Looked after children

Looked after children

The term 'looked after' refers to children who are under 18 who have been provided with care and accommodation by Family Services.

There are three ways that a child can be looked after:

  • with parental agreement under Section 20 of the Children Act 1989 - this may include short breaks
  • under a care order from a family court under Section 31 of the Children Act 1989 - when a care order is made, Family Services gain parental responsibility and become a legal parent alongside the child's parent or guardian
  • if a court orders the young person to be remanded into local authority accommodation

Assessment of needs

Sometimes children only need to be looked after for a short period of time before they return to their family. In other circumstances, the arrangement can be more permanent.

To help us decide the best plan for a child and their family, we carry out an assessment of needs. The assessment includes the child's and parents' views, and together we will agree arrangements for the child's care.

These arrangements are set out in two documents:

  • care plan
  • placement plan

Care plan

A care plan explains how we will support the child's:

  • health
  • education
  • religion
  • culture
  • hobbies

We review the care plan regularly in meetings chaired by an independent reviewing officer.

Placement plan

The placement plan sets out:

  • where and with whom the child will live
  • any special arrangements such as travel
  • any restrictions such as people they cannot see

The placement plan is completed within five days of a child being looked after. 

Independent reviewing officer (IRO)

Family Services have a duty to appoint an IRO. The IRO is employed by Family Services but works independently. This means they don't have any direct management or budget holding responsibility of the case. 

The role of the IRO is to: 

  • chair review meetings
  • meet with the child on their own to find out about their wishes and feelings
  • monitor the care the child is receiving
  • resolve any disputes about the review or the child’s care plan

Review meetings

When a child is looked after, their situation is regularly reviewed. The purpose of review meetings is to:

  • discuss the child’s care plan
  • make sure that the right arrangements are in place for the child whilst they are looked after
  • review changes and decisions from the previous review


  • first meeting takes place within 28 days of a child being looked after
  • second meeting is held within the next three months
  • third meeting and later reviews are held every six months

Review meetings are chaired by an IRO.

The meetings are normally attended by:

  • parents/others with parental responsibility for the child
  • the social worker
  • the child
  • an advocate or independent visitor
  • the foster carer
  • the foster carer’s supervising social worker
  • other professionals may be there too, but it shouldn’t be so many that it overwhelms the child

Last updated: 29 November 2019