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  https://togetherforchildren.wordpress.com/latest 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” https://togetherforchildren.wordpress.com/

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 www.nairo.org.uk

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. https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/future-of-social-care-inspection

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 

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Training News from NAIRO

Our training group is now up and running and starting to prepare a high quality training programme specifically designed for IROs. The NAIRO training group will shortly be circulating  a questionnaire seeking members' views to support this process.

This year we will be staging a day event for new or "would be" IROs covering the basics of the job - (legal framework, core duties, dilemmas, challenges etc.). This is scheduled for Thursday 24th November 2016 and will take place in Birmingham. We are also offering a specialist training day around Foetal Alcohol Syndrome taking place in Kettering on Tuesday 13th December 2016.
We are now actively marketing these events our promotional leaflets can be accessed by clicking the links below:

Training day for new and aspiring IROs
Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder

Please feel free to contact us at training@nairo.org.uk for further information.

Conference Invitation

Dear Members,

We have received an invitation to attend the conference detailed below.

10 free spaces have been offered to NAIRO members and spaces are available on a first come first serve basis. 

Members can book using the Eventbrite link below.

Non-members can join NAIRO by clicking the following link:

Invitation to Conference

Precarious Citizenship:  Young People Who are Undocumented, Separated and Settled in the UK

A one-day conference at Birkbeck, University of London for academics, front line practitioners and activists interested in how precarious citizenship and hostile immigration laws impact the lives of separated children and young people as they live and transition to adulthood in the UK.

Organised by Birkbeck, University of London Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities, and Migrant and Refugee Children’s Legal Unit. 

Significant numbers of young people who are settled in the UK (some 120,000) do not have British citizenship. Many have no ‘lawful’ status to remain in the UK whilst cuts to legal aid and fast-paced changes to immigration laws fuelled by a hostile anti-immigrant climate mean that this trend may indeed get worse with numbers rising. Many of these young people may have lived in the UK for many years and consider themselves to be British. Indeed, they may not be aware of their precarious citizenship until they leave school and try to apply for bank accounts, jobs, benefits or university or when they are leaving care or following a family breakdown. Their precarious status arises from the combination of their transition out of childhood and the discriminatory character of immigration law that means for many of these young people, despite being settled in the UK for many years, once they reach adulthood they cannot secure their ‘citizenship’.

The purpose of this conference is to increase awareness of the precarious citizenship of this group of young people in the UK; to share empirical and theoretical knowledge about contemporary and historical forms of precarious citizenship at the intersection of youth and immigration; to raise awareness of the needs, rights and entitlements of this group of young people and explore barriers to education, health, housing, social care support and access to justice; to develop a network of academics and practitioners who can take forward the study of precarious citizenship in young people’s lives, and to contribute to theoretical and policy development focused on this vulnerable group. 

The full conference programme will be published in due course.
We will be joined by young with the lived experience of precarious citizenship and youth activists from migrants rights and anti-racism movements to explore effective political mobilisation of young people. 

Keynote speakers include: Nando Sigona, (IRiS), Lilana Keith (PICUM), Roberto Gonzales (Harvard). Presenting Organisations also include:  British Association of Social Workers; Doctors of the World; Baobab Centre for Young Survivors in Exile; Prince’s Trust; Centrepoint, The Children’s Society and many more. 

Wednesday, 1 June 2016 from 09:00 to 17:00 (BST)

Birkbeck, University of London, Clore Lecture Theatre, Clore Management Centre, Torrington Square, Bloomsbury, London WC1E 7JL


Friday, 12 February 2016

BBC Radio 4's File On 4 Programme

Dear Members,

Emma Forde, a producer at BBC Radio 4, has asked me whether NAIRO members could assist with a programme they are making. It concerns the 26 week timescale for care proceedings and the implications of this on children and the care plans made. It is due to go out in early March. Please see Emma's email below and if you have any information about such cases or have a view about the court process etc, then please get in touch with Emma.

If you do this, would you please say that you are NAIRO member and it would be great if you could let me know too so I can monitor how helpful we have been.  If you would like the Trustees to support you with this then let us know.

Details of how to contact Emma are in the email below.

Many thanks,


Maggie Duggins - Chair, National Association of IROs (NAIRO)

Hi Maggie,

Really good speaking with you- As discussed, I am producer for Radio 4’s File on 4 programme-we are a 40 minute long current affairs programme which is broadcast on Radio 4 on Tuesdays and Sundays. For a possible upcoming programme I am looking into concerns surrounding the targets to complete child care proceedings within 26 weeks and whether they are putting further pressure on the system. As part of this I’m looking into Special Guardianship Orders and whether the speed at which proceedings are meant to be competed is resulting in rushed assessments, leading to possibly unsuitable placements which subsequently break down or potentially put children at risk of further danger.  I was wondering if you could put me in touch with anyone who had encountered cases whereby children had been placed at risk through an SGO Order being made without proper consideration of the placement’s long-term suitability. I understand there is much sensitivity surrounding such cases therefore this would just be for background at this stage to help with my research and would not expect people to go into details about individuals. I can also speak to people anonymously if that helps.

They could either email in the first instance at emma.forde@bbc.co.uk or my direct line is 0161 335 64 57.

Kind regards,


Emma Forde |BBC Radio Current Affairs

 1st Floor |Quay House | MediaCityUK|  Salford | M50 2QH
Tel: +44(0)161 335 6457 |E-mail: emma.forde@bbc.co.uk  Twitter: @e_k_forde

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Friday 4th March 2016: NAIRO Annual General Meeting (AGM)

Annual General Meeting

Friday 4th March 2016

Resource for London

356 Holloway Road


N7 6PA 

11:30 am

Presentation on ‘The future of social work with children and families’by Dr Ray Jones, Professor of social work at Kingston University and St George's, University of London 

1:30 pm

NAIRO AGM 2016 including the election of trustees to the NAIRO Board    

All NAIRO members are invited and welcome

For further details, please email michellesafo@nairo.org.uk