Date: 31 March 2022 Source: GOV.UK
This report is a qualitative study into the parental perspectives of supervision orders and care orders at home. It was carried out by Professor Judith Harwin and Lancaster University for professionals in the children’s social care and family justice sector.
Parents who participated in the study provided insight into their experiences of these orders and shared recommendations to improve the experience of children and families. The report contains important considerations and recommendations surrounding the role of independent reviewing officers (IROs):
In short, parents were ambitious for the supervision order. They saw it as an opportunity and recommended that parents in a similar position to their own should not be afraid to ask for help and services. A key message was that the variability in the delivery of supervision orders was unacceptable and unjust. To ensure greater consistency, the parent focus groups called for independent reviewing officers (IROs) to be routinely involved and to be fully independent of the local authority, and for the reviewing framework to be strengthened.
Proposals for reform
Building on the parents’ recommendations, calls have been made for the Department for Education to issue guidance to underpin a national best practice framework to help ensure consistency of support and oversight:
We have recommended that there needs to be a bespoke IRO role and service and that the government should set up and finance a national, fixed-term ‘supervision orders support fund’, akin to the adoption support fund.”
Develop a bespoke IRO role and service that builds on the messages from this
research, the LAC reviewing framework and existing approaches to review
children in need plans (such as the CINRO service). Develop opportunities for
IROs to chair reviews in neighbouring local authorities to promote a fully
The case for investment
Speaking to Community Care, Professor Judith Harwin and Lily Golding said:
At a time when there is so little money in the system to support children’s services and so many competing demands on local authorities, the case for financial investment, including the provision of an IRO service, needs careful justification.
At policy level, the justification is that keeping families together is a key government priority and the partnership approach was central to the changes made to supervision orders introduced in 1989. Economically, there are enormous cost implications if more children end up in care because the supervision order has under-delivered and the child has further care proceedings.
Of course, ultimately, more investment is needed in prevention and early help. But there will always be children who need the court to help support family reunification, and children’s services and other agencies to support the families.
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