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We provide advice to parents, grandparents, relatives, friends and kinship carers who are involved with children’s services in England or need their help. We can help you understand processes and options when social workers or courts are making decisions about your child’s welfare.

Our advice service is free, independent and confidential.

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To speak to an adviser, please call our free and confidential advice line 0808 801 0366 (Monday to Friday 9.30am to 3pm, excluding Bank Holidays). Or you can ask us a question via email using our advice enquiry form.

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Our online advice forums are an anonymous space where parents and kinship carers (also known as family and friends carers) can get legal and practical advice, build a support network and learn from other people’s experiences.

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Our get help and advice section describes the processes that you and your family are likely to go through, so that you know what to expect. Our webchat service can help you find the information and advice on our website which will help you understand the law and your rights.

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What is the role of the independent reviewing officer (IRO)?

The duties on children’s services

Children’s services are under a duty to appoint an independent reviewing officer (IRO) for all looked after children. Children in care under court orders should have one as well as children in voluntary arrangements.

The independent reviewing officer works for children’s services. But they work independently of the child’s social worker.

The law says that an independent reviewing officer must:

  • Not have any direct management responsibility for the child’s case
  • Not have any budget holding duties for the child’s case.

This all helps to make sure their role is independent. This is set out in sections 25A and 25B of the Children Act 1989 and in regulation 45 of the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010).

The child’s care plan must include the name of the independent reviewing officer (see  regulation 5(d) of the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010.

The role of the independent reviewing officer

  1. Chair looked after child review meetings
  2. Monitor the care the child is getting when they are looked after.This includes making sure the child’s care plan meets their child’s current needs. And making sure decisions following the child’s review are put into action.
  1. Use their powers to call for an earlier review for the child if needed. This might happen if the child’s social worker informs the independent reviewing officer of a plan to make a change to the care plan. Or if there is going to be a major change to contact arrangements. See section 25B of the Children Act
  1. Make sure the child is informed of their right to make an application to court (for example, for contact with their brothers or sisters) and to make a complaint
  2. Try to resolve any disputes about the child’s care plan with children’s services.Where it is not possible to resolve the dispute, the independent reviewing officer can refer the case to Cafcass. Case law has confirmed that Cafcass has the power to make an application to court where children’s services are not looking after the child in a way that promotes their welfare or where Children’s Services may have breached your child’s human rights (see Re S (Minors)(Care Order: Implementation of care plan) and also Re W (Minors)(Care order: Adequacy of Care Plan)[2002] UKHL 10 [2002] 1 FCR 577).
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