Blog Post: A Day in the Life of: An Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO)
By Sherifa Adenmosun, Looked After Children (LAC) IRO at London Borough of Sutton
Check emails, re-read report for today’s review and make sure laptop and mobile are charged for the day ahead. Carry water and snacks.
Leave home, head to Euston to begin 10hr round trip to North Wales. Mode of transport for the day; Bus, Underground, overground rail and car.
My activities on the train consist of the following:
Reading whilst travelling/listening to music intermittently and checking diary for the next month is up to date *key in this role is the need to make use of travelling time*. I’m thinking about this young man whose review I’m about to chair. I haven’t seen him in a while….it was his 16th birthday earlier this week.
Reflecting on my week so far, I chaired initial reviews locally for a 3 & a 4yr old now living with their Uncle. Third set of care proceedings for these young children. There are 3 possible outcomes at Court; reunification with Mum, remain with family under connected person arrangements, or adoption. The children are safe now and their needs are being met. This needs to be long term so that they have a good foundation in these formative years and beyond. Mum has her own unmet needs; she requires support around to be able to evidence change and the ability to sustain said changes to meet the needs of her children. The children’s timeframes are key in such matters, particularly as proceedings have been for 3 consecutive years. The Courts prescribe a tight timeframe of 26 weeks in order to prevent drift and delays.
Today’s review is my 25th in 4 weeks; this means 25 IRO Looked After Children (LAC) Review Decisions/reports to be typed up and circulated within 20 working days. No two days are the same in this role, but like with most jobs, your ability to prioritise, work to tight statutory timescales and manage time is key. This week I’ve had 3 admin days, 2 of which were at home; a necessity for the ongoing report writing, monitoring cases and reading with this role.
Going into the office on Wednesday for brief meetings with Social Workers, I was thrilled to bump into 2 of my colleagues for a quick catch up. Us IRO’s are like ships that pass but that said, we have incredible virtual/telephone support and excellent Managers. This provides a wealth of knowledge and allows us to check in with one another. We’re going through a major shift as a local authority in how we conduct LAC Reviews to ensure they increase child participation and are less procedural. The feedback so far is positive, especially with reports now being written to children instead of about them.
As we pull into another station that I cannot pronounce, I think about my caseload, currently at 61 children. A few of my children are turning 18 in the next few months. Some have had final LAC Reviews and I hope that they are prepared and still supported as they ease into adulthood. Fortunately the Local Authority (LA) has an excellent Leaving Care Team (LCT); staff are passionate and invest in the young adults which supports this crucial transition.
On the other end of the spectrum, I think about 2 babies who I’ve overseen since last summer as their IRO since they were newborns. I’ve chaired reviews since they moved to their respective adoptive placements within the last 4 weeks. They and their new parents are doing well. They cease being LAC once the Adoption Order is granted by the Court.
Ping! Email alert. 30mins until I disembark, and a Social Worker (SW) has sent me all final evidence for 2 brothers in proceedings. He wants the IRO view on his Final Care Plan recommendation. The email has 14 attached documents for Court; I search my calendar for a slot to put this task in within the week deadline. I may get a chance to start reading when heading back to London later today. I hope so, as it’s over 100 pages to decipher.
1pm-2.30pm LAC Review Meeting
Arrive at remote train station in North Wales and myself and the child’s SW have a chance to briefly catch up. He had already produced a SW report for the meeting beforehand in line with procedures. Our car arrives for the 1hr 10min drive to our location; it took the scenic route high into the Welsh valleys. It made sense now why this young person was doing well for the past 6 weeks at this crisis assessment centre. The chance of absconding is reduced significantly; this is his biggest risk.
Upon arrival, I see the young man, we chat, he looks very well. He told me that he enjoyed the peace and quiet of being out of London. He just wanted to sleep……Staff appear very hands on, the support and boundaries in place are high and attuned to this young man’s needs. My view is aligned to that of his SW, essentially that long term this isn’t sustainable. However it gives an opportunity to assess this child’s needs and plan appropriately. The Care Plan must take into consideration him living in the real world, not necessarily London for now. However a place invested in promoting his long term stability and safety whilst hooking him into meaningful learning.
During his meeting the young man was able to articulate his views and participate fully in his LAC Review. I commended him on this as this had been the most willing he had been to do so in the year that I had known him. As the meeting drew to a close and the Decisions formulated, it dawned on me that this SW really knew this boy. From his explanation of the boundaries and his expectations of the young man, to their banter. I saw him exercise care and control with this vulnerable child with skill. Us IRO’s are always pleased to see this. I know the value this holds for a child, both now and in their future.
Reverse the journey, heading back to London. One additional train due to issues, this happens…..always be prepared for late arrivals when travelling long distance.
Read reports, check and respond to emails, almost back in London just after 7pm. People sometimes ask “What – you go all that way for a meeting?”
My response is always the same “Well yes, the LA (Local Authority) placed them there and our duties to them remain the same wherever they’re placed…..”
To conclude, I hope this has given brief insight into the IRO role. I do this job because of my interest in the outcome and experiences of Looked After Children. I can only hope that one day they will have more stability and investment from services that are afforded to the non LAC population.