That not one single instance of an IRO referral back to court exists in over a dozen years speaks for itself – a damning indictment of dysfunction. Created to seemingly bridge and remedy the lacuna of adequate and objective supervision of local authorities (and which replaced the earlier objective of starred care plans) by appearing as nothing more than local authority cheerleaders it is the child(ren) whose welfare the state is beholden to promote who suffer harm by this lack of accountability and at times, impunity.
Jonathan Dickens is professor of social work at the University of East Anglia (UEA), Norwich. In 2012-14 he led a research study into care planning and the role of the independent reviewing officer.
His latest short article about IROs looks at some of the strengths and limitations of the IRO service. Jonathan draws on recent debates and reflects on the findings of the 2012-14 research study. He states that there is certainly room for improvement in specific cases and in the overall operation of the system, but suggests that some of the criticisms of IROs have not been founded on accurate knowledge and understanding.
Reference is made to the particularly ‘searing criticism’ of IRO practice in the judgment of Mr Justice Peter Jackson in the case of A and S v Lancashire County Council  EWHC 1689 (Fam). The specific issues raised in respect of the the IRO are set out at paragraph 199 to 217 of that…
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