Children’s reviewing officers prevented from doing their jobs properly

Survey finds nearly a third of IROs feel their role is not valued by senior managers and they work in unsupportive environments

Picture credit: Gary Brigden

Independent reviewing officers say they are struggling to scrutinise how children’s care plans are being implemented, and find they are prevented from fulfilling the full potential of their roles.

These were among the findings of a survey by the National Children’s Bureau (NCB) and the Nuffield Foundation. It found that although most independent reviewing officers (IROs) were able to carry out their core functions properly – to conduct looked-after children’s reviews – between a fifth and a quarter believed the system was holding them back.

Heavy workloads and extra duties

The survey of 295 IROs, 65 IRO managers and 60 directors of children’s services suggested the reasons include heavy caseloads and IROs having to fulfil duties they would not normally be expected to.

Almost half (46%) said they are expected to carry out duties beyond their remit, while IROs are holding caseloads that exceed the recommended limit in two thirds of local authorities.

Although 41% believed they were significantly improving services for looked-after children, nearly a third felt their role was not valued by senior managers and said they worked in an unsupportive environment.

Nearly 60% said they rarely or never received relevant court papers about children they were supervising, while only half (49%) said they were always, or often, able to monitor the cases more generally.

Children’s care ‘jeopardised’ by failures

Enver Solomon, director of evidence and impact at the NCB, warned the failing IRO system was putting children at risk.

“These important new findings suggest that IROs are not always able to provide the high-quality service that children growing up in the care system need.

“The reasons for this are difficult to unpick but this research suggests that heavy caseloads and a working culture that does not properly value their contribution are important factors.

“IROs have the potential to provide invaluable support to children and young people in care; yet by failing to put them at the heart of the process we are jeopardising the care of some of our most vulnerable children,” he said.

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