Gwynneth Knowles and Malcolm Sharpe:
This is the first of two articles to examine the Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) service within local authorities. IROs are experienced social workers who have a duty to monitor how a local authority performs its task of caring for a looked after child. Each child has his/her own IRO who chairs reviews and is tasked with ensuring that the child's care plan is fir for purpose and implemented.
IROs may, if the recommendations of the Family Justice Review are implemented, play a much more significant role in the care planning for looked after children once family courts relinquish their present responsibility to scrutinize care plans in detail. However the recent case of A and S (Children) v Lancashire County Council  EWHC 1689 (Fam) suggests that IROs are in fact not equipped to advocate effectively on behalf of looked after children.
The first article examines the genesis and purpose of the IRO service alongside its recently refined statutory duties to looked after children. It also looks at case law and other comment in an effort to assess the service's current effectiveness.