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5.3.5 Practice Recognition and Issue Resolution Process

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This chapter outlines in detail the processes for expressing compliments to practitioners and also for ‘Issue Resolution’, when there is conflict between staff in the Safeguarding Service and the Children’s Delivery Service; it highlights five levels of process. It also emphasises that most issues should be resolved through discussion at the lowest ‘levels’ and the importance of involving children in the resolution process where this is appropriate.

RELEVANT CHAPTER

Looked After Reviews Procedure


Contents

  1. Foreword
  2. Statutory Guidance
  3. Process
  4. Involvement of Children, Young People and Parents in Resolving Concerns
  5. Impact of the Process
  6. Examples of Good Practice in Issue Resolution
  7. Complaints about Chairing Practice
  8. Complaints Procedure and Youth Advocacy Project
  9. Additional Procedures: Raising Concerns and Resolving Difficulties in Respect of Care Plans for the Court


1. Foreword

It is the task of each local authority to put in place a formal process for the Independent Reviewing Service to raise compliments and concerns and to ensure that this process is respected and prioritised by managers(1).

The process ensures that Brighton and Hove City Council has an operational process and recording system for formalising this. It covers two areas of practice; the recognition of good practice and the way in which issues and disputed decisions are resolved. It references current national guidance, and looks at the roles of the Independent Reviewing Service for Looked After Children).(1)


2. Statutory Guidance

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

Regulation 45 (P97 4.39) states: “where disagreements or differences in opinion arise in the course of the review process between those present, every effort should be made to resolve the matter on an informal basis. Where agreement cannot be reached, the responsible authority should ensure that the child, parents, carers and others involved with the child are aware of the representations procedure they are required to have in place. The IRO is under a duty to advise the child of his/her right to make a complaint and of the availability of an Advocate to assist the child in making a complaint.”

This is further addressed within the statutory guidance for Independent Reviewing Officers(2) available for download at the DERA website.

This document describes revised procedures and new guidance on setting up: first and subsequent LAC Reviews; writing Care Plans (including Placement Plans); writing social work reports for Reviews; writing IRO record of reviews; monitoring care plans, and the use of negotiation and challenge processes for statutory reviewing.


3. Process

3.1 Practice Recognition

Where there is evidence of good or excellent practice and management of Care Plans the Independent Reviewing Officer will complete a Module 8: Practice Recognition in accordance with the Quality Assurance Framework (Children Looked-after and Care Leavers). The format ensures consistency in where information is recorded and stored as part of the child’s electronic CareFirst record. Completed Practice Recognitions should be alerted to:

  • The staff member’s respective line manager (as evidence to support professional development planning);
  • Independent Reviewing Manager (Children Looked-after).

Positive comments from children, parents and other professionals / agencies should be passed through to complaints@brighton-hove.gov.uk.

Good or excellent practice may be characterised by exceptional efforts to achieve stated outcomes for a child and may include elements of the following:

  • Building a trusted and effective relationship;
  • Significant foresight / quality of assessment;
  • Tenacious efforts to overcome obstacles;
  • Effective planning and review to progress complex issues;
  • Working with hostility and resistance;
  • Effectiveness of interventions.

3.2 Issue Resolution

The Independent Reviewing Officer will attempt to resolve issues concerning the child’s care plan by negotiation, including contacting the team responsible for the child and, where appropriate and in the interests of the child, call an urgent review. In most cases it will be possible to address concerns through dialogue, which is evidenced via the process outlined below.

Issues arising directly from the child/young person’s looked-after review will be recorded immediately on a Module 4: Looked-after Quality Monitoring (Independent Reviewing Service) in accordance with the requirements of the Quality Assurance Framework. The impact and outcome of further communications, including timescales for action, will be recorded via Casenote: IRO Record (LAC) alerts. Concerns could include any of the following issues:

  • Care Plan drift and delay;
  • Failure to consider child / young person’s identity needs;
  • Insufficient weight given to the views of the child or to those of his/her parents, carers, or other professionals;
  • Failure to share SW report with young person / parent / carer / professionals;
  • Safeguarding concerns not identified or responded to appropriately;
  • Inadequate preparation for review / poor contribution to review;
  • Failure to identify / address child’s health or education needs;
  • Significant changes to a child’s care plan outside of the formal looked-after child review (unless not reasonably practical);
  • IRO not consulted about major changes to contact;
  • IRO not informed of change of allocated SW;
  • IRO not informed of safeguarding concerns;
  • IRO not informed of complaint;
  • IRO not informed of proposed changes within child’s placement or education.

Formal disputes will be recorded via the Looked-after Manager Alert process using the template provided in the child’s electronic record in CareFirst.

The following guidelines are designed to provide a clear and transparent evidence of the management supervision process for dispute resolution:

Informal Issue Resolution Process

Quality Monitoring template

 

Casenote: IRO Record (LAC)

IRO raises concerns with Pod Team Manager

The Independent Reviewing Officer may raise any significant issue for discussion. This is an informal process and ideally should be addressed through effective communication such as face-to-face or telephone discussion with the aim of achieving early resolution within an agreed timescale.

Where the issue has not been resolved then the IRO will consult with the IRO Manager (Children Looked-after). Relevant information concerning the strengths and weaknesses of the case will be shared. Consideration will be given to whether to escalate the issue for resolution by the Pod Team Manager and IRO.

The IRO will record a concise summary of the issues and resolutions on a Casenote: IRO Record (LAC). The casenote will be alerted to: Social Worker; Pod Team Manager and IRO Manager (Children Looked-after).

Timescales negotiated
Formal Dispute Resolution Process

Level 1

 

 

Looked-after Manager Alert.

 

IRO raises concerns with the Pod Team Manager and notifies the relevant Service Manager

Effective negotiation (through face-to-face or telephone discussion where possible) will be used to resolve the issues.

The Pod Team Manager has 5 working days from the point of issue to summarise their response to the issues outlined in the Looked-after Manager Alert.

Where the issue has not been resolved, the IRO will consult with the IRO Manager (Children Looked-after) about possible routes to resolving the issue.

The IRO will summarise the impact and outcome of the process on the CareFirst Looked-after Manager Alert with the resolution achieved within 5 working days.

5 working days

Level 2

 

Looked-after Manager Alert

 

IRO Manager (Children Looked-after) raises concerns with the Service Manager and notifies the Head of Children’s Delivery Unit

Effective negotiation (through face-to-face or telephone discussion where possible) will be used to resolve the issues within five working days. The Pod Team Manager and IRO will make sure that all relevant information is made available.

Where the issue has not been resolved then the IRO Manager (Children Looked-after) will consult with the Head of Safeguarding. Consideration will be given to possible routes to resolving the issue.

The Service Manager will complete their written response via the CareFirst Looked-after Manager Alert.

The IRO Manager (Children Looked-after) will summarise the impact and outcome of the process on the Looked-after Manager Alert with the resolution achieved within 5 working days.

5 working days

Level 3

 

Looked-after Manager Alert

Head of Safeguarding raises concerns with the Head of Children’s Delivery Unit and notifies the Director Children’s Services

If the dispute remains unresolved then relevant information will be submitted to the Head of Children’s Delivery Unit. A meeting will take place in order to review the case and secure a resolution.

The Head of Children’s Delivery will complete their written response via the CareFirst Looked-after Manager Alert with the resolution achieved within 4 working days.

The Head of Safeguarding will summarise the impact and outcome of the process on the Looked-after Manager Alert.

Where the issue has not been resolved then the Head of Safeguarding may find it prudent to seek legal and Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) advice, to consider alternative solutions and the implications of next actions.

4 working days

Level 4

 

Looked-after Manager Alert

 

Head of Safeguarding raises concerns with the Director Children’s Services

If the matter remains unresolved it will be escalated to the Director for Children’s Services for a meeting and / or written adjudication on the matter. The Head of Children’s Delivery and Head of Safeguarding will ensure that all relevant information is made available.

The Head of Safeguarding will summarise the impact and outcome of the process on the CareFirst Looked-after Manager Alert.

Where the issue has not been resolved then the Head of Safeguarding will seek legal and Cafcass advice before deciding whether to formally refer the matter to Cafcass.

If the matter still remains unresolved, the Head of Safeguarding will notify the Director of Children’s Services in writing of the intention to refer the matter to the Chief Executive.

 

3 working days

Level 5

 

Looked-after Manager Alert

 

Head of Safeguarding raises concerns with the Chief Executive

The Head of Safeguarding will have access to independent legal advice and will seek written adjudication on the matter. All supporting information will be made available, including, where appropriate, the outcome of Independent legal advice in relation to the rights of the child and any potential breach of the child’s Human Rights.

If the matter still remains unresolved the Head of Safeguarding will notify the Director of Children’s Services and the Chief Executive in writing of the intention to refer the case to Cafcass.

The Head of Safeguarding will make the referral to Cafcass with all required documentation. Once referral has been made, Cafcass will enter into final dispute resolution with the Local Authority before legal proceedings are instituted. It is the responsibility of Cafcass and not the Independent Reviewing Service to determine whether a legal remedy should be sought.

3 working days


4. Involvement of Children, Young People and Parents in Resolving Concerns

The Independent Reviewing Service will ensure that in attempting to resolve any issues or formal disputes about a child’s care plan, that they do not override the views of the child or young person. The Independent Reviewing Service will consider the child’s need for an Independent Advocate, who will support the child in having their own views, wishes and feelings clearly represented and considered. Children have a right to have their voices heard and will have the opportunity of participating in the resolution process, where the outcomes that they themselves identify will be fully considered.

The Local Authority has a duty to ensure that the child and other significant persons (parents) are informed in a timely way of the decision not to implement review recommendations.

In the event that any formal Dispute Resolution process has been activated the Independent Reviewing Service must also ensure the child understands that, aside from the IRO's planned actions to seek resolution on the Dispute(s), the child is entitled to access independent advocacy and to make use of the complaints process to pursue resolution themselves. The Advocacy Services and Representations Procedure (Children) (Amendment) Regulations 2004 and guidance sets out LA’s duties in making arrangements for the provision of advocacy services for children making or intending to make a complaint under Section 24D and 26 of the Children Act 1989.

The Brighton and Hove Youth Advocacy Project (YAP) supports children and young people to have a say in decisions made about their care. The service also helps young people to understand and secure their rights and entitlements to services. Children looked-after and care leavers have a statutory right to an advocate if they wish to make a complaint or a representation.


5. Impact of the Process

The IRO Manager (Looked After Children) will provide an analysis of the quality monitoring, practice recognition and issue resolution process including the general themes/patterns of practice issues raised and the outcome of Intervention(s) bi annually (October and April). The report will be submitted to the Quality Assurance and Clinical Governance Group (QACG) and the Child Review Board. In addition, a report will be submitted to the BHCC Corporate Parenting Subcommittee.


6. Examples of Good Practice in Issue Resolution

The following examples are provides as illustration of effective approaches to resolving issues:

  1. A young person is experiencing difficulties in making the transition to leaving care or adult services - the IRO notes this at the review meeting and asks the social worker to negotiate with the adult team or the leaving care team to make sure he receives the right service, and to report back within one month if there is no improvement. The IRO contacts the social worker a month after and the social worker has been able to resolve the issues. The IRO summarises their communications on a casenote: IRO Record (LAC);
  2. A parent is not satisfied that their child’s placement is sufficiently meeting the child’s cultural needs. The parent has pursued the matter through the formal complaints procedure. The IRO notes progress at the review meeting and checks that the care plan addresses the issue and talks to the child about the situation. The child is stable and happy in their placement despite being the only ethnic minority foster child in the household. The IRO suggests that the carer could help the child attend cultural events and increase support at home, including cooking particular food for the child. The problem is resolved by the Complaints Officer on the basis of agreement to these arrangements. The IRO summarises their communications on a casenote: IRO Record (LAC);
  3. A child wants more contact with her sibling and after some months this has not been arranged. The IRO’s role has been to ensure the child knows they can request an advocate. The child subsequently requests an advocate, who works with the social worker on the child’s behalf, to find a contact arrangement which suits both children and their carers. The IRO contacts the child and the social worker a month before the next review meeting, the IRO asks what has happened and finds that the issue has been resolved satisfactorily. The IRO summarises their communications on a casenote: IRO Record (LAC);
  4. A child’s Personal Education Plan (PEP) is not up to date and he is performing poorly at school. The IRO asks the social worker to contact the Virtual Schools Team for looked after children, to assist with improving the PEP. The IRO asks the social worker to provide a copy of the PEP within three weeks and the practice manager is informed. After three weeks there is no sign of the PEP. The IRO calls the social worker, notifies the Pod Team Manager. The IRO gives another week to arrange the PEP. After this point the IRO has still not received the PEP and calls again. She cannot reach the social worker or and speaks to the Pod Team Manager. The Pod Team Manager agrees to pursue the matter and the IRO received the PEP with a new plan for supporting the child within the next week. The IRO summarises their communications on a casenote: IRO Record (LAC).The IRO checks how things are going at the next review meeting;
  5. The local authority has consistently failed to address a young disabled child’s complex needs for a residential placement offering specialist education, therapeutic support and health services. The placement requires an agreement by several agencies to fund jointly. The IRO has reached the limit of their negotiating power with all senior management including the Chief Executive. The IRO refers the case to CAFCASS.


7. Complaints about Chairing Practice

If there are concerns about the performance of a child's IRO or about the organisation and conduct of a review, the matter should be referred in writing to the IRO Manager (Looked-after) who will arrange an investigation and feedback within 10 working days. If the matter is not resolved satisfactorily then the matter will be escalated to the Head of Service (Safeguarding and Quality Assurance).


8. Complaints Procedure and Youth Advocacy Project

The Independent Reviewing Officer may work with the LA's complaints officers and YAP where necessary for the resolution of any problem that arises in relation to care planning for the child. Independent Reviewing Officer's do not have a role in instigating the complaints procedure themselves, and should not stand in the way of a complaint being made. But, the Designated Complaints Officer may talk to the Independent Reviewing Service about options available. The Independent Reviewing Service may have a role in communicating both with the child and the complaints service. Whilst not prejudicing the complaints process, their work may help to speed up the process or find a resolution.

Independent Reviewing Service will only become involved in serious complaints concerning a child's Care Plan, not minor complaints about a child's day-to-day care. The Independent Reviewing Service will determine whether a problem raised via a complaint is serious enough to constitute a breach of the child's human rights or whether it would be better to await a resolution through the formal complaints procedure, with or without the additional support of the Independent Reviewing Service.

The Independent Reviewing Service has a duty to inform children that they have a right to make a complaint and of the Local Authority's responsibility to provide them with an independent advocate. The process of advocacy and complaints can run alongside the Independent Reviewing Service actions in working to resolve any issues or disputes.


9. Additional Procedures: Raising Concerns and Resolving Difficulties in Respect of Care Plans for the Court

  • There is an expectation that the Independent Reviewing Service will receive a copy of the final care plan once this has been agreed and before it is submitted to the court. Ideally this will give time for any concerns to be raised with the Pod Team Manager and social worker. It may be possible to time the review appropriately for the plan to be considered at that meeting but if this has not been possible, the Independent Reviewing Officer will need to see the plan and have the opportunity to comment. It is also expected that the Independent Reviewing service will have access to any specialist assessments that have been undertaken for the court;
  • Where the Independent Reviewing Service is concerned about a care plan which is to be submitted to court in care proceedings, there are particular considerations, which apply in addition to the usual problem resolution process outlined above. The Independent Reviewing Service understands that the Independent Reviewing Officer role in this context is to ensure that the court is enabled to have all relevant perspectives on the plan for the child. Therefore, the IRO will be expected to involve and communicate with the Children’s Guardian;
  • Given the constraints of time just prior to the final hearing in most cases, it may be necessary for concerns to be raised simultaneously with the social worker, Pod Team Manager and the service manager. If the social worker is not available then the Pod Team Manager or service manager will be approached and, failing the availability of all three, then the Head of Service be contacted;
  • Resolution processes may be compressed if time is short and will always involve the discussion with the IRO Manager (Children Looked-after). If it proves impossible to reach agreement at this stage, the discussion would progress to more senior managers in as short a timescale as possible. It is likely too that, at this stage, the Independent Reviewing Service would seek separate legal advice;
  • If it has not been possible for a resolution to be achieved and the Independent Reviewing Service takes the view that there is a need to inform the court of the difference of view, the Children’s Guardian will be informed and advice from CAFCASS sought. Advice will be taken by the Independent Reviewing Service as to the most appropriate means of informing the court, including a request that the Guardian makes the court aware of their view;
  • At all stages of this procedure, the social worker will be kept informed by the Independent Reviewing Service and there will be a transparent process which will take into account this particularly difficult stage of work with children and parents;
  • The social worker has responsibility for informing the children and parents of the process and for keeping them informed of developments whenever necessary.

(1) The Children Act 1989 Guidance for Regulations Volume 2: Care Planning, Placement and Case Review came into effect on 1st April 2011.

(2) IRO’s Handbook

End