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Independent reviewing officers: taking up the challenge?

The core purpose of the independent reviewing officer (IRO) role is to ensure that the care plan for the child fully reflects the child’s needs and to ensure that each child’s wishes and feelings are given full and due consideration. The appointment by local authorities of an IRO is a legal requirement.

The Children and Young Person’s Act 2008, followed by revised care planning regulations and guidance which came into force in April 2011, strengthened the role of the IRO who is not only responsible for chairing statutory reviews but also for monitoring cases on an ongoing basis. Concerns had arisen over time that IROs did not sufficiently challenge local authority decisions when practice was poor and not in children’s best interests.

The IRO also has a duty to monitor the local authority’s overall performance as a corporate parent and to bring any areas of poor practice in the care and planning for looked after children to the attention of senior managers.

This report evaluates the effectiveness of IROs in discharging their responsibilities towards looked after children. Inspectors visited 10 local authority areas. The report draws on evidence from 111 cases and from the views of children and young people, carers, and professionals from the local authority and from partner agencies.