Fostering IRO Dispute Resolution Process


The FCIRO has a statutory duty to monitor the performance by the local authority of their functions in relation to the Foster Carers Annual Reviews and to resolve problems arising out of the planning process. Challenge and resolution are an integral part of the FCIRO role. Informal and formal resolution form part of the same continuum, which needs to celebrate the achievements of resolution as well as highlighting the problems that require resolution.

This policy provides the guidance and process for the FCIRO's regarding what they need to escalate and the levels and stages required to achieve a positive outcome for the child or young person regarding the care provided by their Carers, Fostering Regulations, Care Planning Act, National Minimum Standards, SBC policies and guidelines.

Ideally resolution processes are there to resolve any problems at the lowest level and as quickly as possible. Through the process the FCIRO should be able to demonstrate to Foster Carers that they are taking action on their behalf and they should be able to evidence their own work in resolving the issue.

Where appropriate, the Fostering Family should be informed by the IRO that they are seeking resolution to a concern on their behalf, and they should be kept informed of how the resolution is progressing. Where the FCIRO has raised any challenge in relation to a Foster Carer's Annual Review, this should be clearly recorded on the carer's electronic file/ICS.

There will be times when the FCIRO may be advised that obstacles in the way of resolving the issue are outside or beyond the control of the local authority, for example in relation to staffing, interagency or resources issues. However, if these are impacting on the ability of the department to meet the needs of a Foster Carers and ensure that Foster Carers Annual Reviews are with timescales as identified legislation (Fostering Regulations), the FCIRO should continue to escalate the issue.

Appendix 1: The Local Dispute Resolution Protocol Flowchart sets out the process and within the required timescales.

This chapter was added to the manual in March 2021.

1. Process

There are two stages to the dispute resolution process for the FCIRO's:

  1. Informal resolution – It is expected that the FCIRO will raise concerns with the Fostering Managers. Supervising Social Worker and their Supervisor/Manager informally through ICS, telephone call or direct conversation. The details of these concerns and their outcome will be recorded by the FCIRO on the ICS exemplar SBC IRO Local Dispute Resolution (Informal Discussion). It is expected that this matter will be resolved within ten working days;
  2. Formal resolution – If there has not been a satisfactory conclusion at the informal stage, the FCIRO has a duty to escalate the matter to the formal dispute resolution stage, which has four levels.This will be recorded on the ICS exemplar SBC IRO Local Dispute Resolution.

It is the responsibility of the FCIRO to monitor and track the progress of the concern. During the formal stage, at each level, the immediate line manager should be copied in and depending on the level, the Service Manager, Quality Assurance and Review and the relevant Operational Service Manager should also be alerted.

Full details of the stages and levels are shown in Table 1 below:

Table 1: Stages and Levels of the Dispute Resolution Process

Caption: Stages and Levels of the Dispute Resolution Process
Level Professional/s with whom matter will be addressed * Timescale for action to be completed / resolution
Informal Resolution Stage


Supervising social worker and their supervisor/manager 5 working days
Formal Resolution Stage

Level 1

Team manager
A copy must also be provided to:

  • Operational Service Manager;
  • Service Manager, Quality Assurance and Review Manager
5 working days

Level 2

Operational Service Manager
A copy must also be provided to:

  • Head of Service – Children, Families and Community Health;
  • Service Manager, Quality Assurance and Review Manager.
5 working days
Level 3

Head of Service
A copy must also be provided to:

  • DCS
5 working days

Level 4

A copy must also be provided to:

  • Head of Service – Children, Families and Community Health;
  • Service Manager, Quality Assurance and Review.
5 working days

The FCIRO may also bypass any stage and progress the concern to the level he or she considers most appropriate.

From Level 2 the FCIRO in consultation with their manager may seek advice

2. Issues to be addressed through Dispute Resolution

As part of the monitoring function, the FCIRO has a duty to identify patterns of concern emerging, not just about individual Foster Carers, but also more generally in relation to the collective experience of its Foster Carers, and the services they receive.

Table 2 below identifies the four key theme areas that need to be identified and recorded on ICS and provides some examples of the type of issues that may be covered within them as part of the Dispute Resolution process. The examples quoted are not exhaustive. The accurate recording of issues and themes is an important part of quality assuring practice and enables learning and improvement.

Table 2: Issues and Themes

1. General issues

Preparation for Foster Carers Annual Review (e.g. non completion/poor quality social work reports and reports/information/appropriate signatures missing);

  • Insufficient evidence of the Foster Carers competence and ability within the SSW report, planning and review process;
  • Non completion of requirements / failure to meet timescales;
  • Annual Review Reports not completed in a timely manner/poor quality;
  • Concerns arising about inadequate quality assurance of SSW reports;
  • IRO not in agreement with SSW recommendations;
  • Non- compliant in legislation.
2. Failure to meet statutory requirements for Foster Carers
  • No allocated supervision social worker;
  • No up to date/poor quality Annual Report;
  • Lack of evidence re; safeguarding – H&S Safety Reports, Care policies, Fire Plan, Smoking policy, DBS, Unannounced Visits;
  • No PDP for foster carers;
  • children not being seen alone/birth children, where appropriate, in their placement by the supervising social worker;
  • No contributions from those involved in the Care Planning;
  • No valid DBS for foster carer;
  • Medical Health Assessment by the Foster Carers GP ( required every 3 years).
3. Changes effecting the Fostering Household
  • Any Complaints or Allegations – Investigations/LADO Investigations;
  • Foster Carers Health;
  • Change in household.
4. Provision of service
  • Concern around the suitability of the placement to meet the child's needs;
  • Foster Carers ability to offer a secure and secure placement;
  • Standard of Care Issues relating to Foster Carers;
  • Concern around professional practice.