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.
On behalf of Mr Justice Mostyn and with the agreement of the President, you are invited to read the announcement below regarding changes to the standard orders which implement amendments to Public Law orders.
Click here to read.
NAIRO submits report to the Social Care Review
NAIRO has released a report for the government review of children’s social care. Here is a link to the report. The report argues that the role of the IRO is essential to protect the rights and welfare of children in care and makes robust recommendations for the strengthening and improvement of the service. In particular, the report makes recommendations for improving the strategic influence of the service developing and protecting its independence, and strengthening the capacity for effective challenge when this is needed.
Although we have serious misgivings about the way the review has been set up, we will engage constructively with it and hope to influence it in a way that promotes the welfare and improves outcomes for children in care.
Message for IROs
Are you aware that there are only 90 days left in which time children, young people and adults who are E.U nationals can apply for their settled status?
Applications must be submitted by 30 June.
Click here to see helpful information and resources.
Previous and recent policy work
- 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
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
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.
New publications that are relevant for IROs
Publication of the President’s Public Law Working Group (PLWG) report. Click here to view
Research and developments
- Article 39 wins case for Children’s rights at the Court of Appeal. The judgement concluded that Education Secretary Gavin Williamson acted unlawfully in removing safeguards for children in care. https://article39.org.uk/news/
- Study revealing the role of Social workers during the pandemic. Click link here
- Young people leaving care, practitioners and the coronavirus (COVID 19) pandemic: experiences, support, and lessons for the future. See recent research here
- Children’s Commissioner highlights broken market for residential care. See research here
- Below is a link to the view from the President’s chambers published. https://www.judiciary.uk/announcements/sir-andrew-mcfarlane-view-from-the-presidents-chambers-november-2020/
- Care review to be launched as soon as possible