There are about 75,000 children in care in England and Wales. Each of them has a care plan, which must be reviewed on a periodic basis by an independent person. That independent person is an Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO). The IRO must scrutinise the local authority’s care plan for the child and listen carefully to the views of the child and others about the plan. They must challenge the local authority if they believe the plan is not in the best interests of the child.
IROs clearly have an enormous potential to promote the welfare of children in care.
Independent Reviewing Officers (IRO) are social workers, who are also experienced social work managers whose duty is to ensure the care plans for children in care are legally compliant and in the child’s best interest. All local authorities have a duty to appoint an IRO to every child in care . IROs are required to oversee the child’s care plan and ensure everyone contributing to the care plan fulfils their legal obligations to the child.
The responsibilities of IROs are set out in the IRO Handbook
There is a version of the IRO handbook especially designed for children and young people.
What Are IROs supposed to do for children?
- They must chair every meeting held to review or amend the child’s care plan: the local authority is not permitted to change a child’s care plan without the authorisation of an IRO.
- Make sure children’s views are heard and recorded.
- If children’s views are reasonable they should be implemented. If not it must be explained why they cannot be implemented.
- Ensure that plans are based on everyone’s best understanding of what that child needs (it’s called an assessment)
- Make sure that each child know how they can get hold of an advocate or someone who listens to you and talks on your behalf
- Make sure children don’t stay in care longer than they need to and they either return to their family’s care, are cared for by someone close to them or are either placed with long term foster-carers, or are adopted
- Listen to children and see that they understand any changes to their care plan
- Ensure that children, particularly children with a disability who need to live away from home because they need specialist care or education, and whose care is shared with parents, get the best services available to meet their needs
- Make sure that the local authority is a good “corporate parent” to children in care, this means children in care get the same services as other children would and that their “corporate parent” does everything as well for them as a good parent would do for their own child at home.
- An IRO must be involved before any major decision is made about a child’s care plan and they must ensure the child’s views are heard and recorded
Nairo seeks to influence the legal and policy framework for looked after children through our campaigning work. We work with other agencies and partners in the sector to maximise our influence. We are particularly concerned to promote measures which protect and promote children’s rights in law.
Recent campaigning achievements/activities include
- Persuading (with others in the field) the government to drop proposed clauses in 2017 Children and Social Work Act which would have threatened children’s rights and undermined the role of the IRO
- encouraging government to disregard recommendation in recent “Foster Care in England” report to abolish the IROs service. The government agreed the service should be retained and wishes to work with us in identifying measures which may improve IROs effectiveness
- we are currently a core member campaign to encourage the government to develop a national strategy for advocacy for all children who need it and promoting children’s rights