Government to retain legal requirement for IROs
Friday, July 20, 2018
Councils will continue to be required by law to appoint an independent reviewing officer (IRO) for all children in care or on a child protection plan, but the role they play is set to be reviewed, the government has said.
Responding to the findings of the fostering stocktake, which suggested that local authorities should be allowed to ditch the role that scrutinises local authority care plans for looked-after children, taking into account the views of the child, the government said it had no plans to change the current legal requirements.
However, it said it will work with local authorities and organisations representing IROs to "consider how the role of IROs can be put to best effect in the current system and under existing legislation".
"Each individual in the team around the child has an important function to play and the potential to improve the life chances and happiness of local children and young people," the response states.
"However, the system has developed in a piecemeal way over time. There are potential duplications (and gaps) in checks and balances, and roles have more or less impact depending on the individual or the circumstances.
"The picture, nationally, is variable and inconsistent. Oversight and scrutiny in local systems needs to be proportionate and effective. In some cases, it is important to maintain strict, routine checks and balances. In others, a lighter touch approach may be appropriate."
The government said the review will aim to "iron out the inconsistencies" in practice across the country and ensure that where practice differs, "it is for good reason".
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The social workers association Nagalro and the National Association of Independent Reviewing Officers have previously raised concerns that removing IROs would place vulnerable children at risk.
But the proposals received the backing of the Association of Directors of Children's Services, which has said it is in favour of allowing councils to decide whether they retain IROs.
Dominic Stevenson, public affairs manager at Become, a charity for children in care and young care leavers, said: "We are pleased that the government has not chosen to remove the role of IROs after no robust case was made for their removal.
"We believe this role has a lot to offer local authorities when it comes to supporting children in care, and we look forward to working with IROs to ensure it evolves in the future and continues to meet the needs of children in care."
The fostering stocktake, published in February, made a total of 36 recommendations, including the establishment of a national register of foster carers, and for improvements to be made to placement commissioning.