The Association of Directors of Children’s Services has welcomed Ofsted’s decision to revise how it reports on its new unannounced safeguarding inspections of councils, after directors raised significant concerns.
It has agreed to drop the use of the term “serious concerns” to describe problems identified in councils, after directors warned it risked giving the public an unrealistically poor impression of safeguarding services in councils.
Ofsted had rated council performance under three headings – strengths, areas for improvement and serious concerns – and found “serious concerns” in six of nine councils involved in pilot inspections. While the inspection reports for the pilots were not published, subsequent reports will be.
‘Serious concerns’ could misinform public
Directors warned that using the term “serious concerns” in a public document could lead residents and service users to believe that a council’s safeguarding system was failing when it was not.
This was particularly problematic given that Ofsted had used the term to describe failures to comply with certain procedural targets, such as completing initial assessments within seven days, rather than simply to identify poor practice.
In response, Ofsted has said that it would now use the term “areas for priority action”, rather than “serious concerns”, where it found practice or systems that did not “minimise immediate risks for children” in the inspections.
Ofsted director: We have listened
Ofsted’s director for children, Roger Shippam, said it had “listened to the concerns about how we describe what we find”. He stressed Ofsted would bring forward councils’ three-yearly full inspections of safeguarding if authorities were found to have particular problems.
ADCS president Kim Bromley-Derry welcomed the shift. He said: “We feel that ‘areas for priority action’ makes it clear that the problems identified are solvable and that with sufficient focus, a local authority can and should solve them without external intervention. This is far preferable to “serious concerns”, which risked giving members of the public a very negative impression of the state of the system as a whole.
New Ofsted social care chief
Meanwhile, Ofsted has appointed Tower Hamlets adult services director John Goldup to lead the development of its social care inspections in a new role introduced as part of a restructure of the organisation.
Goldup, who has 20 years’ experience of children’s services, will take up his post as director, development, social care, in the autumn when the new structure comes into force.
He will take responsibility for developing Ofsted’s inspection frameworks and policy for children’s social care services, while another director will be responsible for the delivery of inspections.
Ofsted will abolish the children’s services directorate, currently headed by Shippam, which has responsibility for the development of inspection policy and delivery of inspections in children’s social care.