Bearing in mind what we have just debated, I will be reasonably brief. Cause 2 restricts the functions that local authorities can delegate to social work practices. Those restrictions are important to ensuring quality and focus in the services offered. The first restriction will ensure that the independent reviewing officer role will remain with the local authorities. The independent review officer will have an extremely important role to play under the social work practice model, as they are the mechanism by which the local authority will be able to quality assure the work of the provider of social work services in relation to individual children. In that context, the independent review officer will attend care-planning reviews, as now, to monitor progress and make decisions about changes as necessary. In undertaking that role, the independent review officer will build up an important bank of knowledge about the effectiveness of the social work practice, including its strengths and weaknesses, how well it works with other agencies and the quality of its relationships with children. Consistent with the IRO role, that information should then be fed back to senior managers regularly, whether as part of wider contract management meetings or by some other means. That information flow will be absolutely crucial to enabling the local authority to hold the social work practice to account meaningfully.
The second restriction will ensure that social work practices cannot carry out the local authority’s functions as an adoption agency unless the practice itself is already a registered adoption agency. That is because we want to ensure that children who are likely to remain in care long term are the focus of social work practices, and those are the children who seem to suffer most from the problems with the current system that we and other members of the Committee have identified. Social work practices will be of most use when they develop innovative and effective strategies for working with that group of children that can be transferred to the local authority context and implemented across the country. Indeed, the processes for preparing for adoption are obviously different.
The third restriction that will apply to the provider of social work services will be any restrictions applicable to the local authority by reference to its area, such as restrictions on out-of-area placements. That is intended to ensure consistency of treatment, despite the fact that the functions will have been delegated between children with a social work practice and those who remain in the care of the local authority directly. Finally, the clause will require local authorities to be satisfied that the functions it is to delegate to a provider of social work practices will be discharged by or under the supervision of registered social workers, as we have mentioned.