Agenda item

Independent Reviewing Officer Service Annual Report

Jo McCartan to present

(3.20-4.00 p.m.)


The Head of the Independent Reviewing Service presented the report covering the period 2021/22. The report provided details on the following areas:


·       The purpose of the service and legal context

·       Governance arrangements

·       The responsibilities of the IRO

·       The development and make-up of the IRO service

·       Information relating to performance and children and young people’s participation

·       Information in relation to disputes and IRO challenge

·       Resources

·       Areas for development


It was noted that the period covered by the report was during lock down. This had had had a significant impact on service delivery. The service had worked creatively and flexibly to address challenges as a result of the pandemic.


In a short presentation, the following issues we raised:


What’s working well? 

·       Review meetings held within statutory times scales maintained at above 94%

·       The offer of virtual reviews for some children has provided flexibility in the service to meet the needs of individual children

·       IROs have continued to prioritise quality and compliance, utilising the challenge and resolution process


What are we worried about?

·       We need to work with children and young people on how they want to participate in their reviews, virtual or in person

·       We need to improve performance and challenge around the timeliness of social work reports for the meeting, and whether these are shared with children, families and carers in advance of the meeting

·       Impact of Covid upon visiting children


Key metrics were outlined, which included-

       01 April 2021 596 children and young people were looked after by 31 March 2022 reduced to 551 children - a reduction of roughly 7.5%

       106.1 children per 10,000 of the population and sits in comparison to a statistical neighbour average of 92.0 and a national average of 65.0

       216 children ceased to be looked after in the reporting period, compared with 186 in the previous year

       The Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) population in Rotherham in 2011 was recorded as 8.1%. At present Looked After Children from BME backgrounds represent 29% of all children in care, with those from a Gypsy/Irish Traveller background being representing 0.049% of the population but 8% of children in our care

       1753 LAC reviews held in 2021/22, with full time IROs holding 216 reviews in the year on average.

       94.4% of reviews were held in time, equating to 1687 reviews undertaken.

       Children participated in 91.4% of reviews.


It was noted that the team had also undertaken regulation 44 visits in liaison with relevant stakeholders. The team also had oversight of Section 20 reports. It was outlined that there had been improvements to health and dental checks due to IRO intervention. All children in unregistered care settings were subject to monthly reviews, with issues escalation as required.


In respect to future plans, the following issues were raised:

·       Ensure that quality and compliance were embedded in minutes and reviews

·       Attendance data to be embedded into electronic records,

·       Aspirational pathway plans

·       Coordination of Section 20 reporting alongside a practice reports,

·       Questioning care plans and the rationale for the child remaining in LA care.


The Chair invited questions from the panel and a discussion on the following issues ensued:


·       It was noted that professional attendance at review meetings had improved because of the move towards virtual meetings.

·       Maintaining consistency in social work reports remained a challenge however it was noted the additional process had been put in place and improvements were being made.

·       The over representation of black and minority ethnic children in the looked after cohort was noted. A piece of work would be undertaken to understand what lay behind this.

·       It was clarified that adoption time scales were less of a concern now the Court Service had opened up post pandemic. Assurance was given that children had been placed in “forever homes” and the delays in issuing final orders had not had an impact on their placements.

·       It was anticipated that the report for 2022/23 would be received in June/July 2023.

·       The Virtual Head confirmed that the team provided early identification of educational needs.

·       It was noted that work would need to be undertaken to support advocacy for BME children looked after and families. A discussion took place on appropriate role models and independent representation, particularly to support workforce development and educational achievement.

·       Workforce development and recruitment.

·       Details were given of how the voice of the child was captured in the review process, including using the signs of safety structure.


Resolved:- That the report be noted.

Supporting documents: