Child Friendly Leeds

One minute guide: Independent Reviewing Officer

What Independent Reviewing Officers are and what they do

Independent Reviewing Officers (IROs) make an important contribution to the goal of improving outcomes for looked after children. Their primary focus is to quality assure the care planning process for each child or young person, and to ensure that his/her current wishes and feelings are given full consideration.

As part of this role, IROs chair the review meetings of children who are looked after. These reviews take place at different intervals depending how long the child has been in care but are held at least every six months.

In between reviews IROs have a responsibility to monitor the progress of the care plan, ensuring there is no drift or delay in achieving permanence.

IROs are qualified social workers with at least five years’ experience, and who have acquired the skills,. knowledge and experience to carry out this role.

Why we have IROs and which children they work with

The appointment of an Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) is a legal requirement under the Adoption and Children Act 2002. All Local Authorities must ensure that, once a child becomes looked after (also referred to as being in care), they have their own IRO who should remain with them whilst they are in care.

The local authority has a statutory duty to appoint an IRO for every looked after child, which includes children placed, or authorised to be placed, with prospective adopters by a local authority, as well as young people remanded into care or custody by the Youth Court.

Who chairs the review meetings and how it is done

Chairing looked after reviews meetings is the responsibility of the IRO. It is important that an IRO chairs reviews in a manner that:

  • keeps the best interests of the child as paramount
  • ensures the voice of the child or young person is heard clearly throughout the process
  • enables the parents or others with Parental Responsibility to be involved and take their views into account
  • ensures critical scrutiny of the child care plan, challenging the local authority in relation to progress or quality of that care plan, if required

Statutory duties of IROs

It is the IRO’s statutory duty to:

  • monitor the local authority’s performance of its functions in relation to looked after children and care leavers
  • ensure the wishes and feelings of the child are considered

In doing this, the IRO must:

  • promote the voice of the child
  • ensure there is an up-to-date, effective plan for the child(ren), based on a detailed, informed assessment
  • identify any gaps in the assessment process or provision of service;  make sure the child understands that they are entitled to an advocate and how they could be helped by one
  • prevent any ‘drift’ in care planning and the delivery of services
  • monitor the activity of the local authority as a corporate parent, ensuring care plans have given proper consideration and weight to the child’s wishes and feelings

The IRO will arrange to meet the child and speak with them in private before their review, ensuring the child or young person knows their rights and entitlements, and know how to contact their IRO between reviews.

How independence of the IRO is supported

The regulations are clear that an IRO cannot be a person who is already involved in the management of a child’s case. To support this need for independence, the IRO service is located within the Integrated Safeguarding Unit which is managed separately from the Children’s Social Work Service.

IROs can challenge poor practice using the quality assurance (informal) and dispute resolution (formal) processes. They also have the authority to refer serious concerns directly to the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) and to obtain their own independent legal advice.

Key contacts and for more information

The Leeds Independent Reviewing Service comprises three teams situated within the Integrated Safeguarding Unit (ISU). Each team comprises IROs and a Team Manager.

The IRO Team Managers are:

Sarah Riddell - East North East, Tel: 0113 378 2844

Siobhan Brady - West North West, Tel: 0113 247 7455

Louise Tatchell - South, Tel: 0113 378 2833

For more information about IROs, you can read the IRO handbook and the chapter on the Leeds online procedures about the appointment and role of IROs and the Young People Guide to the Independent Reviewing Handbook

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