NAIRO has consistently challenged changes which have been proposed by Government to reduce the statutory responsibilities since 2016. Our concern has been the impact that such changes could have for the needs and rights and well-being of children and young people in care.

Taking the role of the IRO forward – NAIRO convenes Multi – Agency Steering Group .

Further to the multi- agency consultation that Nairo convened in September 2019 with the DFE , Nairo has been able to co- ordinate a steering group to take matters forward . The membership of the steering group includes representatives from DFE, Ofsted, ADCS, NAIRO, Cafcass, LGA ( Local Government Association) NIROMP, and the Judiciary . The group has met on 2 occasions, the last occasion was 24.6.2020 and it is scheduled to meet again next week . The overall aim of the group is to identify difficulties (and strengths to build on) of the IRO service, and to propose remedies. The work of the group has been divided into three areas,
• Enhancing the strategic impact of IROs within local authorities ( this will include discussion of options for different location of the service)
• IRO’s and the courts
• Managing and supporting IRO teams.

The immediate process of work is to prepare a report that will analyse difficulties and propose remedies under the three headings above. There will then be a consultation exercise within the sector which will refine and improve the proposals. Representatives of NAIRO have also recently met with the relevant ADCS policy committee where this work was shared . The response was positive and the committee chair promised to assist in disseminating the draft report for consultation when it is available”

Our intention is consult with Nairo members when the first draft of the report is available before Christmas. We will keep you posted .

Current Policy work

  • NAIRO is currently involved in a programme of work with the DFE, the judiciary and partners to consider what an improvement plan for the sector could look like.
  • The Adoption and Children (Coronavirus) Amendment Regulations 2020 – came into force 24.4.2020 – NAIRO statement and Article 29 article in the Guardian.
  • See Nairo’s response to the consultation here The Adoption and Children (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 (Statutory Instrument 445). Response of NAIRO to consultation.
  • The Children’s Rights Charity Article 39  applied to the High Court for a judicial review of the Coronavirus Amendment regulations as above – Article 39 Legal Action
  • The High Court handed down a judgement on 7 .8.2020. Article 39 Approved Judgment

Court agrees that lost safeguards are fundamental to children’s protection, but finds that the Department for Education acted lawfully due to the pandemic.
See the details here.

NAIRO’S Current research and feedback

The headline findings of NAIRO’s recent benchmarking survey are :
92 responses .

* Geographical spread of responses across the country and Wales
* Part time 19.6 % , Full time 80.4%
* Usual case load – majority 70-80 ( 23.9.%) , 60-70 ( 19.6%)
* Other tasks that IROs complete – majority – Case audits ( 73.9%) Link roles with teams (60.9%) contributing to foster care reviews( 42.4%)
* The large majority of IRO teams had good administrative support , ( 31) ,5 had no administrative support at all , the remainder had levels of support that were more variable .Some examples of good practice were the BSO sending out the IRO profile as part of the process of arranging the first review , and in another instance arranging team social gatherings ( in non Covid-19 circumstances ) to help maintain the” team bond and spirit ” and reduce the impact of the role in respect of IROs often working solo.
* The main impact of Covid-19 so far on the work of the IRO is of review meetings being held remotely by Skype or Zoom and ceasing face to face contact with the child / young person
* 31% of LA’s were identified as having implemented changes as a response to the Adoption and Children ( Coronavirus ) Amendment regulations 2020 , 69% were identified as not having made changes in this respect .
* 60.9.% of IROs identified that they are very concerned about the potential impact of the Amendment Regulations
* 22.8% identified that they were fairly concerned
* 15.2 % identified that the positive and negative aspects balance out

At the national conference in October 2019, NAIRO undertook a benchmarking survey as a “temperature check” of services on the ground. Some findings were:

Caseloads: 16% of IROs had between 50-60, 42% had between 60-70, and 16% had between 70-80 11% had between 80-90.

CP Chairs and IROs
37% of IROs identified that they were also CP chairs, 63% identified that they were IROs only.

Regular meetings with the Assistant Director to raise systemic issues.
Never -74%, Quarterly 17%, Annually 9%.

The full results of the benchmarking survey are available to NAIRO members in the full report of the NAIRO conference which is located in the members’ area- Members Area

HOW CAN YOU CONTRIBUTE TO NAIRO’s POLICY WORK?

  • Complete the Survey Monkey which will contribute to NAIRO’s temperature check about the experience of IROs on the front line – it is completely anonymous. The results will be published by the beginning of October.
  • Contribute your views about how the effectiveness of IRO services could be improved – via the Google group
  • Participate in NAIRO on line discussion groups

HISTORY OF NAIRO’s CAMPAIGNING WORK

  • Children and Social Work Act 2017

The bill was presented to parliament in 2016 and included clauses to exempt Local Authorities from some statutory duties. NAIRO’s concern was that the clauses posed a threat to the rights of children and young people in care. This was because the crucial role of the IRO in ensuring that the local authority fulfils its responsibilities to children and young people in care, could be reduced or removed.

Campaigning by charities and others in the sector led by Article 39 and supported by NAIRO led to the minister dropping the exemption clauses.

  • Foster care in England Report Narey and Owers 2017

Recommendation 7 stated that

there is little to recommend the IRO role and (we) believe that local authorities should be allowed to dispense with the role reinvesting savings in front line staffing “.

In the context that the remit of this report was about foster care this recommendation came as a surprise to the sector. NAIRO expressed its strong concern about this recommendation and questioned the evidence base for it. Lobbying and campaigning took place, with the outcome that the Minister rejected this recommendation in his formal response to the report:

Where IROs are valued and listened to, they provide a legitimate and respected challenge function for individual children’s care plans and the wider service delivery.

We will work with organisations representing Independent Reviewing Officers (IROs) and LAs to consider how the role of IROs can be put to best effect in the current system and under existing legislation.” Subsequently the Government invited suggestions from the sector as to how the effectiveness of the IRO function could be improved. NAIRO consulted with the IRO network and sent its response.