Birmingham brings in Cafcass to improve its independent reviewing officer service

The advisory body is working with the troubled council in a "unique" pilot

Cafcass to give IROs the "requisite skills" Photo: REX

Birmingham City Council has brought in the Children and Families Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) to manage the operation of its Independent Reviewing Officers.

Cafcass, the body that makes sure children’s voices are heard in family court proceedings, has sent a service manager and an assistant director into the council to provide support, in a unique pilot launched this week.

The Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) role is designed  to make sure children’s needs are central when planning for their care. But the council’s most recent Ofsted report said its IROs were not fulfilling their statutory duties adequately.

Garry Billing, Birmingham’s assistant director of safeguarding,said, in a blog for the council, he hoped the collaboration with Cafcass would be a step towards improving practice in Birmingham’s children’s services.

“Historically the IRO service in Birmingham has operated in difficult and fragile circumstances.

“They have found it extremely difficult to influence and shape positive outcomes on behalf of the most vulnerable.”

He added the pilot would ensure that IROs had the requisite skills for the job.

Chief executive of Cafcass Anthony Douglas said the partnership was a unique one.

“We will be promoting effective joint working in the court phase of a child’s time in care.

“However, IRO’s do much more than court work and we will be working together to make sure that vulnerable children in Birmingham have top-quality independent social work oversight from the first to the last day of their time in care,” he said.

The pilot will run until the end of March 2015.

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One Response to Birmingham brings in Cafcass to improve its independent reviewing officer service

  1. Philip Measures November 6, 2014 at 3:48 pm #

    I think that this is potentially blurring the boundaries between Birmingham City Council Children’s Services and the quite separate role of CAFCASS.

    Children and their families should see that the role of CAFCASS in Public law matters is quite separate from that of CAFCASS and that Independent Reviewing Officers do have a right to refer cases to CAFCASS if dis-satisfied with the actions of the Local Authority.

    How will this essential separation of roles and responsibilities be maintained?