ADCS reiterates concerns over Ofsted safeguarding probes

The Association of Directors of Children’s Services has reiterated concerns about the impact on English councils of plans for safeguarding inspections from 2009 onwards, which were confirmed last week.

Under the comprehensive area assessment, Ofsted will carry out three-yearly inspections of local bodies concerned with safeguarding children and looked-after children’s services. Areas will receive two weeks’ notice, down from an original plan for four.

In intervening years, councils will face unannounced annual checks on their contact, assessment and referral centres for children’s social care, lasting two days and designed to determine their effectiveness in minimising child abuse and neglect.

YOT probes to go ahead.

It was also revealed last week that the probation inspectorate would carry out a three-year programme of inspections of youth offending services.

ADCS standards, performance and inspection committee chair Marion Davis welcomed Ofsted’s acknowledgement that the unannounced checks would not be “proxy safeguarding inspections”, given their limited focus on council child protection arrangements, rather than wider safeguarding responsibilities.

However, she said that the checks would be disproportionate and would not fulfil the government’s ambition of lifting the burden of assessment on councils through the CAA.

The Audit Commission, which will oversee the process, said separate inspectorates would work more closely together under the CAA to ensure burdens are minimised.

Integration doubts

However, Davis raised concerns about how well integrated Ofsted and the probation inspectorate’s three-yearly inspections would be. She said that both inspectorates would be coming out with judgements about safeguarding but would be “measuring different things”, which she said was “possibly dangerous”, given the level of scrutiny on councils in the wake of Baby P.

An Ofsted spokesperson said: “CAA will ensure that information that is collected once is to be used often. Ofsted will continue to work with Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation to ensure effective safeguarding inspection and to make sure that local public services are delivering better outcomes for local people.”

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