§ Tim Loughton
To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many independent review officers responsible for child care cases are employed in each local authority; and how many vacant posts there are in each local authority. 
§ Margaret Hodge
[holding answer 26 February 2004]: The information requested is not available centrally.
The Children Act 1989 Guidance requires that reviews are chaired by someone at a more senior level than the case social worker to bring a degree of oversight and objectivity to the review and care plan. Regulations also require local authorities to appoint an officer to assist in the co–ordination of all aspects of the review.
To further strengthen this, provision was made in the Adoption and Children Act 2002 for legislation to require local authorities to appoint Independent Reviewing Officers. These officers are to be independent of the management of the child's case and independent of the resources allocated to that case. Regulations commencing this provision will come into force in September 2004 following a consultation exercise last year. A large number of local authorities already employ individuals fulfilling a similar function.