Reviewing officers want to move out of children’s services

More than two-thirds of independent reviewing officers do not believe they should be based within children's services departments, a survey has revealed.

More than two-thirds of independent reviewing officers do not believe they should be based within children’s services departments, a survey has revealed.

The National Association of Independent Reviewing Officers (Nairo) surveyed its members for their views on the location and role and responsibilities of IROs.

IROs are appointed to review children’s care plans and ensure their wishes and feelings are fully considered.

Of the 49 respondents, 67% thought that while IROs should remain within local authorities they should not be based within children’s services departments. Only a quarter said IROs should sit within children’s services.

The vast majority rejected a move to family courts body Cafcass, with only 2% of respondents voting in favour. In the past it has been mooted that IROs should work more closely with children’s guardians in courts.

More than half (55%) of IROs said they believed their current role and responsibilities were right, although 40% thought the role should be routinely combined with that of a child protection chair.

Jon Fayle, chair of Nairo, said the survey results were significant. “It is very interesting that 67% of IROs surveyed wanted to be more independent. They feel that being based in children’s services departments compromises their independence, or at least how independent they are seen to be.”

The IRO role is being considered under reviews including Professor Eileen Munro’s review of the child protection system and the Family Justice review.

From April, the IRO role will be strengthened under changes set out in the Children and Young Persons Act 2008. New powers include:

● Local authorities must appoint a named IRO for each child.

● The IRO must monitor the local authority’s performance in each case and the wishes and feelings of the child must be given “due consideration”.

● The IRO must speak privately with each child before each review.

● The IRO will be able to refer cases to Cafcass at any time if they consider it to be appropriate, and not just as a last resort.

● Proposals made at a child’s review become decisions and must be implemented unless challenged by the local authority within a week.

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