Ofsted’s reported shortcomings in inspecting children’s services are the result of the problematic transfer of responsibility from the Commission for Social Care Inspection, according to the CSCI’s former chair.
Giving evidence at a Children, Schools and Families Select Committee inquiry hearing today, Dame Denise Platt, now an audit commissioner, said the CSCI’s expertise had been dissipated during the transfer in 2007.
She told the hearing, set up to examine Ofsted’s role in children’s services, that not many of the 300 CSCI staff who were transferred to Ofsted were analysts or senior.
“I think Ofsted would acknowledge there was a lack of strategic expertise,” she added.
Ofsted denies expertise is an issue. A spokeswoman from the inspectorate told Community Care, “Every inspector who takes part in an inspection of social care and child protection services has extensive experience of child protection and a social work qualification.
“When the new Ofsted was created in 2007, the vast majority of children’s inspectors in the then CSCI transferred to the new organisation. These were the people with the on the ground experience of inspection.”
Platt (pictured) also pointed out that splitting adults’ and children’s inspections between Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission had not only “carved up” what the CSCI did, but also lost the focus on how children’s and adults’ services were integrating.
She said young people’s transitions into adult services were “notoriously difficult” and that integration of the two created a much-needed emphasis on families, rather than individual cases of children or adults in isolation.
Tony Howell, strategic director of children, young people and families for Birmingham Council and Nick Jarman, director of children’s services for Doncaster Council, were also at the session.
Birmingham and Doncaster have been rated as “inadequate” by Ofsted. Jarman agreed with Ofsted’s assessment of Doncaster but Howell disputed the inspectorate’s overall rating of Birmingham.
Kim Bromley-Derry, president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, told the hearing that Jarman and Howell’s disagreement reflected the issues around inconsistency that many directors had with Ofsted.
“The worry about this kind of inconsistency is that this whole system is supposed to be based on confidence,” he said.
Ofsted did not give evidence at the session. A spokeswoman said there was no confirmed date for the inspectorate to do so.