Comprehensive area assessment promises new era for inspections

Plans to assess public bodies on how they are jointly meeting local priorities were unveiled today as part of a wholesale reform of inspections.

Under the comprehensive area assessment system, which comes into force in April, local strategic partnerships will receive an annual assessment examining how far and how well they are addressing citizens’ needs and preferences.

The area assessment will not be scored but inspectorates, led by the Audit Commission, will identify any concerns about performance with a “red flag”, while praising exceptional improvements by LSPs with a “green flag”.

CAA has replaced the comprehensive performance assessment for councils, the star ratings system for council adult services and the joint area reviews and annual performance assessments for council children’s services.

However, it will be accompanied and informed by annual and scored assessments of council children’s and adult services, carried out by Ofsted and the new Care Quality Commission respectively. Councils will also receive an overall organisational assessment every year.

The Audit Commission said CAA would reduce the administrative burden on councils and their partners by demanding less data from agencies, relying instead on already-existing information, and requiring less on-site inspection.

However, the Local Government Association warned that councils were sceptical about whether the new framework would reduce burdens on them.

It warned that inspectorates were not “fully signed up” to co-ordinating their activity locally, as required under CAA.

Last week, think-tank the Children’s Services Network called for the CAA to be carried out every three years, rather than every year, for most areas, to relieve burdens on councils.

Related articles

Ofsted presses ahead with inspection plans despite ADCS critique

CQC: Councils and PCTs to face common assessment from 2010

Significance of star ratings questioned as councils improve

Comprehensive area assessment set to replace star ratings

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