Social work teams will be inspected on how many adoptions break down in their authority under Ofsted’s new inspection framework, Community Care has learnt.
From April, inspectors will look at how effectively services make and sustain placements by examining how many adoptions break down before an order is made.
They will look at factors including the assessment process and whether there was good enough support for adoptive parents.
“Inspectors will consider available data on placement disruption as part of the wide range of evidence which will inform inspection,” an Ofsted spokesperson said.
“As with every aspect of inspection, inspection judgements will not be based on raw data but on professional judgement, taking into account all the evidence available.”
The move has sparked confusion in the sector about where the watchdog’s priorities lie.
Nushra Mansuri, professional officer at the British Association of Social Workers (BASW), accused Ofsted of sending mixed messages to the profession.
“Rather than rushing to blindly support government policy on meeting 12-month targets for adoption placements, we want to see Ofsted taking a common sense approach to the inspection of local authorities and adoption agencies,” Mansuri said.
“In light of the criticism [the deadline] has attracted from social workers and directors of children’s services, we hope Ofsted is reassessing its position to include the sad realities of adoption break down.”
Ofsted should start playing a part in solving the problems facing local authorities, Mansuri said, beginning with “pushing the government to centrally record data on adoption breakdowns, because a better grasp of the causes will serve children better in the long term”.
Ofsted’s deputy chief inspector John Goldup said the organisation’s priorities are clear.
“Our priority is to focus on what makes the most difference to children – looking at how effectively children, for whom adoption is the right plan, are being identified; and how effectively, proactively and purposefully that plan is being pursued,” he said.
In forming their judgements, Goldup said, inspectors will consider a wide range of evidence, including data on performance against timescales set out in the national minimum standards, and information about how many placements break down before an adoption order is made.
“To describe this as ‘blindly rushing to support government policy’, seems perverse,” he said. “I would urge all those interested in this vital issue to read the detail of the framework and the evaluation schedule that will underpin our judgements. We welcome an open debate, but it should be based on what we have actually said.”
Due to the sparsity of data, there is disagreement over how many adoptions break down nationally.
Some estimate the rate of breakdown is as high as one in five or one in three, but Martin Narey, ministerial adviser on adoption, has said he believes this is a vast exaggeration.
The government recently commissioned research into the issue.
- Community Care is hosting a conference on adoption: Adoption Reform: Establishing stable, secure and supportive family environments, March 29, London. Alison Bailey, Ofsted lead on adoption and fostering, will be speaking about outcomes in adoption and understanding the new Ofsted framework.
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