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5.2.4 Appointment and Role of Independent Reviewing Officers

RELATED CHAPTER

Looked After Review Procedure

RELATED GUIDANCE

IRO Handbook

The Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations - Volume 2: Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (2015)

AMENDMENT

In August 2017, this chapter was updated in relation to the role of the Independent Reviewing Officer in line with the Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations - Volume 2: Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (2015). In particular, the IRO being sensitive to the close and active involvement of parents of a child looked after in a series of Short Breaks and problem-solving where there might be difficulties or issues.


Contents

  1. Appointment of the Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO)
  2. Role of the IRO
  3. Referral to CAFCASS
  4. Role of the IRO in Relation to Children Subject to Care Proceedings
  5. Duty of Social Worker to keep IRO Informed


1. Appointment of the Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO)

If a Local Authority is looking after a child, it must appoint an Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) for that child's case. The name of the IRO and his/her contact details must be recorded on the child's case record.

The IRO must be appointed to the child's case within 5 working days of the child becoming looked after and will meet the child before the first Looked After Review.

Sibling groups, whether or not placed together, should have the same IRO and should be informed that they share the same IRO as their siblings, except where conflict of interest between siblings makes this inappropriate or the size of the sibling group makes this unmanageable. The issue of sibling contact should also be addressed in the IRO’s annual report.

Within 3 working days of allocation the IRO will make arrangements to visit the child/young person prior to the initial review and will ensure the child is notified about who is their allocated Independent Reviewing Officer and provide them with the documents:

  • How to make a Comment, Compliment and Complaint
  • Advocacy Services and Independent visitor leaflet.
  • IRO name and contact details

The IRO should be allocated for the duration that the child is Looked After and should continue as the IRO if a child returns to care of the same local authority at a later date, if reasonably practicable.

Where a mother and/or father and their child are Looked After, the child should have a different IRO.

If the IRO leaves the employment of the local authority, or for any other reason stops being the IRO for a particular child, s/he should introduce the new IRO to the child in person.


2. Role of the IRO

The function of the IRO: is to chair a child's review - see Looked After Review Procedure, and monitor a child's case on an ongoing basis including whether any safeguarding issues arise.

As part of the monitoring function, the IRO also has a duty to identify any areas of poor practice, including general concerns around service delivery / collective experience of looked after children (not just around individual children).

The IRO should immediately alert senior managers if any such areas are identified.

The responsibilities of the IRO include:

  • A responsibility to consult the child about his/her Care Plan at each review and at any time that there is a significant change to the Care Plan;
  • Ensuring that Care Plans for looked after children are based on a detailed, informed assessment with an analysis which identifies risks and needs are, up to date, effective and provide a real response to each child's needs;
  • Identifying any gaps in the assessment process or delivery of service;
  • Offering a safeguard to prevent any 'drift' in care planning and the delivery of services;
  • Monitoring the activity of the Local Authority: that Care Plans have given proper consideration and weight to the child's current views, wishes and feelings and that he/she fully understands the implications of any changes to their Care Plan, and
  • Ensuring that, having regard to age and understanding, the child has been informed of the steps he/she may take under the Children Act 1989, and in particular, where appropriate:
    • The right to apply, with leave, for a Section 8 Order/discharge of a Care Order - if the child wishes to take legal proceedings under the Children Act 1989, the IRO must establish whether an appropriate adult is able and willing to assist the child to obtain legal advice or bring proceedings on his/her behalf, and, if there is no such person, assist the child to obtain such advice;
    • The right to access representations/complaints procedures and how to do this.
  • Making sure that the child understands how an advocate could help and his or her entitlement to one;
  • Advising the child of their right to apply for an order or seek discharge of an order;
  • In relation to short breaks:
    • Being sensitive to the close and active involvement of parents of a child looked after in a series of short breaks; Problem-solving where there might be difficulties or issues;
    • Alerting the local authority if there are concerns that the placement is not meeting the child’s needs.


3. Referral to CAFCASS

The IRO has the authority to refer a case to CAFCASS if he/she 'considers it appropriate to do so'

The IRO must consider whether it is appropriate to refer a case to CAFCASS if:

  • In his/her opinion, the Local Authority has failed in any significant respect to prepare the child's Care Plan; review the child's case or effectively implement any decision in consequence of a review; or are otherwise in breach of their duties to the child in any material respect, and
  • Having drawn this to the attention of persons of appropriate seniority in the Local Authority, the issues have not been addressed to IRO's satisfaction within a reasonable period of time.


4. Role of the IRO in Relation to Children Subject to Care Proceedings

The IRO will need to consider together with the Children's Guardian what communication is necessary in order to promote the best possible care planning process for each child.

As soon as the IRO has been appointed to a child subject to proceedings:

  • The IRO should provide the Local Authority legal adviser the with the name of the IRO and with his/her contact details; and
  • The Children's Guardian should be advised of each review meeting and invited, where appropriate.
  • The Local Authority legal adviser and the Children's Guardian should receive a copy of each review record.

The IRO should ensure that s/he is in discussion with the Children's Guardian at intervals, as is appropriate for each child's case and that the topics of discussion include:

  • The wishes and feelings of the child;
  • The current Care Plan;
  • Whether details of the Care Plan are subject to a formal dispute resolution process and if so details of this;
  • Any complaints that have been received about the case; and
  • Any issues raised in court in relation to the implementation of the current Care Plan.


5. Duty of Social Worker to keep IRO Informed

The Social Worker must inform the IRO of changes/events in the child's life. Examples of those circumstances when the social worker must inform the IRO can be found within the Looked After Review Procedure. The circumstances when the IRO must convene an early review are laid out in the Looked After Review Procedure.

The IRO should be kept informed of the progress of the case and provided with documentation for court

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