Sixty Second Interview with David Bell
By Amy Taylor
In March the government announced that the Commission for Social Care Inspection would be dismantled by 2008 and that its children’s functions would be merged with Ofsted. Amy Taylor asks David Bell, chief inspector of schools at Ofsted, what this will mean for social care.
Concerns have been raised that social care could be overshadowed by education after the merger takes place. What would you say to these fears?
I guess there has been some comment are we going marginalise the interests of those children that are traditionally the preserve of social care. I would make one or two observations about that first of all Ofsted’s existing remits have already put them in the way of such young people. For example in our first round of education authority inspections we made a big thing in certain places where we felt the most vulnerable young people were just being ignored by the system.
Also one of the things that I have been saying quite strongly during my time as chief inspector is that its really important that the inspection and accountability system continues to shine a light in some of the dark corners and often the sorts of children that we are talking about the sorts of children that social care deals with are children that don’t grab the headlines except in a very negative sense.
Will you be taking staff from the CSCI when you take on your new functions?
It’s quite possible and very likely that many staff currently working on the children’s services front for CSCI will come and work for Ofsted
Will the period up until the merger takes place be one of instability?
I can give a very reassuring message to those in the social care world that it will be business as usual at the moment…but even as we move forward and we start to see the changes take place we [him and David Behan, chief inspector at the CSCI] will work together in a highly professional way to minimise disruption to those being inspected and to ensure that we do as good a job as possible for our staff.
Earlier this month , CSCI chair Denise Platt said that she would like to see youth justice and community health services for children included in a unified children’s inspectorate. Do you think that this is a possibility in the future?
I have got an open mind on that. Take youth offending, youth offending teams’ inspection is currently led by HMI Probation but the teams that HMI probation put up are not just staffed by HMI probation people but by people from Ofsted and CSCI and so on. So I think it’s fair to say that we are working in partnership together. Now does that lead you then to say that well actually most youth justice functions should come over to Ofsted. I think one can see the arguments both ways.
Community health could well be one of those interesting boundaries issues…I think we have to accept that on some of this there are not absolute clear distinctions or boundaries and I think it’s very important that we seek the views of the field.