In May 2017, this chapter was updated in relation to the role of the Independent Reviewing Officer in line with the Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations - Volume 2: Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (2015). In particular, the IRO being sensitive to the close and active involvement of parents of a child looked after in a series of Short Breaks and problem-solving where there might be difficulties or issues. In addition, the role and responsibilities of the IRO have been revised and re-drafted (see Section 4, Role of the IRO in Relation to Children Subject to Care Proceedings).
If Merton Council looks after a child, it must appoint an Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) for that child's case. The name of the IRO and his/her contact details must be recorded on the child's case record.
The IRO must be appointed to the child's case and meet the child before the first Looked After Review and, as a matter of good practice, should be appointed within the first five working days.
Sibling groups, whether or not placed together, should have the same IRO and should be informed that they share the same IRO as their siblings, except where conflict of interest between siblings makes this inappropriate or the size of the sibling group makes this unmanageable. The issue of sibling contact should also be addressed in the IRO annual report.
The child should be given notification of his/her IRO, along with details about how to make contact with him/her. This could be by secure email or text. If the child is only informed verbally, then the date that s/he was given this information must be placed on the case record.
The IRO should be allocated for the duration that the child is looked after and should continue as the IRO if a child returns to care of the same local authority at a later date, if reasonably practicable.
Where a mother and/or father and their child are looked after, the child should have a different IRO.If the IRO leaves the employment of the local authority, or for any other reason stops being the IRO for a particular child, s/he should introduce the new IRO to the child in person, as this fosters good practice.
There are two clear and separate aspects to the function of the IRO: chairing a child's review - see Looked After Reviews Procedure, and monitoring a child's case on an ongoing basis including whether any safeguarding issues arise.
As part of the monitoring function, the IRO also has a duty to monitor the performance of the local authority's function as a corporate parent and to identify any areas of poor practice. This should include identifying patterns of concern emerging not just around individual children but also more generally in relation to the collective experience of its Children Looked After of the services they receive.
Where IROs identify more general concerns around the quality of the authority's services to its Children Looked After, the IRO should immediately alert senior managers about gaps are identified in the assessment process or the delivery of service. Equally important, the IRO should recognise and report on good practice.
The responsibilities of the IRO include:
In relation to short breaks:
The IRO has the authority to refer a case to CAFCASS if he/she 'considers it appropriate to do so'.
The IRO must consider whether it is appropriate to refer a case to CAFCASS if:
The IRO will need to consider together with the Children's Guardian what communication is necessary in order to promote the best possible care planning process for each child.
As soon as the IRO has been appointed to a child subject to proceedings:
The IRO should ensure that s/he is in discussion with the Children's Guardian at regular intervals, as is appropriate for each child's case and that the topics of discussion include:
The allocated Social Worker must inform the IRO of significant changes/events in the child's life including:
Only valid for 48hrs