Background and research Background and research

When children are looked after by local authorities or councils, the local authority becomes a ‘corporate parent' for the children. Like all parents they have important responsibilities towards children in their care. The local authority's actions, planning and decision-making relating to children's care should promote each child's wellbeing and ensure that the best possible outcomes are achieved.

Since 2004, there has been a system of ‘independent reviewing officers' (IROs) to monitor the way that local authorities put together and carry out the plans for their children in care, and to ensure that they are taking the child's wishes and feelings into account. In April 2011, the government put together new laws and guidance about care planning which, amongst other things, strengthened the IRO's role.

The Centre for Research on the Child and Family (CRCF) at the University of East Anglia has been awarded a grant by the Economic and Social Research Council to carry out research into current practice in care planning and the role of the IRO. The main goals are to:

  • Look at how different local authorities are responding to the government's new care planning laws and guidance
  • Look at how well IROs monitor the plans of the local authority, promote children's well-being and enable their participation
  • Examine the overlaps and differences in the roles and responsibilities of the range of individuals involved in planning for children in care, and how disagreements are managed
  • Find out the views of children and parents about the care planning and review process, particularly the role of the IRO

This research aims to benefit children and young people in care and on the edge of care. The ultimate goal is to help policy makers, managers and practitioners improve the effectiveness of services for children for whom the state is the 'corporate parent'.