More than one in five children in care say that none or few of the big decisions in their lives are made in review meetings, according to a report from Children’s Rights Director Roger Morgan.
A similar number felt that half of the big decisions were made this way, but the greatest concern was raised by the figures for those who said that none were (17%) or few were (4%).
The findings emerged from a survey of 1,530 children in care who were asked their views on independent reviewing officers (IROs).
“Most decisions – apart from emergency ones – about children’s lives should be made in their care reviews,” Morgan said. “Given what the law says about making decisions in reviews, these responses from children are worrying.”
Social work came in for criticism in the study. The main grievances were the varying availability of the allocated worker, the frequency with which the professional changed, and social work’s chain of command, which was seen as hindering outcomes.
One child said: “The IRO can make sure changes are made. Social workers need to ask their bosses everything.” Another pointed out: “Social workers move on frequently but my IRO was around for 12 years,” emphasising the importance of the latter in the child’s life.
Although 79% of the children said it was important or very important to have a social worker, 70% believed it was important or very important to have an IRO. Compared with other professionals, 53% said it was important to have an advocate and only 38% felt it was important to have a guardian in court (although 44% said they did not know enough about guardians to have an opinion).
Children felt IROs were better than social workers at running review meetings, making sure reviews were carried out properly and checking that the council was doing what it should for the child. IROs were also seen as good at listening to the child and ensuring he or she was happy.
They also identified IROs as most important for three groups of children: those who have just entered the care system, those with many personal problems and those whose social worker kept changing. A majority (60%) thought children should be able to choose whether they wanted an IRO.
What do you think? Join the debate on CareSpace
Keep up to date with the latest developments in social care. Sign up to our daily and weekly emails