There are about 75,000 children and young people in care in England and Wales. They are all required to have a Care Plan. A Care Plan outlines what is and should be happening in the life of a child / young person in terms of their health, education, leisure, where they should live and with whom they should have contact. The Care Plan has to be reviewed on a regular basis which is prescribed in law. The review is a process which can be a meeting or series of meetings in which the child and young person participates to a greater or lesser degree depending on his or her wishes and age and circumstances. Important decisions about a child’s / young person’s life can only be made through a review which is often called a LAC (looked after child) review. The Review process is undertaken by an Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO).
IROs are Social Workers, who are also required to be experienced Social Work Managers. All local authorities have a duty to appoint an IRO to every child in care. IROs are required to oversee and scrutinise the Care Plan of the child/ young person and ensure that everyone who is involved in that child’s/ young person’s life fulfils his or her responsibilities.
The role of the IRO is prescribed in law and is set out in the IRO Handbook
There is a version of the IRO handbook especially designed for children and young people.
IROs clearly have an enormous potential to promote the welfare of children and young people in care.
What Are IROs supposed to do for children and young people?
- They ensure that review meetings take place, that the relevant people are involved and either chair the meeting themselves or support and enable the child/ young person to chair his or her own meeting.
- They must make sure that the views and wishes of children / young people views are heard and recorded.
- Ensure that they know the reason why their views and wishes cannot be implemented if that is the case and that they understand any changes in their Care Plan as far as is possible according to their age and understanding.
- Make sure that the local authority is a good “corporate parent” to all children and young people in care. This means children and young people in care get the same services as other children and young people would and that their “corporate parent” does everything as well for them as a good parent would do for their own child at home.