Agenda item

Independent Reviewing Service Annual Report 2017/2018


1.    Tina Onuchuckwu (Independent Reviewing Officer, South East Kent) introduced the report that set out the performance of the Council’s Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) Service for Children in Care from 1 April 2017 to 31 March 2018.


2.    Pritpal Sodhi (Independent Reviewing Officer, North West Kent) said that IRO caseloads had reduced over the year, which in turn provided more opportunities for IRO case oversight and scrutiny, including the completion of midway review meetings. The IRO Service also worked closely with Virtual School Kent (VSK) to support participation and activities for looked after children and young people including their attendance at looked after children council meetings. Work had also been undertaken in conjunction with VSK Apprentices on the following:


·         the re-design of the Kent Care Town website,

·         ensuring young people were involved in the recruitment of IROs;

·         the IRO Quality Assurance form was being reviewed to focus on key areas of the child’s placement and plan for permanence; and

·         invitation letters to review meeting were being revised to ensure these were child centred and encouraged young people participation in the meetings


3.    Sophia Dunstan (Participation Support Assistant, Virtual School Kent) provided feedback to the Panel on her experience with the IRO when in care and said that the Children in Care Council Meetings were focused on encouraging participation in reviews. The young people who provided feedback to her said that the IRO incorporated games into the meeting to make the young person feel more comfortable. Miss Dunstan would be in attendance at County Council in December to present the positive feedback.


(a)  In response to concerns raised regarding District teams failing to inform the IRO Service of children in need of an IRO within the specified timescale, Mr Sodhi said that a majority of District teams were not missing the three day target; instances where targets had been marginally missed were often unprecedented, such as new staff who were not familiar with processes. The IRO Service had its own tracking system to monitor the number of children coming into the service and had the ability to monitor what stage that child was at in terms of the assessments they had undergone. Sarah Hammond(Director of Integrated Children’s Services East (Social Work Lead)) explained that the data would have captured the Unaccompanied Asylum Seeker cohort and agreed to generate separate data that looked at the number of children outside of that cohort who had been assigned an RIO.


(b)  Miss Dunstan said that the Children and Young People’s Council would not have sight of anonymised complaints as this would defy the purpose of the council which was to promote a positive impact for others. As a supplement to this, Jo Carpenter (School Bursar and Project Officer, Virtual School Kent) assured the Panel that if a young person had a personal issue, this would be referred to that child’s allocated Social Worker.


(c)   In response to concerns regarding the number of Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking children in London reaching the age of eighteen, Sarah Hammond (Director of Integrated Children’s Services East (Social Work Lead)) said that due to limited accommodation and resources in Kent during 2015-16, a majority of Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking children had to be placed in London. Work had been undertaken since then to ensure that asylum-seeking children remained within Kent. Ms Hammond agreed to circulate the figures showing the number of Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking children in local accommodation.


4.    It was RESOLVED that the Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) Annual Report be noted.

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