Eileen Munro’s vision for local authority inspection is unrealistic, according to John Goldup, Ofsted’s director of social care.
In her review of child protection, Munro recommended that separate inspectorates work together to gain a holistic view of services provided to children. She said no service provider should be assessed in isolation.
Although Goldup agreed with the recommendation in principle, he did not believe it would work well in practice.
“We’ve done some joint inspections with the Care Quality Commission, but it hasn’t been a huge success,” he told directors at the annual ADCS conference in Manchester. “We have completely different statutory remits and briefs from one another, so there’s only so much we can do together.”
Goldup added that the remit for Munro’s review was child protection only but Ofsted’s remodelling of its local authority inspections was much broader.
“Getting inspection of child protection right is very important, but it isn’t the sum total of what local authorities deliver to vulnerable children,” he said. “We don’t want to lose sight of other outcomes, such as those for children in care for instance.”
Ofsted had accepted Munro’s recommendation that the views of children and families should be a bigger part of the inspection process, Goldup said, but warned this would leave inspectors with less time to talk to social workers.
“The fact that we’re going to spend more time with children and families during the inspection process doesn’t mean that we’re going to expand the total volume of our inspection activity,” he said. “We will be doing less of some of the other aspects of inspection, such as focus groups. Striking that balance is one of the big challenges in developing the new model.”
Goldup said Ofsted had fully accepted Munro’s recommendation that all inspections be unannounced, but emphasised that this policy change would be dependent on responses to its consultation on the redesign.
Some directors expressed concern that unannounced visits could reduce input from service users because inspectors would find it difficult to set up meetings with them at no notice. Goldup said this obstacle would have to be considered during the consultation.
Overall, however, directors favoured the unannounced system.
“Having less time to prepare is so much better,” Mike Benaim, assistant director of children’s services at Wandsworth Council told Community Care. “We went through a JAR (joint area review) a few years ago, and preparing for it was six months of agony – it just takes over your life.
“And from a service user’s point of view, unannounced inspections are a much better option – how would you want services for your child inspected? The unannounced system gives a much more real picture of what’s going on.”
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