Understanding the role of the IRO

What is an IRO?
An IRO or independent reviewing officer is the person who chairs your review meetings and they are independent of social services. They play an important role in helping you and social services in deciding your future. Sometimes you are asked to fill out a consultation booklet about your current care plan and finding out what you would like to happen in the future.
The law [Children Act 1989] now says that when you first come into care an IRO must be appointed.

What do they do?
An IRO must,
• promote the voice of the child or young person
• ensure that the current plans are based on a full and proper assessment of the child or young person's needs,
• make sure that each child or young person know how they can get hold of an advocate,
• act as a safeguard against children staying in care longer than necessary, or not getting the services they need, because of a lack of good planning,
• listen to children and make sure that they understand any changes to their care plan,
• make sure that the local authority is a good "corporate parent" to children and young people in care

What preparation is done for my review?

The IRO must: speak to you before the review; speak to your social worker at least 15 days before; read all relevant reports and background information; and, send out forms to you, your parents/carers and other people involved in your life for each to complete with their views. These forms should be sent out about two weeks before the review.

So how should my reviews run?

The law says that reviews should take place at least every six months, although the first two will happen much sooner (that is within twenty days of you coming into care and then again within three months). These are reviews of the plans that have been made for how you are going to be looked after (called the "care plan"). Don't worry they are not reviews of YOU!

The IRO should talk and listen to you about how the review meetings are run, who you think should attend and if the places and times that suit you. For example you may prefer smaller meetings with fewer people and, you may have your own ideas about what you want to say and how you would like to say it.

What would happen in my review?

In an review everybody will sit around to discuss your care plan. The IRO will check that the objectives from the last review has been met and if not, what is being done to meet them. The IRO will make new decisions about what is going to happen in the future.

The review should allow you to discuss the things that matter to you. As young people get older, especially those planning for the day when they will be leaving care, they should be encouraged to chair their own reviews.

Some children, whose first language might not be English, may need the help of an interpreter to take part in their review. Others might want an advocate to help speak up for them, if they not confident that adults are listening to them.

Remember, these are first and foremost your reviews. The IRO has the power to stop them if the local authority hasn't prepared for it properly; or, your IRO is not satisfied that you a ready for the meeting.

What extra information?