Co-Chairs: Paul Smart and Jon Fayle
Vice Chair: Jacki Rothwell


FOSTER CARE IN ENGLAND – a Report for the Department for Education

There are some things to commend in this report, including the wish to improve and extend delegated authority for foster parents, enhance the status and influence of carers and improve commissioning arrangements.

However, Recommendation 7 on page 101 is of great concern to NAIRO. This recommendation suggests that ‘there is little to recommend the IRO role and (we) believe local authorities should be allowed to dispense with the role;
re-investing savings in front line staffing’.

It is surprising that this recommendation should emerge from a report about fostering and not about care planning. It appears to come from nowhere.

The conclusion is based on less than one and a half pages of discussion in the body of the report (page 34). The evidence offered is superficial and slight. It appears to be based on the opinions of three Children’s Services Directors and a fostering manager, and the undocumented assertion that carers were “invariably dubious” about the efficacy of the IRO.

This supposed “evidence” is at odds with the several substantial research reports about the work of IROs including a major study by the University of East Anglia

It seems to us that to recommend the disbanding of a service which seeks to protect and promote the rights of vulnerable children on the basis of such scant evidence is irresponsible.

We are pleased to see that many key players in the sector have already rejected this recommendation, including the Children’s Commissioner for England.

It would appear that one of the weaknesses of the report is a lack of serious attention to the question of promoting and protecting children’s rights.

This is the second attempt within a year to promote measures which may weaken or disable the IRO service. As is well known the Children and Social Work Act 2017 when in the bill stage, contained measures that would allow local authorities to exempt themselves from various statutory duties that protect rights of children in care. The dismantling of the IRO service was frequently mentioned as a prime “benefit” of granting such leeway. Fortunately the campaign supported by many key players in the sector, as well as numerous parliamentarians was successful in persuading the government to remove the “exemption clauses”.

NAIRO of course recognises that there are many ways in which the IRO service could be strengthened and improved. We will be pleased to enter discussions with the DfE and others in the sector about how this may be achieved.


February 8th 2018


Notes for Editors

Independent Reviewing Officers
An Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) is a qualified social worker who has a responsibility to review the cases of children in care at regular intervals. A key element of the role is to scrutinise the local authority care plan for the child, in particular taking into account the child’s wishes and feelings, and being mindful of the child’s rights. If the IRO believes the LA plan is not in the best interests of the child, she/he has the duty to challenge the local authority to whatever level is necessary to resolve the matter.

NAIRO was founded in March 2009. It is the only national professional organisation for IROs in the country. We have a fast growing membership from England, Wales, the Channel Islands, and the Isle of Man.

NAIRO is devoted to improving outcomes for looked after children by maximising the positive impact of the reviewing process.

NAIRO became a registered charity in November 2014

We have the benefit of several leading academics in social work or related fields, amongst our associate membership. We also have a number of eminent patrons who support our work.

For more information see our website