Friday, 26 May 2017

"Shifting the Culture"

A dynamic and interactive training day for social workers IRO’s and social work managers on best practice with separated asylum seeking and migrant children

Date:      June 29 2017

Venue:   NCVO National Council for Voluntary Organisations Society Building  8 All Saints Street  London N1 9RL

Time:    10 am to 4 pm

Cost:     £99 including lunch.

We expect to be oversubscribed for this very rare training opportunity via this partnership with leading experts from a range of perspectives
Click on the eventbrite link here to book                                                                     

This exciting training opportunity  will delve into both the immigration, care and care leaving  contexts and systems for these children and  young  The day will focus on the social work practice issues, challenges and dilemmas from the ethical, legal & care planning perspectives and how these  impact  on unaccompanied asylum seeking and migrant children and young people. The day will examine social work theory and practice in such contentious areas as age determination, the interface between competing legal systems, what social workers can and cannot do in this work, rights and entitlements and will provide an opportunity to network with other practitioners interested in this work.

Delivery Partners  BASW- The British  Association of Social Workers. NAIRO -The National Association of Independent Reviewing Officers. MICLU -The Migrant Children’s Legal Unit and TCS - The Children Society  and Birmingham University

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Initial Free Legal Information/Signposting for NAIRO Members

NAIRO are pleased to offer our members a new service whereby a solicitor will provide NAIRO with assistance in relation to their initial legal enquiries in the course of their work.

Caroline Landes Solicitor and Partner in the firm of McMillan Williams Solicitors Limited has agreed to work with NAIRO in this regard.  Caroline has been practising law in the area of family and children for 30 years and is a member of the accreditation scheme for children law at the Law Society. 

Caroline is prepared to assist the members of NAIRO with initial legal enquiries in the course of their IRO work.  This advice will be limited to 20 minutes maximum one off per case initial legal information/signposting by telephone relating only to work undertaken by our members professionally.  

If the matter goes further then funding arrangements will be discussed and will need to be secured.  If you wish to avail yourself of this service then please contact who will then ask you to complete a form of referral which will be emailed to Caroline and following a conflict check being undertaken Caroline will make contact with you by telephone or email as soon as possible after your enquiry.  If the matter is urgent then please mark you enquiry accordingly. 

Caroline is of course happy to provide IRO’s with legal advice on personal/their own family matters and/or signpost them elsewhere within McMillan Williams Solicitors Limited.  However this advice will need to be funded and does not fall within the ambit of the above scheme.  

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Press Release on behalf of NAIRO from Jacki Rothwell, Chair of the National Association of Independent Reviewing Officers

“The Government says not every child looked after by local authorities needs an independent reviewing officer. But these posts were created in order to hold local authorities to account and protect the human rights of children. How can it be right to allow local authorities to dispense with this independent scrutiny and be excused from legislation passed by Parliament to uphold the rights of very vulnerable children?”

Please  look at and support the campaign as much as you are able


Wednesday, 5 October 2016


NAIRO campaigns against measures in the Children and Social Work Bill that threaten to remove children’s rights and to dismantle the IRO Service


Chair: Jacki Rothwell 
Vice Chair: Paul Smart 
Vice Chair: Jon Fayle

In 1946 rules were introduced requiring 6 monthly reviews of children in foster care. This followed the death of 12 year old Dennis O’Neill who was killed by his foster carers. The coroner criticised the lack of local authority supervision. Reviews were later extended to those living in Children’s Homes. In 2002 Parliament passed legislation to make local authorities appoint independent persons to lead the review process. Independent Reviewing Officers must be qualified and experienced social workers and their statutory role includes checking the local authority has informed young people of their rights to make a complaint, access support from an advocate and helping the child obtain legal advice.

Measures in the Children and Social Work Bill, currently going through parliament, threaten the continued existence of the IRO Service.

Clauses 29 – 33 of the Bill would enable Local Authorities to apply for exemptions from their duties to provide services and support to children (and corresponding rights for children) which are enshrined in law. This is said to be intended to enable innovation, but many in the children’s sector, including NAIRO, question this. We believe innovation can be achieved without the erosion of hard won children’s rights, which this Bill threatens.

When Lord Nash spoke for the Government in the House of Lords in the 2nd reading debate on 14.6.16. the IRO service was one of his 2 examples of a service ripe for dismantling.

He said:

“Secondly, there is strong consensus in the sector that in low risk cases, the role of the independent reviewing officer brings no additional benefit. Exemptions will enable local authorities to trial redirecting IRO resource differently – for example, to more complex cases - while reducing the number of additional people a young person does not know at their review, which is a known concern in more straightforward cases.”

At least two local authorities are reported to be requesting an exemption from legislation which will reduce basic rights for children in care and reduce the IRO service.

On 11th July Lord Nash informed the House of Lords that in North Yorkshire there are just over 400 children in care but there are only 20 children on average who would require regular in depth reviews if the authority was granted exemption from the law in relation to reviews and IROs.

We understand that Hampshire County Council would ask for 2 exemptions from the current legislation

(a) to reduce the frequency of children’s reviews below the current minimum

(b) for the role of the IRO to be carried out by individuals who are not qualified social workers (and potentially therefore less able to challenge the local authority on behalf of the child)

The role of the IRO is to scrutinise the local authority’s care plan for the child and listen carefully to the views of the child and others about the plan. They must challenge the local authority if they believe the plan is not in the best interests of the child. The loss of the rights of children in care to the protection of this service would be a disastrous backward step.

NAIRO will campaign tirelessly to resist this legislation in partnership with other individuals, children’s rights groups and charities.  In particular we are part of a campaign called “Together for Children – Defending Children’s Social Care Rights”

We urge all people concerned about the lives of children in care, to join this campaign against these potentially disastrous measures.

Jacki Rothwell, Chair of NAIRO said “We are passionate about improving outcomes for children in care. We believe this measure in the Children and Social Work Bill, if it became law, would have a disastrous impact on the rights of children in care, and on their lives. 

This measure is not about “innovation” it is about dismantling children’s rights.

I have not met an IRO in the country who thinks these measures would help children in care.

We encourage all IROs, social workers, children’s rights workers, and all those who care about the lives of children in care, to do all they can to resist these clauses in the Bill and to join the ‘Together for Children’ campaign.

We call on the Government to withdraw the clauses from the Bill, and enter discussions with NAIRO and others about how the IRO service could really be improved for the benefit of looked after children”


October 2016

Patrons of the National Association of Independent Reviewing Officers
Sir Vince Cable (former MP and Secretary of State for Business)
The Earl of Listowel
June Thoburn CBE, Emeritus Professor of Social Work, University of East Anglia
John Kemmis, Former Chief Executive, VOICE
Ray Jones, Emeritus Professor of Social Work, Kingston University

Notes for Editors

Independent Reviewing Officers
An Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) is a qualified social worker who has a responsibility to review the cases of children in care at regular intervals. A key element of the role is to scrutinise the local authority care plan for the child, in particular taking into account the child’s wishes and feelings, and being mindful of the child’s rights. If the IRO believes the LA plan is not in the best interests of the child, she/he has the duty to challenge the local authority to whatever level is necessary to resolve the matter.

NAIRO was founded in March 2009. It is the only national professional organisation for IROs in the country. We have a fast growing membership from England, Wales, the Channel Islands, and the Isle of Man.

NAIRO is devoted to improving outcomes for looked after children by maximising the positive impact of the reviewing process.

NAIRO has recently registered as a charity with a view to obtaining more funding from charitable sources, to enable us to strengthen our organisation for the benefit of children in care.

We have the benefit of several leading academics in social work or related fields, amongst our associate membership. We also have a number of eminent patrons who support our work.

For more information see our website

Friday, 16 September 2016

Independent Reviewing Officers

Independent Reviewing Officers (IROs) are amongst the first social work professionals to be identified as superfluous to achieving good outcomes for looked after children and young people by the proponents of the Children & Social Work Bill.

North Yorkshire and Hampshire have both asked to be exempted from legislation relating to IROs
On 11th July Lord Nash informed the House of Lords that in North Yorkshire there are just over 400 children in care but there are only 20 children on average who would require regular in depth reviews if the authority was granted exemption from the law in relation to reviews and IROs.

Hansard Quote:

For example, in the case of independent reviewing officers, children have fed back to our partner in practice authorities that they do not like additional people who they do not know to be present at their case reviews discussing intimate information. More specifically, in the case of North Yorkshire, just over 400 children and young people are looked after. The vast majority are very settled and achieving well. Older young people in this position tell the authority that they find regular formal reviews unsettling and that they would like to be treated like their non-looked-after peers. There is then a much smaller number, on average 20, who are not currently settled and require regular in-depth reviews. This is one area in which a request for use of the power to innovate may well be made to make more effective use of the experienced cohort of independent officers.

Hampshire County Council have asked for exemptions to be made to allow fewer reviews to be held for looked after children and for the role of Reviewing Officer to be carried out by non social work qualified professionals.

Have IROs or IRO Managers in Hampshire and North Yorkshire been asked for their view of what impact this will have on the most vulnerable children in these areas?

Jacki Rothwell

Chair of Trustees NAIRO

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Should Looked After Children have a right to an IRO

Should looked after children have a right to an IRO?

The Children & Social Work Bill is making its way through the Lords. It was enthusiastically introduced by Lord Nash as giving local authorities “an opportunity to test new ways of working in a safe and managed environment so that they can tailor their services specifically to the needs of children rather than slavishly following a set of one-size-fits-all rules”.
Indeed clauses 15 to 19 of the Children & Social Work Bill introduce a fast-track process for the removal of any of hundreds of local authority duties to children, young people and families.

NAIRO was one of the signatories to a letter to the Guardian newspaper urging peers to reject clauses 15-19, and call on the government to consult on its vision and plan for children’s social care. Bill-puts-children's-social-care-at-risk

NAIRO’s patron and co signatory, Professor June Thoburn,  was quoted in another article "June Thoburn – emeritus professor of social work at the University of East Anglia – told the Guardian new powers were not needed because existing legislation already allows frontline social workers to innovate. It was not clear why exempting failing authorities from legal duties would improve services, or why already successful councils need more freedom.
She said: “It is hard to escape the conclusion that [the bill] is really about achieving David Cameron’s stated aim of ‘academisation’ for all local authority child and family social care and child protection services.

“But by providing a route for (initially) a few selected local authorities to divest themselves of (unspecified) duties introduced into legislation to help families in distressing circumstances, these proposed clauses open the door to the removal of crucial rights and services from some of our most disadvantaged citizens”. labour-fears-potential-privatisation-of-child-protection-services

Isabelle Trowler, Chief Social Worker for Children and Families, has already proposed that the role of the IRO should be removed using these powers “ the role of the Independent Reviewing Officer. Is that the best use of those 2,000 or so practitioners, in a very prescriptive role? Often our most experienced , talented practitioners are IROs. Could we use that skill, resource differently? communitycare article

Lord Nash told the Lords that “there is strong consensus in the sector that in low-risk cases the role of the independent reviewing officer brings no additional benefit. Exemptions will allow local authorities to trial redirecting IRO resource differently—for example, to more complex cases—while reducing the number of additional people a young person does not know at their review, which is a known concern, in more straightforward cases”
The Lords are doing a sterling job in scrutinising the Bill and raising questions about the skeleton nature of the Bill which was raised by the Constitution Committee “The Bill grants extensive powers to the Secretary of State …..the introduction of legislation that leaves much to the subsequent discretion of ministers. We regret that, despite the concerns expressed in the past by this and other committees, the Government continues to introduce legislation that depends so heavily on an array of broad delegated powers.”

I think we are all aware at this time of how quickly power can change hands. Our most vulnerable children do not deserve to be at the mercy of political power games now or in the future.

Jacki Rothwell

Chair of Trustees NAIRO 

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Feedback from launch of Ofsted Social Care Report

Care Leavers – Both Sir Michael Wilshaw and Eleanor Schooling focused on Care Leavers in their speeches noting a lack of data about what happens and a lack of systems to provide continuity and quality of support. In the subsequent Q&A there was a discussion as to whether adult transition might be a better term for this process.

Case Loads – Eleanor Schooling stated inspection has impacted helpfully on case allocation. In her view, there is a growing consensus around what is reasonable and achievable.

Children in Need – both speakers suggested further service development was necessary to identify and intervene at the children in need level and that this might impact on numbers of children looked after. They also both stated that overall, services for LAC were of a significantly higher quality.

Eleanor Schooling stated Next Year’s focus will be on
·       Missing Children
·       Disabled children
·       Older children and care leavers

Contrasting Good and Outstanding LAs with inadequate LAs to illuminate processes underpinning improvement. Both speakers regularly referenced practice in good authorities and contrasted it with inadequate authorities. When asked whether they might name inadequate leaders as well as authorities Sir Michael Wilshaw said “he was tempted”.

Leadership – both speakers viewed quality and continuity of leadership as pivotal drivers of improvement, this was echoed by David Hoare (chair) who suggested that the appointment of Amanda Spielmann as chief inspector was based in her focus on leadership.

Consultation on Future of Social Care Inspection Eleanor Schooling launched consultation to develop framework to ensure inspection process improves practice. She aspired to design a framework that catches people before they fall rather than catches people when they have fallen.

Patrick Butler, Guardian correspondent asked Ofsted’s view re reduction of social work duties in children and social work bill, this was the closest the discussion got to potential changes in role of IRO, I felt their response was fundamentally not to comment until the bill has been passed.

Mark Waddington June 2016