This week’s diary is by an independent reviewer working for a local authority

The week starts badly with a new review in an out-of-authority
placement. A social worker and I drive an unfamiliar hire car up
the M1 – avoiding floods and lorry spray – only to discover when we
arrive that the young woman to be reviewed is still at home, with
her mother, in the city we left three hours ago. We decide to
review what we can in her absence. Afterwards we adjourn to a
recommended hostelry for a late lunch before attempting the return
journey home. In this job I find The Good Pub Guide is a necessary
companion to the Children Act 1989.

Spend the day in the office recording previous reviews, checking
and processing the notes that have been typed, and making or
changing dates for reviews still to come. Our excellent typists
struggle at times with the volume of paperwork the team produces.
The database reliably informs us that the percentage of reviews
held on time is slipping. With the rising number of young people
placed outside the authority we spend an ever-increasing amount of
time travelling. Should there be more of us or less of them?

This morning’s review is devoted to considering the care plan for
the baby of a drug-addicted mother who has failed to engage with
her detox programme. Unsurprisingly the plan for adoption is
agreed. Equally predictable is the last-minute suggestion by her
solicitor of a further psychological assessment. I wonder if he is
aware of the new adoption standards, which require a plan for
permanency to be in place at the four-month review, and whether it
will make any difference to his delaying tactics?

My responsibility for quality issues means that I have to speak to
a manager regarding the poor work undertaken by a member of his
staff. He’s pleased to be given some concrete evidence and asks if
he can quote me in an appraisal he’s about to undertake with said
worker. I am aware that I will drop several places in the
popularity ratings as a result, but am pleased to be able to put
things right for a very vulnerable young person in the council’s

Today is when I check that the paperwork has started to arrive for
the next week’s reviews. It hasn’t. Make a few frantic phone calls
to chivvy up hard-pressed social workers and rush out to do an
emergency review in one of our children’s homes. A 16-year-old,
having alleged that a member of staff has sexually abused him, is
refusing to return. He wants a flat of his own forthwith. While old
enough to discharge himself from local authority accommodation, he
is too immature to live independently. We agree a compromise and I
suggest to the social worker that a planning meeting with her boss
would have been more appropriate. She’s just glad her meeting has a
chairperson. The weekend beckons, and, hopefully, some respite.

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