The Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) role was created to provide scrutiny and oversight of the planning for children in care and to challenge local authorities when they feel a child’s best interests are not being served. However, critics say that IROs are too close to those they are meant to hold to account.

Jerry Lonsdale is a lay adviser to parents whose children are in the care system. When no legal aid is available, he represents them in court as a McKenzie Friend. Experienced and respected in this field – he’s been doing it for over a decade now – Jerry is dismayed at the lack of independence he’s observed in some independent reviewing officers.

In a case Jerry is currently working on, he was staggered to discover that the IRO was deeply embedded in the children’s services department, having been for the past 18 months line managing the social workers involved in the case. “How is she supposed to hold to account the local authority – which hasn’t been following the care plan – if she’s part of the work?” asks Lonsdale. “It’s beyond wrong.”

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