Inspection of children’s services: special report

Children’s social services are currently inspected on the basis of set frequencies unrelated to how well they are performing.

Last week children’s minister Beverley Hughes announced proposals to change the system to one where poor performing providers are inspected more and high achievers less.

The government said this is necessary in order for there to be a better focus on the experience of service users and to improve outcomes across all services and settings.

Some of the most controversial changes are:

Children’s homes
The plan is to reduce inspections on the majority of children’s homes to once a year – they are currently inspected twice a year. Poorly performing homes would be inspected at least three times annually.

Fostering services and residential family centres
Under the proposals these services will have their inspections reduced from once a year to at least once every three years.

The Commission for Social Care can carry out additional inspections on poor performers or when newly identified risks, such as a complaint, arise. These could be unannounced or themed to look at a particular aspect of a service.

The performance of all providers will be considered against the national minimum standards

A consultation on the standards themselves is also set to take place shortly.

The government’s proposals also require service providers to produce an annual quality assurance assessment. The Department for Education and Skills saysthis is required to give CSCI the information it needs to carry out rigorous risk assessments and to determine the appropriate level of inspections for individual providers.

Alongside inspections a risk assessment of each provider of children’s social services will be carried out by the CSCI every year. This will take into account all the current information available on a service and determine the nature and intensity of the inspections it will require over the coming year. This will not include fieldwork but will take into account any fieldwork undertaken over the previous 12 months.

The government consultation closes on 10 November.

The inspection of children’s social care services is set to move form the CSCI to an enlarged Ofsted from April 2007.


Children’s homes
NOW Twice a year

PROPOSED Poor performing homes (estimated by the CSCI to be 15 per cent): at least three times a year.
Adequate homes (estimated to be 30 per cent): twice a year 
The rest: at least once a year


PROPOSED Poor performing homes: at least three times a year
The rest: at least once a year

Fostering and residential family centres
Once a year
PROPOSED: At least once every three years

Adoption services
NOW: Once every three years
PROPOSED: No change

Residential special schools
NOW: At least once a year
PROPOSED: No change




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