Care of looked-after kids needs improvement

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Independent reviewing officers are not making enough of a positive impact on the quality of care planning and outcomes for looked after children and they have been too slow in taking on their enhanced responsibilities, says Ofsted.

Independent reviewing officers (IROs) are charged with ensuring that the care plan for a looked after child clearly sets out the help, care and support that they need and takes full account of their wishes and feelings. Local authorities are required by law to appoint an IRO for each looked after child. Since April 2011, changes to care planning regulations have strengthened the IRO role. IROs are now not only responsible for chairing statutory reviews but also for monitoring children’s care plans on an ongoing basis. IROs should also monitor the local authority’s overall performance as a “corporate parent” for looked after children.

Ofsted’s survey report – Independent Reviewing Officers: taking up the challenge? – found that IROs did not always sufficiently challenge drift and delay in plans for individual children. Children’s views were not always taken into full account. The IRO role in assessing the effectiveness of local authority support and plans for looked after children was underdeveloped.

“It is disappointing that, in most local authorities visited, the level of challenge from IROs on behalf of children was not strong enough”, said Jacky Tiotto, Ofsted’s Divisional Manager for Social Care.

The education watchdog is recommending that local authorities take urgent action to implement the full revised IRO guidance and ensure that IROs have the required skills, training, knowledge and time to undertake all elements of their role effectively. It also recommends that senior managers regularly review performance to assure themselves of the quality of the IRO service and the impact and difference it is making for children, young people and families.

The report Independent Reviewing Officers: taking up the challenge? is available at: www.ofsted.gov.uk/resources/130113

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