case must bring forward the date of the review.
Any request for an additional review from a parent or child should be given serious consideration by the CISRO. Where the CISRO agrees to the request from a parent or child, the CISRO should direct the team responsible for the case to arrange an additional review. If the CISRO does not agree to the parent or child's request for an additional review, the CISRO should give the reasons for their decision in writing to the parent or child, and should provide the child's social worker with a copy for the child's records.


6. Chairing of Reviews and other Meetings

Caption: chairing of reviews and other meetings table
 
The CISRO's role involves chairing review meetings in order to monitor the appropriateness of the Care Plan, its implementation, and to establish whether the milestones set out in the plan are being achieved in a timely way. However, where the child or young person indicates a wish to chair the review, then the role of the CISRO is to assist the child to chair the meeting and ensure that the meeting considers the child's Care Plan and all aspects of the child's case.
The CISRO must, as far as practicable, attend any meetings held in connection with the review of the child's case and, unless the child wishes to chair the meeting, should chair any meeting that he or she attends.
As chair, the CISRO should ensure that all those involved in the meeting are able to make a meaningful contribution to the discussion in order that an informed decision can be made about the short and long term actions that will need to take place to progress the child's Care Plan. The CISRO will have a key role in ensuring that the child's views are heard.
The CISRO has a crucial role in ensuring that there is no undue delay in implementing the actions specified in the Care Plan, and should use their independent position when chairing the review to identify any concerns about how the child's case is being managed. Where the CISRO has concerns about how the child's case is being managed, reference should be made to Section 11, Resolving Problems and Addressing Poor Practice.
In exceptional circumstances, a CISRO may be prevented from chairing a review. When such circumstances arise, the CISRO and/or their manager should decide whether it would be unreasonable to delay the meeting because of the risks of delaying decision-making on the Care Plan, or because of inconvenience to the child, parent or other review participants. Where unreasonable delay would occur, the CISRO's manager should ensure that the review takes place with a substitute chair.
Where the review is chaired by a suitable person other than a CISRO, it will be the responsibility of the designated CISRO or their manager to ensure that the review process meets the necessary standards of independence. The designated CISRO, or their manager, should also ensure that the proposed plan for the child is being progressed within appropriate timescales and that the review has given consideration to the child's perspective. It is the responsibility of the substitute chair to provide the designated CISRO, or their manager, with a written record of the review within 7 working days, so that they can be scrutinised. Where the designated CISRO, or their manager, decides that the scrutiny of the records suggests that the conduct of the review regarding the decision-making process was flawed, then they should take steps to remedy this, including reconvening the review meeting.
In addition to the formal review meeting, it may be necessary to hold other meetings about the child's care. These additional meetings may be needed to ensure that everyone involved in the child's care is working together effectively in order to achieve the objectives of the child's Care Plan, or to focus on a particular aspect of the child's care. These additional meetings form part of the review process and should inform the review meeting. It is not necessary for the CISRO to chair these additional meetings, but the child's social worker or their manager should discuss their planning and outcomes with the CISRO. Significant decisions regarding the care plan should be considered at the earliest opportunity in a review meeting, and it should be noted that any significant decision taken outside of review meetings could be challenged and may risk being deemed as contravening the Human Rights legislation.


7. Attendance and Participation in Reviews

Caption: attendance and participation in reviews table
 
It is the responsibility of the CISRO to ensure that the review process remains child and family centred. More than one meeting may, therefore, be required to ensure that the views of all relevant people inform the review, without the meetings becoming too large. Ongoing work takes place in other forums such as family meetings, meetings with legal advisors, and discussions with schools and other agencies. However, issues and information that affect the current placement and the overall Care Plan should be brought back into the review process for decision-making.
The CISRO should check that relevant professionals in the child's life contribute information to the review process. Relevant professionals include health professionals, teachers, psychologists, futures+ worker, independent visitors, mentors/be-frienders, or an advocate. However, it may not be appropriate for them all to attend the review meeting and it may not be helpful to the child to have every professional present at a formal meeting, where there is personal, sensitive or superfluous information is discussed that the child and family would not wish every professional to know. The CISRO should, therefore, ensure that the review meeting is not swamped by professionals who can make a contribution in writing or by other means, and should ensure that relevant consultation has taken place with those professionals not attending so that the review meeting can be properly informed. However, if the child wishes certain people to be there, then the CISRO should ensure that they are invited.
The CISRO should ensure that all possible steps have been taken to enable the child to make a meaningful contribution to the review process. The CISRO should check that the opportunity has been given to the child - through the Participation and Rights Team - to make a written contribution to the review process, especially if the child chooses not to attend the review meeting or cannot attend for another reason. If the child is willing and able to speak for themselves at the meeting, the CISRO should facilitate this, including assisting the child to chair the meeting if s/he so wishes.
When arranging the date and time of review meetings, the child's commitments should be taken into account so that the child can attend, if s/he so wishes.
The CISRO should be sensitive to the child's wishes and feelings regarding the discussion of personal information at the review meeting. Where a child has specific wishes about sensitive and personal issues, the CISRO should make arrangements to accommodate these, including holding part of the meeting without certain participants being present in order that sensitive and personal information can be discussed.
The CISRO should ensure that the child understands what is being discussed during the meeting. Where possible, the CISRO should meet with the child before and/or after the review meeting to hear the child's views and to clarify anything that the child may not understand.
The CISRO should satisfy themselves that disabled children are able to contribute to the review process and that their views are effectively presented to the review, even if the child is not able to be present or has impaired communication skills. Where the child has impaired communication, consideration should be given to using specific communication aids, an advocate or an interpreter, as appropriate.
The CISRO should ensure that a suitable venue with appropriate access for a disabled person is selected for review meetings, so that a disabled child has the option of attending, if they so wish, and physical access is not a barrier to the child attending.
Where the child's first language is not English, the CISRO should ensure that appropriate steps are taken to enable the child to participate fully in the review process and that the child's views are properly presented. Engaging the services of an independent interpreter should be considered to help the child present their views.
The views of birth parents should be heard at the review and the CISRO should ensure that they are properly presented, even if they are unable to attend or their presence is deemed to be inappropriate. Where the child's social worker feels that it is inappropriate for a parent to attend the review meeting, they should discuss this with the CISRO, who should decide on the level participation (if any) of the parent and should record their reasons for their decision, in writing.
Members of the child's wider family may also wish to contribute to the review and the CISRO should ensure that the views of significant adults in the child's life are heard.
Where the child's parents wish to attend the review meeting, the CISRO should ensure that their commitments are taken into account when arranging the date and time of the meeting. If the parent's first language is not English, the CISRO should ensure that consideration is given to engaging the services of an interpreter. Where the parent is disabled, the CISRO should ensure that any access needs should are met. The CISRO should communicate all decisions about the child's plan to the birth family, if they are unable or unwilling to attend the review meeting.
The CISRO should ensure that foster carers and residential care workers always contribute fully to the review process, as they have a unique knowledge of the child and their contribution is valuable. The CISRO should take into account the views of those caring for the child and the review meeting should not take place unless the carer is able to attend or their written contribution is obtained. The CISRO should ensure that the carer's commitments are always be taken into account when arranging a date and time for the review meeting.


8. Children Subject to Legal Proceedings

Caption:
 

The CISRO will need to consider together with the Children’s Guardian what communication is necessary in order to promote the best possible care planning process for each child. As soon as the CISRO has been appointed to a child subject to proceedings:

  • The CISRO service should provide the legal department for East Riding with the name of the CISRO and with his/her contact details; and
  • The legal department should advise the court of the name of the CISRO and of his/her contact details.

The legal department for East Riding should have a system in place to:

  • Pass on the name and contact details of the Children’s Guardian, once appointed, to the CISRO; and
  • Provide copies of all relevant court documents to the CISRO, including court orders and directions, the reports of experts and the reports of the Children’s Guardian, within five working days of receipt of them.
The Children’s Guardian should be advised of each review meeting and invited, where appropriate.
East Riding should have a system in place to ensure that the legal department and the Children’s Guardian receive a copy of each review record.
The record of each review that takes place during the proceedings should be submitted to court.

The CISRO should ensure that s/he is in discussion with the Children’s Guardian at intervals, as is appropriate for each child’s case and that the topics of discussion include:

  • The wishes and feelings of the child;
  • The current Care Plan;
  • Whether details of the Care Plan are subject to a formal dispute resolution process and if so details of this;
  • Any complaints that have been received about the case; and
  • Any issues raised in court in relation to the implementation of the current Care Plan.
Prior to the Issues Resolution Hearing, the local authority should inform the court of any dispute between the local authority and the CISRO about the plan for the child and of any issues subject to the local dispute resolution process.


9. Children Leaving Care

Caption: children leaving care table
 
CISRO's will continue to be responsible for conducting reviews of Pathway Plans in respect of young people who are "eligible" under the Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000 (i.e. those aged 16 and 17 years who remain looked after).
When reviewing the Pathway Plan for "eligible" young people, the CISRO should ensure that the proposed plan for the young person has been informed by a good quality assessment in which the young person, their family and professional agencies have been appropriately involved.
When arranging the date and time of a review, the CISRO should ensure that the commitments of the young person have been taken into account to enable the young person to attend. 
When reviewing a young person's Pathway Plan, the CISRO should be satisfied that all possible steps have been taken to ensure that the young person is able to make a meaningful contribution to the review process. 


10. Children in Secure Provision

See also Children in Care in Contact with Youth Justice Services.

Caption: children in secure provision table
 
Young people subject to Care Orders who offend and receive a custodial sentence remain looked after. Therefore, the local authority has a responsibility to review their Care Plan. In these circumstances, the team responsible for the child's case will need to make arrangements with the Secure Training Centre or Young Offender Institution for care planning reviews to continue. It will be the responsibility of the CISRO to chair these reviews.
When chairing care planning reviews in respect of young people serving a custodial sentence, the CISRO should ensure that suitable arrangements have been made by the local authority to support the young person during the custodial sentence and that appropriate arrangements are being made to provide the young person with accommodation and support on release, in order to minimise the risk of re-offending. 
Where a young person has been accommodated under Section 20 of the Children Act 1989 prior to receiving a custodial sentence, they do not remain looked after. However, the local authority responsible for their care, must, as far as possible, make arrangements for their care on release. The young person may need to resume their "accommodated" status or, depending on their age, they may be a "relevant" care leaver under the Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000. It would be good practice for the CISRO to chair any through-care planning meetings, especially if the CISRO will resume responsibility for chairing Care Plan or Pathway Plan reviews once the young person has been released. See also Former Looked After Children in Custody Procedure.
Where the local authority will resume responsibility for the care of the young person in custody, the CISRO should ensure that the local authority is maintaining contact with the young person and that they have made arrangements with the secure provision establishment, in partnership with the assigned Youth Offending Team, for a through-Care Plan to be drawn up.
When a child or young person is placed in secure accommodation, subject to a Secure Accommodation Order under Section 25 of the Children Act 1989, the local authority must appoint a panel of at least three people to review the keeping of the child/young person in such accommodation for the purposes of securing their welfare. At least one of the panel members must be independent of the local authority. Although CISRO's are independent of the case, they would not be sufficiently independent to meet the requirements of the Children (Secure Accommodation) Regulations 1991, as the regulations state that the independent panel member must not be employed by the local authority. A "Secure Accommodation Panel" review is not the same as a review of the child/young person's overall care plan and is restricted to the specific question about the necessity of a placement in secure accommodation for that child/young person. However, if the panel concludes that the criteria for restricted liberty no longer apply, or the placement is no longer necessary or another type of placement would be more appropriate, the local authority responsible looking after the child/young person must immediately review the child's placement. The CISRO should, therefore, continue to monitor the local authority's plans for the child and should review the Care Plan as soon as this is appropriate. See also Placements in Secure Accommodation on Welfare Grounds Procedure.


11. Resolving Problems and Addressing Poor Practice

Caption: resolving prblems and addressing poor practice table
 
The CISRO's role is to improve care planning and decision making for looked after children and, therefore, to make an important contribution to the consistency of the local authority's approach to planning for the children in its care.
The CISRO has a key role in resolving problems. Where the CISRO identifies poor practice in care planning for the child, the CISRO should attempt to resolve any problems through negotiation with the local authority's management. Initially, the CISRO should attempt to expedite a resolution to the problem through negotiation with the Team Manager responsible for the child's case.
The CISRO should initially provide their concerns in writing to the Team Manager responsible, with a copy to the child's social worker for inclusion on the child's file. The CISRO should outline the nature of their concern, providing evidence (where appropriate) of any failure to meet previous recommendations and actions regarding the Care Plan, along with any suggested actions needed to resolve the problem and the timescales that the CISRO considers reasonable for the local authority to address their concerns.
Where appropriate, the CISRO should then arrange a meeting with the child's social worker and their Team Manager to discuss how the local authority proposes to resolve the problems in the care planning process.

Where the CISRO has been unable to resolve the identified problems with the Team Manager responsible for the case, the CISRO should consider referring the matter to senior managers to attempt to find a resolution. Situations in which a referral to senior managers, as part of a more formal problem resolution process, may include:

  1. Where there has been a failure to action or progress the Care Plan or Permanence Plan, without an acceptable reason; or
  2. Where there has been a failure, within a reasonable time, to undertake an assessment recommended at a review meeting; or that the responsible team has failed to present the child's case to a Commissioning Panel, Fostering Panel or Adoption Panel and that there has been an unacceptable delay in the decision-making process, which is harmful to the child's welfare or best interests;
  3. Where it appears to the CISRO that there has been a change of circumstances that warrant the holding of an earlier review; or that there has been a change in the Care or Permanence Plan, and the responsible team has failed to arrange an earlier review as instructed by the CISRO within a reasonable timescale;
  4. Any situation where the CISRO decides that the Local Authority has failed, without acceptable reason, to progress the Care Plan for the child or action any review recommendation, and that there is a danger of the child's human rights being breached.
Where the CISRO's negotiations with the Team Manager responsible for the child's case prove unsuccessful in resolving any problems, the CISRO should refer the matter in writing to the relevant Area Manager. The CISRO should provide an explanation of their concerns, along with any evidence of poor practice, and details of any attempts to resolve the problem with the responsible Team Manager.
The CISRO should then seek to meet with the Area Manager to discuss how the local authority proposes to resolve any problems in the care planning process for the child.
Where any problems or concerns remain unresolved, the CISRO should then ensure that a copy of the relevant documents outlining the issues are sent to the appropriate Children's Trust Manager (Strategic and Operations or Strategic and Commissioning). The CISRO should then seek to arrange a meeting with the Service Manager to attempt to find a resolution to the issues raised.
If the attempts of the CISRO continue to be unsuccessful in resolving any problems, the CISRO should then refer the matter on to the Head of Children's Services for a resolution. The CISRO should outline their concerns and their attempts to resolve the problem, and should request to meet with the Head of Children's Social Care to discuss the problem and to seek a solution.
Where the meeting between the CISRO and Head of Service fails to bring about an agreed resolution, the CISRO should then write to the Director of Children, Families and Schools requesting a meeting as part of the problem resolution process. The CISRO should send a briefing report to the Director of Children, Families and Schools outlining their concerns, their attempts to resolve the problem, and the reasons why they consider that their previous attempts to resolve their concerns have been unsatisfactory. The CISRO should then meet with the Director to discuss the problem and to seek a solution.
If the attempts of the CISRO continue to be unsuccessful in resolving any problems, the CISRO should then make a final attempt to resolve any problems with the local authority, by referring the matter to the local authority's Chief Executive. The CISRO should provide a copy of the briefing document provided to the Director and any other relevant documentation, along with a chronology of their attempts to resolve outstanding issues. The CISRO should also provide an explanation as to why they consider that there is a risk that the child's human rights being breached. The CISRO should inform the Chief Executive that this is the final stage in their attempt to resolve outstanding issues before referring the matter to CAFCASS, and should request the Chief Executive to investigate the matter. The CISRO should then arrange to meet with the Chief Executive to discuss the issues and to establish whether a resolution of outstanding issues can be obtained. Where the CISRO is unable to resolve matters satisfactorily with the Chief Executive, the CISRO should then follow the procedures outlined in Section 9 of this guidance, to refer the matter to CAFCASS.
When undertaking the problem resolution process outlined in this guidance, the CISRO should be mindful of avoiding unnecessary delay and drift in the care planning process. Therefore, at each stage of the CISRO's attempts to resolve the issues, the CISRO should make a decision about the appropriate timescale in which the problem should be resolved before proceeding to the next stage of the process, and should make this clear to the local authority management at each stage of the resolution process. The overriding responsibility of the CISRO is towards the child and in all cases the welfare of the child is the primary concern. Therefore, at each stage the CISRO should make whatever decision they consider to be in the best interests of the child.
Where the child is placed by the local authority with an Independent Fostering Agency or in a children's home within the independent sector, it is the responsibility of the local authority for resolving any problems that arise within the child's placement. It is the responsibility of the CISRO to focus on any concerns arising from the suitability, timing and implementation of the child's Care Plan. However, it the responsibility of the CISRO to monitor the actions of the local authority in addressing any problems that arise within the placement.
The CISRO does not have a role in instigating the Complaints Procedure, but does have a role in informing the child that they have a right to make a complaint and of the local authority's responsibility to provide them with an Independent Advocate, should the child wish. However, the CISRO may be part of the solution to the problem, and an outstanding formal complaint should not prevent the CISRO from fulfilling their role in resolving problems by negotiation. The CISRO should not prejudice the Complaints Procedure, but their work may help to speed up the process or may enable a resolution. The CISRO should always become involved in a serious complaint concerning the child's Care Plan, but should not usually get involved in minor complaints about the child's day to day care.
Advocacy is about empowering children and young people and ensuring that their rights are respected and their views and wishes are heard at all times. It is the role of the advocate to represent the views, wishes and needs of the child or young person and to guide them through the system providing their care. Nevertheless, the process of advocacy and complaints can run alongside the CISRO's actions in attempting to resolve an issue. The CISRO should, therefore, ensure that they, the Complaints Officer, and the Advocate are in agreement about their respective roles and responsibilities in trying to resolve a complaint, and how they will communicate with each other.


12. Referring a Case to CAFCASS

Caption: referring a case to cafcass table
 

The CISRO has the authority to refer a case to CAFCASS if he/she ‘considers it appropriate to do so’.

The CISRO must consider whether it is appropriate to refer a case to CAFCASS if:

  • In his/her opinion, the Local Authority 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; and
  • Having drawn this to the attention of persons of appropriate seniority in the Local Authority, the issues have not been addressed to the CISRO’s satisfaction within a reasonable period of time.
Given the above, the CISRO should consider whether a remedy could be achieved by referring the matter to CAFCASS, so that legal proceedings can be brought. Legal Proceedings might include further family proceedings, an application under the Human Rights Act 1998, or an application for a judicial review.
The CISRO should take into account the additional delay associated with legal proceedings and consider whether this may not be in the child's best interests.
The CISRO's power to refer cases to CAFCASS applies to all Looked After Children, including those looked after under a voluntary agreement (Section 20 of the Children Act 1989) and those under a Care Order (Section 31 of the Children Act 1989).

The CISRO should only refer a case to CAFCASS, for legal proceedings to be considered, after:

  1. The CISRO has made every attempt to resolve the problem within the local authority, including with the Chief Executive; and
  2. There is no other person able and willing to take the case on the child's behalf, when the child is under 18.
If a child or young person wishes to take proceedings on their own behalf, it is not the role of the CISRO to provide legal advice about the prospect of success of any proceedings, but it is their role to ensure that appropriate legal advice is obtained.

Before making a referral to CAFCASS, the CISRO should consider the following:

  1. Where the child, wishing to bring proceedings, is of sufficient age and understanding to do so without the need for an adult to act on their behalf, the CISRO should assist the child in obtaining their own legal advice from a suitably qualified and experienced lawyer;
  2. Where there is an adult (not necessarily someone with Parental Responsibility) able and willing to bring proceedings on behalf of the child, it is the role of the CISRO to establish that this is done;
  3. Where the child is not in a position to initiate proceedings on their own behalf and there is no adult who is willing or able to do so on their behalf, and there is a risk of the child's human rights being breached or they have been in some way failed by the Local Authority, the CISRO should refer the matter to CAFCASS Legal.

When making a referral to CAFCASS, the CISRO should provide the following documentation:

  1. Copies of the original Care Order and Care Plan;
  2. The report of the Child's Guardian immediately preceding the making of any care order;
  3. All subsequent review documents;
  4. A report by the CISRO explaining why the matter is being referred and setting out the steps the CISRO has taken to try to resolve the matter with the local authority;
  5. Where the child/young person is of sufficient age and understanding, a report by the CISRO regarding the child's wishes and feelings, including in relation to potential court proceedings;
  6. Any other documents considered relevant, including a chronology and statement of issues, a list of important people in the child's life and their relationship and involvement with the child.
In some cases it may be unclear whether any of the above courses of action will be appropriate. In these circumstances, the CISRO should contact the Officers of CAFCASS Legal to discuss the circumstances of the case and to seek advice about potential referrals.

After receiving the referral and documentation from the CISRO, CAFCASS Legal will make a decision about whether or not to issue proceedings, usually within 14 days of receiving all the necessary documents, and will submit a written report of their decision to:

  1. The Children's Independent and Safeguarding Reviewing Officer;
  2. The Chief Executive of the local authority;
  3. The social worker in charge of the case;
  4. Any person specified by CISRO in the referral; and
  5. Any other person the officer of CAFCASS considers should be informed.
Where possible, CAFCASS Legal will involve the child in its decision and in all cases it will inform the CISRO of the decision it has taken.

After receiving a referral from the CISRO, an officer of CAFCASS Legal may decide:

  1. That the case has been inappropriately referred by the CISRO, and:
    1. Require further written information as to the steps taken before the referral; or
    2. Proceed with the referral irrespective of whether the referral was appropriate; or
    3. Refuse the referral and remit the case to the CISRO, stating the information that must be supplied before it may be referred again.
  2. That insufficient information has been supplied with the referral, so that a decision cannot properly be made, and the officer may:
    1. Require further written information in respect of the referral; or
    2. Refuse the referral and remit the case to the CISRO, stating the information that must be supplied before it may be referred again.
  3. To bring court proceedings, and should issue these within six weeks of receipt of the referral by the CISRO. If court proceedings cannot be issued with six weeks, the proceedings should be issued as soon as is reasonably practicable.
Where the CISRO has referred a case to CAFCASS Legal, and CAFCASS Legal have requested further written information from the CISRO, the CISRO has a duty to provide the information requested in a timely manner, so as to minimise any delay in any legal action being taken.
Where CAFCASS Legal refuse the referral and remits the matter back to the CISRO, the CISRO should continue to monitor the actions of the Local Authority and to continue to address any issues that arise in the Local Authority's care planning and decision-making.

On the conclusion of every case, whether following judgment of the court or earlier settlement, the officer of CAFCASS dealing with the matter will provide a written report to the CISRO. The report will contain:

  1. The reasons for the action taken;
  2. Where applicable, the reasons for any delay where the time limits in regulations have not been complied with;
  3. Full details of the court order or other settlement; and
  4. Any comments or recommendations the officer of CAFCASS may have in respect of the case.


13. Duty of the Social Worker to keep the CISRO Informed

The Social Worker must inform the CISRO of significant changes/events in the child’s life including:

  • Any proposed change of Care Plan, for example arising at short notice in the course of the proceedings following directions from the court;
  • Discharge from care by a person with parental responsibility when the child is section 20 Accommodated;
  • Where agreed decisions from the review are not carried out within the specified timescale;
  • Major changes to the contact arrangements;
  • Changes of allocated social worker;
  • Any safeguarding concerns involving the child which may lead to enquiries being make 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 CISRO;
  • 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 form an approved placement;
  • Significant health, medical events, diagnoses, illnesses, hospitalisations or serious accidents; and
  • Panel decisions in relation to permanency;
  • Where a placement is a Placement at a Distance.

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