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London IRO Bi-Annual Conference – Making A Difference

Held on 29TH JUNE 2015 – HOSTED BY TOWER HAMLETTS

Every other year the London IRO Manager’s group organise a themed conference for London IRO’s. The conference is open to any IRO who works for a London Authority whether they are permanent or agency members of staff. It is recognised that there is very little training specifically aimed at the IRO role and often is little opportunity to network with colleagues so the conference is an ideal opportunity to do both. 70 IRO’s attended with 29 London Authorities represented.

This year we had four very interesting presentations linked to how the IRO can ‘make a difference’ when chairing reviews and working with children, young people and their carer’s with specific needs.

Lisa Belletty from London Fostering Achievement (LFA) – improving education outcomes started us off with a very interesting presentation on activities LFA are involved with across London particularly how research has shown that there are many low cost activities that support children’s achievement in education.

Anita Hurrel from Coram gave a very informative presentation on resolving immigration status for children and young people, with IRO’s giving examples of the complexities of children’s situations that arrive in our country as children with or without their parents or having been born here.

Laura Jane from the Howard League gave a thought provoking presentation on the situation for young people who find themselves in custody and the impact it has on positive outcomes into adult life, with advice to IRO’s on what they could do to ensure the needs of the young people are met and that they are discharged into the community with the right supports.

Amanda Harvey from the Council for disabled children finished off the day with a presentation and workshop on EHC planning for looked after children. The interactive workshop asked the IRO’s to look at their role and the barriers, potential solutions and what might work in practise to ensure children’s ECH plans were effectively considered in the child’s review if they were looked after. Chris Eridani-Ball from DfE accompanied her and joined in the discussions which he found insightful as to the role of the IRO. The IRO’s contributions will be used in the current research as to how to improve the roll out of imbedding ECH plans in practice.

All the presenters brought with them helpful links to resources and advice for IRO’s when undertaking their role. The presentations can be found below together with an evaluation of the day.

London Bi-Annual Conference 2015 Presentation – Howard League

London Bi-Annual Conference 2015 Presentation – ‘London Fostering Achievement’

Evaluation

70 IRO’s attended the day and we had 60 evaluation sheets returned, which is a nice round number for working out %’s of responses…. The evaluation is designed to identify whether we got it right on the day, what could have been better and what would be helpful for the next conference. Attendees were asked to rate the conference arrangements and presentations on a scale 1 – 5 with 5 being excellent

I am not sure that all the attendees are aware that the IRO managers put on this conference without any financial budget or admin support other than the Local Authority hosting the conference providing the venue and if we are lucky, providing tea and coffee. The pre-conference advertising, registration and organisation are done by a small number of managers who fit it in around their day job. I would also like to acknowledge the work done by Viv Parker and Amanda Checkley from the London Practitioners group, both before and on the day in managing the registration table.

Pre conference Arrangements

61% rated the pre-conference arrangements as 4 and 5 – previous conferences arrangements have been through the IRO manager’s nominating 3 / 4 IRO’s to attend. This broke down this year, and we managed to get the information out to as many IRO’s as possible through the practitioner’s network which ensured a good attendance. The biggest response to what we could do better was ‘to provide hand outs on the day and have a reminder sent for the day a week before.’

92% rated the venue as 4 or 5 – we are dependent on a local authority agreeing to host the conference but also having the facilities/room to have 100 people attending. The next biggest response to what we could do better was ‘different venue and room was stuffy.’

88% rated the format as 4 or 5 – the format changed three years ago as the feedback at that time was IRO’s wanted a more formal presentation of information and speakers rather than workshops, however this year there was a general consensus in both ‘what could be better and ‘what would you like see at the next conference’ that there was more time for discussion and networking.

Presentations

All the presentations rated over 85% as 4 or 5, with our second presentation by Anita Hurrell on ‘resolving immigration status’ at 96% – this is possibly a reflection on the increasing numbers of children moving to England and settling in the London area. A number of representatives had seen a marked increase in their caseloads of unaccompanied minors and children with complex immigration issues.

What would you like to see at the next conference?

It was clear from the feedback that IRO’s would value the opportunity to meet and network with other IRO’s, and a return to a ‘workshop’ section using case studies to examine practice standards across London. We had 35 different suggestions from 60 IRO’s which could be a reflection of the lack of specific training available to the IRO profession. I have put the suggestions into categories.

The IRO role                                                                       Looked After Child issues/involvement

Evaluation of the role/Evolving role                                    Ex-care leaver’s presentation on the role of the IRO

Case Loads                                                                        Children and young people’s involvement in review

Examining IRO Management                                             Trauma on child development and learning

IRO Experiences across London                                       Secure Accommodation Reviews

Legal aspects of role                                                          Advocacy

Ofsted Inspections                                                             Immigration information

Networking session                                                            Adoption

HCPC                                                                                 Radicalisation

Using Signs of Safety in Reviewing process                      Influencing Health and Education

Dispute Resolution                                                             Gangs

Barriers and Dilemma’s                                                      Post 18 Placements

Judiciary re adoption/SGO’s                                              Parental Mental Health

Judicial Reviews                                                                Sexual Exploitation

Court process/relationship with Guardians

Practice Standards

Transition and Pathway planning

Good plans

Planning for Permanence

Group work/case studies

Lack of resources

Overall evaluation

We have been asked if we could arrange an annual conference – indicating that the Conference was a success!

Our mission is to help bring about improvements in practice and policy. Holding children at the centre of what we do through our work with and for them, we aim to lead and promote excellent care and services. The partnership consists of an elected Chair and elected Regional Leads who represent their regions at a national level (two from each of the nine regions within England).

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