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5.2.6 The Role of the IRO in Problem Resolution Procedure


This chapter details the Conflict Resolution procedure to be progressed when the Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) has significant concerns with regard to a child’s situation, whether this is as a result of Significant Harm, the progress of their care plan or infringement of their human rights etc. Emphasis is always to deal with these issues at the lowest tier and by agreement and discussion with the social worker and their manager. However, where there remains no resolution having progressed the matters through the Directorate and Local Authority, the concerns can be referred to the Child and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS).

This chapter was added to the manual in October 2013.


Complaints and Representations Procedure

Complaints: Children’s Social Care

Advocacy and Independent Visitors Procedure

Looked After Reviews Procedure


  1. Introduction
  2. Statutory Framework
  3. Role of IRO to Inform Children of Their Right to Complaints and Advocacy
  4. Problem Resolution Routes
  5. Problem Resolution Process - Stages
  6. Statutory Complaints Process

1. Introduction

This procedure sets out the route that Independent Reviewing Officers (IROs) need to take to resolve problems where the IRO is of the view that the responsible authority:

  • Has failed to address the needs of the child set out in the revised plan;
  • Has failed to review the case in accordance with the regulations;
  • Has failed to implement effectively any decision made at a review;
  • Is otherwise in breach of its duties to the child in any significant way.

This procedure applies to Children in Care, Children in Need and care leavers.

Under the National Standards for the Provision of Children’s Advocacy Services (2002) Local Authorities are expected to commission advocacy services for children.

A key function of the IRO is to resolve problems arising out of the care planning process. To do this IROs need to establish a positive working relationship with the social workers of the children that they are responsible for.

In cases where poor practice has been identified, the IRO will negotiate with the management of the Local Authority up to the highest level, and has, as a last resort, the power to refer to the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS).

In all cases, the welfare of the child is the primary concern and, depending on the age of the child/young person, they are to be kept informed by the IRO at each stage of the resolution process.

This document should be read in conjunction with Children Social Care Complaints Policy.

2. Statutory Framework


  • Independent Reviewing Officers Guidance: Adoption and Children Act 2002;
  • The Children and Young Persons Act 2008;
  • The Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations - Volume 2: Care Planning, Placement and Case Review;
  • Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010;
  • IRO Handbook - Statutory Guidance 2010;
  • The Advocacy Services and Representation Procedure (Children) (Amendment) Regulations 2004;
  • Family Justice Review 2012.


  • Children Social Care Complaints Policy 2010.

3. Role of IRO to Inform Children of Their Right to Complaints and Advocacy

The IRO will work with Children’s Social Care Complaints Department and the Advocacy Service where necessary to resolve a problem.

When they meet children, IROs have a duty to inform them that they have a right to make complaints to the Local Authority and of the Local Authority’s responsibility to provide them with an independent Advocate should the child so wish. (See Complaints and Representations Procedure and Complaints: Children’s Social Care. Also note telephone Barnado’s on Tel: 01752 564572.)

4. Problem Resolution Routes

The IRO will make the decision whether to follow the:

In each case the IRO will need to discuss the differences in these procedures with the child or young person involved (and, where necessary, their Advocate) and decide which process needs to be followed. The IRO is to ensure that this discussion and the decision on which process will be followed is recorded on the child’s file.

5. Problem Resolution Process - Stages

The aim is to resolve problems in a timely manner that would prevent the need for them to be escalated to a higher level where a complaint would be necessary.

At the discretion of the IRO a referral can be made to CAFCASS at any of the stages listed below if the IRO believes it to be in the best interest of the child.

Stage 1 (Informal Resolution)

Wherever possible, the IRO will attempt to resolve a problem concerning the child’s care plan by negotiation with the Social Worker and Team Manager. The IRO is to place a record of this initial informal resolution process on the child or young person’s record.

Stage 2 (Formal Resolution)

The IRO handbook states "The formal dispute resolution process within each Local Authority should have timescales in total of no more than 20 working days"; however, it is agreed that where the IRO considers it reasonable and appropriate to the child or in the young person’s best interest, this will be extended.

If the identified problem is not resolved within the agreed timescales, a formal Problem Resolution Meeting will be called, chaired by the Safeguarding Service Manager and attended by relevant managers and front line staff and minuted by the IRO.

Stage 3

When timescales for resolution have not been met, a further meeting to be called to include a Service Manager from the Safeguarding Service and the relevant childcare team. This meeting will be chaired by the Service Manager, Safeguarding Service, and minutes placed on the child or young person’s record.

Stage 4

If the problem remains unresolved, the IRO in their independent role will refer the case through the line management chain through the Head of Service, Senior Officer that is an Assistant Director, the Director and Chief Local Authority Executive.

Stage 5 (Referral to CAFCASS)

If all the above stages have proved unsuccessful and there is a danger of the child/young person’s human rights being breached, the IRO will consider whether to use his/her statutory powers to refer to CAFCASS so that legal proceedings can be brought to achieve a remedy.

When considering whether to make a referral to CAFCASS, the IRO must consider the impact that a referral would have for the child. In some cases, there will be time available first to pursue the full problem resolution procedure within the local authority (for example, where the dispute relates to educational provision for the next academic year and it is currently still the autumn term). In other situations, the matter will be of sufficient urgency that the problem resolution process needs to be curtailed (for example, where there is a plan to change the child’s residential placement within a matter of weeks).

It is the responsibility of the IRO to make the decision whether to and when a referral is necessary, based on the timescale for the child or young person.

The IRO’s power to refer a case to CAFCASS applies to all Children in Care including:

  • Those under a voluntary agreement ( Section 20 of the Children Act 1989);
  • Those looked after under a Care Order (Section 31 of the Children Act 1989).

The IRO is to inform the Assistant Director that a referral will be made to CAFCASS and the timescale for doing this.

The IRO can make a referral to CAFCASS by contacting CAFCASS Legal initially by telephone, but the referral must always be confirmed in writing to the duty lawyer who will provide contact details to the IRO. The CAFCASS Legal duty helpline telephone number is Tel: 01752 229124 and more information is available from the CAFCASS National Office, which can be found on the CAFCASS website.

Where the IRO has reached a decision to stop the problem resolution process to meet the needs of the child or young person, the IRO must explain the reasons for this to the senior officer.

6. Statutory Complaints Process

If the decision is made that the child or young person wishes to make a complaint in accordance with the statutory procedure, the Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) must make immediate contact with the Customer Relations Manager. The Customer Relations Manager will make urgent arrangements for the complaint to be investigated and a response made to the young person in accordance with that procedure (see Complaints and Representations Procedure).

Where there is a dispute regarding the Care Plan during care proceedings, the Local Authority must inform the court.

When the child whose case is reviewed wishes to take legal proceedings under the 1989 Children Act, the then the IRO must:

  • Assist the child to obtain legal advice;
  • Establish whether an appropriate adult is able and willing to assist the child or bring legal proceedings on the child’s behalf.

Where the child is not in a position to initiate legal proceedings on their own behalf, and no adult is able or willing to do so, and there is a danger that their human rights may be breached, the IRO will refer the matter to CAFCASS Legal, with all the required documentation as follows:

  • Copies of the original care order and care plan;
  • The report of the children’s guardian immediately preceding the making of any care order;
  • All subsequent review documents;
  • A report by the IRO explaining why the matter is being referred and setting out the steps they have taken to resolve the position with the Local Authority;
  • Where the child is of sufficient age and understanding, a report by the IRO on the child’s wishes and feelings, including in relation to potential court proceedings;
  • Any other documentation 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.