Reviewing officers call for firmer line on rights of children in care

The latest government guidance for independent reviewing officers (IROs) should go further, according to the National Association of Independent Reviewing Officers (Nairo).

A lack of detail about how IROs deal with the potential conflict between parent’s and children’s rights is among the main concerns the association has raised in its initial response to the government’s draft version of the guidance, called The IRO Handbook.

IROs are independent social workers who are tasked with overseeing looked-after children care plans and monitoring council performance towards looked-after children.

Nairo committee chair Jon Fayle said: “IROs have to tread a thin line in ensuring that both parents’ right to care for their children and children’s rights not to be abused are upheld.

“The handbook does not look at this and I hope the final version addresses it.”

Other omissions highlighted by the association, which is yet to issue a formal response to the consultation, include a lack of detail about the documents IROs should receive from councils. Of particular concern is the way information is presented through the local computerised Integrated Children’s System (ICS).

Nairo’s draft response states: “It is a common experience for an IRO to be provided with masses of documents, whose structure is such that it is virtually impossible to find the information that is required.”

The organisation calls for the handbook to offer guidance for councils on handling the ICS and the way it presents information.

The handbook attempts to clarify the role IROs should have regarding looked-after children who go into custody. Such children lose their looked-after children status when taken into custody.

The handbook recommends that IROs have a role in ensuring their needs are met even when this status is lost.

Fayle welcomed this aspect of the handbook but added that, “it could present a resource issue.”

Under Section 10 of the Children and Young Persons Act 2008 IROs were given greater powers to monitor council performance. In addition, each child must have a named IRO to ensure their views are taken into account.