IRM – Independent Review Mechanism
The IRM is a relatively new service initiated in 2004 for the benefit of foster carer and adoptive carer applicants who were not happy with the decisions being made by the agency with regards to their ability to foster or adopt children and young people.
The service enables fostering and adoption applicants to challenge the decision of the agency not to approve the applicant to foster or adopt children and young people.
What the IRM – Independent Review Mechanism does:
If you are a prospective or an existing foster carer who has recently received a Panel recommendation (qualifying determination) which you don’t agree with, you have two options:
- you can either apply to the IRM for a review of fostering service provider’s qualifying determination
- you can make representations to your fostering service provider.
The IRM is a review process conducted by a Review Panel which is independent of fostering service providers.
If you choose to use the IRM the review panel will, where appropriate:
- review your suitability as a prospective foster carer(s) to foster a child,
- review any proposed changes to your terms of approval,
- make a fresh recommendation to your agency on your suitability to foster a child and the terms of your approval, including approval for a specific child.
Step By Step Guide, issued by the IRM
We aim to complete each case within three months of receiving the application. Your fostering service provider will meet the cost of the review, although you will need to cover your own travel costs and expenses.
When we receive your application, we identify the panel most suitable to consider your case. We do this by taking into account other cases needing to be heard. We try to keep your travelling to a reasonable distance. We will advise you of the date, time and location of the review panel meeting, giving you at least one month’s notice. If the date is not convenient, you can ask for a later date. If you would prefer to travel to another venue please discuss this with us, but remember no travel costs or expenses can be met and this may delay your case being heard.
IRM requests all information from the fostering service provider.
IRM requests your consent to disclose all papers including medical information. This excludes minutes of the original Fostering Panel, to avoid influencing the Review Panel. However, the Review Panel will be informed of the reasons for the Fostering Panel and agency decision maker’s recommendation not to approve you, or to terminate your approval, or change your terms of approval against your wishes..
You will be given a date by which to submit any extra information. This is in advance of all papers being sent to Panel members.
The IRM Contract Manager may also request additional information from either you or the agency. All the paperwork is reviewed by a Legal Adviser and the Contract Manager. A medical adviser will review any medical information that is included in the paperwork and may also seek additional information to assist them with their report. All the information will then be considered by the review panel. The Medical Adviser may also be available at the Panel meeting to advise the Review Panel if medical issues have been identified.
You will receive a copy of the papers presented to the Fostering Panel except for any confidential third party information which cannot be shared with you. Copies of any additional information provided by you or the agency will be sent to the other party before the Panel meeting.
Review Panel meeting preparation When you have been invited to attend the meeting, you can go with your partner, if you have one. Additionally, you may be accompanied by a friend. The role of the friend is to provide you with moral support; he or she cannot speak on your behalf or act as an advocate. The meeting will be quite informal. If you have a physical, sensory or learning impairment, or English is not your first language, you may bring an interpreter or helper with you in addition to a friend. Please note that we cannot pay any expenses to you or to any friend or interpreter for attending the meeting.
Your fostering service provider will be invited to send a representative to the Review Panel meeting. It will of course be for them to decide who should attend, but we expect them to send someone who will be able to answer the Review Panel’s questions such as the assessing social worker and their supervising manager.
Review Panel meeting The Review Panel will have a written report on your case from its Legal Adviser, and there will be someone – a professional adviser – who will be able to provide advice on legislation, guidance and research to ensure that all relevant issues are considered and the correct proceedings followed. A Panel Secretary will be present to take minutes of the meeting. The Panel Secretary, the Professional Adviser and the Legal Adviser will not take part in the Review Panel discussions or in the making of the Review Panel’s recommendation.
Once the IRM Panel members have discussed the paperwork they will decide on the questions they want to ask you or the agency representatives. You will all be invited in together and given the opportunity to make your representations and answer questions.
You will be invited to state your case and give your reasons for disagreeing with the qualifying determination. Members of the Review Panel will be able to ask you questions. They may need to see the provider’s representatives separately if they have questions relating to 3rd party confidential information. You will all then be asked to wait in the waiting room/s while the Panel discusses the case. The Review Panel may wish to call you all back to clarify any point with either party and when they are sure they have all the information they will advise you that you may go. You may need to be available for up to two hours.
There will be separate waiting rooms for you and the agency representatives if you wish to use them.
The Panel will conclude their deliberations and reach a recommendation.
After the Review Panel meeting We will send you a copy of the Review Panel’s recommendation and reasons and a set of minutes, although this will not contain a record of any third party confidential information that was discussed. A copy of the Panel’s recommendation and reasons and a full set of minutes will be sent to your fostering service provider to assist them in their decision making. This will be posted to you within 12 working days of the hearing date. Your fostering service provider will then write to you informing you of its final decision.
Next steps If you are still not happy with the fostering service provider’s final decision, there is no right of appeal against it. If you remain dissatisfied, you should seek your own advice from, for example, a solicitor, or the Citizen’s Advice Bureau, as to what action you may take.