Welcome Welcome

As part of our study we are talking to a range of people involved in making and implementing care plans for looked after children

This will involve:

  • Individual interviews with social workers and independent reviewing officers
  • Focus group interviews with practitioners, managers and representatives of key groups such as foster carers
  • A National survey aimed at IROs and LAC social work managers in England

The kinds of issues we would like to discuss include:

  • How the new care planning regulations and guidance are being implemented
  • The effectiveness of IROs for monitoring the plans of the local authority, promoting children's well-being, and managing their participation
  • The overlaps and differences in the roles and responsibilities of the range of individuals involved in planning for children in care
  • How decisions are made and disagreements managed

Project

Local authorities are ‘corporate parents' for the children they are looking after, and effective care planning is essential for ensuring the well-being and best possible outcomes for children. Since 2004, there has been a system of ‘independent reviewing officers' (IROs) to monitor the way that local authorities implement the plans and to ensure that the child's wishes and feelings are fully considered. In April 2011, new government regulations and statutory guidance about care planning came into force, 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 is undertaking a research study on care planning and the role of the IRO. The main goals are to:

  • Investigate how the new care planning regulations and guidance are being implemented
  • Investigate the effectiveness of IROs for monitoring the plans of the local authority, promoting children's well-being, and managing their participation
  • Examine the overlaps and differences in the roles and responsibilities of the range of individuals involved in planning for children in care, how decisions are made and disagreements managed
  • Ascertain the views of children and parents about the care planning and review process, particularly the role of the IRO.

The project is taking place from 2012 to 2014, with research in four local authorities in England. It involves a study of local authority case files on 120 children (30 per area), plus interviews with a smaller sample of social workers, IROs, parents and young people. There will also be a national survey. The study is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.

The research team

  • The CRCF has an international reputation for the quality and impact of its research. Staff from the Centre have undertaken research over many years on subjects such as child safeguarding, adoption, foster care, children's participation and care proceedings.
  • This study is being led by Dr Jonathan Dickens, Professor Gillian Schofield and Dr Chris Beckett. The researchers are Julie Young and Georgia Philip.

Ethical issues

  • All information will be anonymous – individuals and authorities will not be identified in any publications.
  • The research is subject to the ethical approval and oversight of UEA.
  • The study is supported by the ADCS, and complies with local research governance processes.

Feedback and dissemination of findings

  • A project website will be developed to inform participating agencies and others of the study's progress, make connections to other research and disseminate findings and messages for policy and practice.
  • We shall work with Government and non-Government agencies to share our findings and develop practice models for rigorous but flexible child focus, and clarity about professional roles and boundaries.
  • A good practice guide for IROs, social workers and LAC managers will be produced to be distributed at training events/conferences as well as the project website

Focus group

The Centre for Research on the Child and Family at the University of East Anglia is undertaking a research study on care planning and the role of the IRO. As part of this we are inviting a range of practitioners, managers and representatives of key groups involved in planning for looked-after children, to meet and discuss their views and experiences as part of a focus group.

The research is being undertaken in four Local Authorities in total, and we will be holding focus groups in each one. None of the individuals or the Local Authorities will be named in any publications from the study.

The focus group will be facilitated by three members of the research team, and there will be between 10-15 professionals taking part.

It will involve around two hours of your time, which will include time for introductions, refreshments and any questions you may have about the study.

The discussion will be digitally recorded, transcribed and made anonymous so that all identifying details for individuals and for the LA are removed. The information and recordings will not be shared with anyone outside the research team.

The topics we would like to discuss in the focus group will include:

  • How the new care planning regulations and guidance are being implemented
  • The effectiveness of IROs for monitoring the plans of the local authority, promoting children's well-being, and managing their participation
  • The overlaps and differences in the roles and responsibilities of the range of individuals involved in planning for children in care, how decisions are made and any disagreements managed

We hope you will enjoy this opportunity to meet and discuss the process and challenges of care planning with other professionals and with ourselves, but if you have any questions or concerns then please do get in touch with one of the researchers using the contact details below:

Julie Young and Georgia Philip
Tel: +44 (0)1603 591689 / +44 (0)1603 593365
Email:j.young@uea.ac.uk or g.philip@uea.ac.uk

Centre for Research on the Child and Family,
University of East Anglia,
Norwich,
NR4 7TJ