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Our advice service

We provide advice to parents, grandparents, relatives, friends and kinship carers who are involved with children’s services in England or need their help. We can help you understand processes and options when social workers or courts are making decisions about your child’s welfare.

Our advice service is free, independent and confidential.

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By phone or email

To speak to an adviser, please call our free and confidential advice line 0808 801 0366 (Monday to Friday 9.30am to 3pm, excluding Bank Holidays). Or you can ask us a question via email using our advice enquiry form.

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Our online advice forums are an anonymous space where parents and kinship carers (also known as family and friends carers) can get legal and practical advice, build a support network and learn from other people’s experiences.

Advice on our website

Our get help and advice section describes the processes that you and your family are likely to go through, so that you know what to expect. Our webchat service can help you find the information and advice on our website which will help you understand the law and your rights.

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What if the parent of a child in care has not been invited to their child’s looked after review. Or given a copy of the review’s decisions

Parents should be invited to the looked after child review. This is so they can:

  • Share their views and raise questions and concerns
  • Be involved in discussion and decisions about their child
  • Hear information about their child’s progress and placement.

In exceptional circumstances a parent can be excluded from the meeting. This should only happen if the independent reviewing officer and social worker thinks it is not in the child’s interests for the parent to be there.

This is all set out in government statutory guidance called the IRO Handbook, at paragraph 3.17.

If this happens the social worker and independent reviewing office must:

  • Give the parent written reasons for refusing to allow them to come to the review
  • Ask the parent to provide their views in another way. For example, by letter, video clip or voice note. Or in a separate meeting with the independent reviewing officer before the review takes place.

Parents who are not happy with a decision not to be invited meeting should see. How can a parent or carer of a child in care under a court order complain about their child’s independent reviewing officer or about a review?

What if a parent hasn’t been given a copy of the decision made at their child’s looked after review?

After a looked after review meeting, the independent reviewing officer should:

  • Prepare a written record of the review decisions or recommendations within five working days
  • Prepare a full record of the meeting within 15 working days
  • Pass on the full record 5 working days to everyone who attended the meeting.

If the parent did not attend or attended only part of the meeting, then:

  • A decision will need to be made about whether they should receive the full record of the meeting, and

The social worker and the independent reviewing officer should discuss whether it is in the child’s interests for the parent to have the complete record, or part of it (see paragraphs 3.67 to 3.69 of IRO Handbook, this is government statutory guidance. It should be followed unless there is a good reason not to).

How can a parent or carer of a child in care under a court order complain about their child’s independent reviewing officer or about a review?

Government statutory guidance called The IRO Handbook at paragraph 6.1 says:

‘One of the key functions of the IRO is to resolve problems arising out of the care planning process’.

This means the independent reviewing officer has a key role to play where there are concerns or disagreements about a child’s care plan. Or about their placement.

But there may be time when a parent is unhappy with decisions made during the looked after review process. This might be to do with how the review meeting was conducted. Or could be about a decision made at the review.  In this situation, parents can consider making a complaint to children’s services. See our Complaints page for easy to follow information about who can make a complaint to children’s services. And what the process involves.

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