Young people with experience of care have backed calls for independent reviewing officers to be taken out of council control.
A consultation event organised by the Who Cares? Trust found overwhelming support for the next government to enact a so-called sunset clause to the Children and Young Person’s Act 2008, which would see the role taken out of council control and instead be overseen by a new organisation.
The next government has until November this year to make the change before the ability to trigger the clause expires.
The National Association of Independent Reviewing Officers (Nairo) last month polled its members on whether they want to remain under local authority control or not, but is yet to reveal the results.
IROs are responsible for chairing reviews for children living in children’s homes or foster care, but the fact they are based within the local authorities they are supposed to hold to account has led many to question precisely how independent they can be.
The group of 13 young people, a mix of children currently in care and care leavers, who took part in the Who Cares? Trust consultation event, favoured removing them from council control.
Care leavers were highly critical of the effectiveness of IROs in their present form under council control, arguing it is difficult for IROs to be truly independent while working for a council.
They added that IROs did not meet them enough and were poor at explaining their role in supporting young people in care.
There was also concern that young people rarely saw any evidence their concerns had been followed up by IROs and they called for a stronger role for young people in reviews as well as training for the profession.
Natasha Finlayson, chief executive of the Who Cares? Trust, said: “The results of the consultation we ran with young people about IROs reflected what young people in care have long told us, which is that many don’t know what an IRO is or who theirs is.
“Where they do know, they often report that their IRO has not helped to secure or change decisions in the child’s best interests.
“Young people need more consistent quality in the effectiveness and determination of IROs, who should be fearless champions for children.”
Nairo has said that it would like to take part in a further consultation with care leavers on their views about IROs and is hoping to involve their input at their annual conference in October.