How independent?

The implementation of children’s care plans is vital if they are to be worth more than the paper they are written on. Yet there are serious questions about the resolve of local authorities to give care plans a fair wind. It has emerged that independent reviewing officers, who can refer concerns about care plans to the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service, have still to make any formal referrals. 

Either every care plan has been implemented to the letter or something has gone wrong with the independent review system. While we would like to think the former is true, the pressures of overwork and under-resourcing in many children’s services lead us to believe that the latter is nearer the mark. 

The problem is that the term “independent reviewing officer” is a misnomer. They are not nearly as independent as they should be because they depend on local authorities for legal advice and, in many cases, funding for general consultancy work. Who would bite the hand that feeds them? IROs must be able to source legal advice outside the local authority and be assured that their own position is protected if they feel compelled to take action on behalf of children.

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