Posted August 3rd, 2022
Before becoming an Independent Reviewing Officer five years ago, I was a qualified Social Worker and had progressed to Senior Practitioner, working across a range of social work teams to gain experience including ‘front end’ duty work, child protection and care proceedings, and work with children in care. I also enjoyed a role as a Practice Educator. I decided to step into a current career after positive experiences of working with IROs and with the encouragement of a Team Manager.
It was important to me to do something meaningful where I was able to have a direct impact and make a real difference to people’s lives. I wanted to make a contribution to improving practice and outcomes for children.
My role as an Independent Reviewing Officer:
For 13 years, I’ve worked in one local authority within the West Midlands, and this continuity has supported me in my progression. Though the experiences have varied greatly, my thoughts on being an Independent Reviewing Officer remain positive. I like to think I make a real difference. It can be a challenge, it remains extremely busy, and sometimes emotionally difficult, but every day is also incredibly rewarding – being part of this profession is a privilege, and having a great team certainly helps!
Changes coming out of the pandemic have brought new challenges. Virtual working can take me out of my comfort zone, but it has also created opportunities and more potential for inclusion. The pandemic left us largely working from home, liaising with other professionals in front of a screen. The future looks more promising with face-to-face communication increasing.
My typical day:
9.15am – I start the week by attending the team meeting. I am also on duty. An initial review meeting needs to be covered for one of my colleagues and is arranged for that morning.
10.30am – I plan for the initial multi – agency review. I am meeting with various colleagues in health and specialist services, with the social worker, the parents and the Police. I read the documentation provided by the social work team, call the parents and carer and arrange to meet with the child, a new baby who has been living with his mother and father in a family unit in order for an assessment to be completed. Crisis has hit and the situation has become very unsafe. Sadly, despite intense support professionals are in agreement that the baby is at risk of significant harm and the social work team have had to quickly progress to court in order to apply for an Interim Care Order, removal of the baby took place over the weekend.
12:00pm – I chair the initial review meeting. This is a key meeting to outline what babies life should look like, who will help and how immediately and until the next review. This is a sensitive time for the parents’, I need to handle the discussions in a careful way as they are contesting and challenging the local authorities care plan. I talk with them using motivational interviewing techniques, encouraging them to share what has gone well, encouraging them to share what they would want for their son.
My role is to review the documentation provided including the local authority care plan and ensure the baby has the right support giving consideration to culture, faith, family time, health and assessment planning, all with appropriate timescales.
I encourage parents to share their views, along with feedback from health and specialist assessment services. I listen to everyone’s thoughts, taking the ‘helicopter view’ of information provided, considering how safe the baby is whilst exploring all elements of the babies life within the first 7 days of him being in care. Working with different professionals is not always easy as they often have conflicting views and perspectives on what needs to be done and when. I have to focus on ensuring everyone has the opportunity to share their thoughts and the meeting takes place in a balanced way.
This is a complex skill and includes thinking about babies right to a family life. Mom is breast-feeding, I ask how this is being managed. The family are of a Muslim faith, I need to establish what this would involve or require for baby to maintain their faith and how the carers can help to support baby and his parents with this. We also talk about who in the family is to be assessed and when this will happen, explaining the process to the parents. I need to ensure all family members have been considered as I would want this little one to have the best chance of remaining within his birth family and family time is arranged with thought given to how this will take place and with whom.
Outside of the formal meeting I raise important questions with the local authority about the commencement of the care plan with the team manager to consider the work and timescales. This is a team manager I talk with regularly; we have a good working relationship and the conversation is helpful in driving the plan forward in a timely way.
1.30pm – Time for a quick coffee break and a bite to eat at a “bring and share” that is taking place for a much loved and appreciated colleague who is starting their maternity leave. The togetherness is great even if just for half an hour to share stories, catch up and experience some delicious signature dishes.
2:00pm – I chair a scheduled review meeting for one of my young people. Thankfully, this is a planned meeting and is a young person who I have developed a good working relationship with over the last four years. They have finished school and are off to their prom tonight following an emergency placement move over the weekend, not their fault but this has left them with none of their personal items nor a plan as to how they will get to and from the prom. Thankfully, they have a brilliant and efficient carer and social worker, arrangements are in place for hair to be done, and the prom outfit to be transported. This was going too well and I find out that their school are now stipulating that they must have someone to accompany them on the school site otherwise they cannot attend. The young person is not aware of this and will be devastated. It is too short notice to arrange for a new worker to attend, and having a stranger attend will not only be embarrassing as this is a key life event giving closure to their school life. I say I will go with them and I will talk with them to explain why this needs to happen when we meet as part of their review meeting, thank fully they are in agreement – I just need to sort out what I’ll be wearing!
2:45pm – Quick check in with my manager to talk about today’s events and he likes the idea of me attending the prom as a support.
3.00pm – Between meetings I reply to two missed calls. One from a Guardian who is not happy regarding delays in assessment planning for a child/young person. The other is from a team manager who wants my view on a placement breakdown and consideration for therapeutic intervention after a significant event has taken place.
4.00pm – I complete a midway file check on two young children who are in the court arena having suffered unexplained injuries. An update is required on the progress of their plan and court action. A few helpful emails are exchanged with the allocated social worker for missing key documentation which informs the care planning.
4:45pm – I check diary arrangements for tomorrow and reply to some emails before I leave for the evening.
6.00pm – I return home and get my glad rags on trying to blend in with the 150,16-year-old school leavers. The evening is a success and my young person has a great time. This just emphasises to me the job is not just about talking, but showing in action the difference you make to a young person’s life. A real memory was made.