Ofsted’s new framework for inspecting children’s homes, combined with council budget cuts, will devastate the children’s home sector, providers have warned.
Angela Glynn, operations director for the Continuum Care and Education Group, said an Ofsted inspector had told one of the organisation’s residential managers that the watchdog’s beefed-up inspections from April would make it “very difficult to get anything other than a satisfactory rating”.
One provider, who does not wish to be named, said this could have “disastrous” results: “In the current economic climate, local authorities have indicated they are looking to place only with homes rated good or outstanding. Children’s homes achieving less than this could be forced out of business.”
An Ofsted spokesperson said: “Under the new arrangements there will be a greater focus on improving outcomes for children and young people where inspections will look at the quality and impact of services that will make a real difference in helping to achieve the best for children.”
But Glynn said money-saving exercises by cash-strapped councils, such as children being withdrawn from residential placements prematurely or moved to cheaper, inappropriate placements, will make it impossible to achieve and prove good outcomes for children.
“This will be reflected in Ofsted inspections and result in a demise in ratings,” she said. “For organisations unable to achieve good or above, survival in a competing market will be extremely hard.”
This was supported by Ofsted’s director of development for social care, John Goldup. After the recent publication of Ofsted’s annual report, he said some local authorities were setting up residential homes to fail through inappropriate placements.
Glynn added: “Benchmarking has always been high, and rightly so, but the changes could mean inspectors can mark down providers on practically anything, such as failing to send through a paperwork exercise.”
Erica Scott, operations director for Anderida Adolescent Care, urged providers to challenge any rating change with which they disagreed. The organisation was involved in the pilot for Ofsted’s new framework and is challenging a downgrading of one of its home’s safeguarding work – from good to satisfactory – that Scott believes was unjustified.
However, Glynn claimed challenging inspection gradings was an uphill battle: “Inspectors can be reluctant to re-inspect so it becomes difficult for homes to show they have improved.”
An Ofsted spokesperson said: “As with any new framework, we understand that there will be some anxiety. To clarify the new arrangements, Ofsted is holding a series of events across the country in March and welcomes all children’s homes providers and commissioners to them.”
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