Ofsted is to extend the remit of its child protection inspection programme to include health, education, police and probation, under “radical” proposals set out by the watchdog today.
From 2013, Ofsted – which currently only examines the performance of local authorities – will work with agencies, including the Care Quality Commission and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons, to carry out no-notice inspections of multi-agency child protection arrangements.
The watchdog has also published new proposals for inspections of services for children in care and care leavers, to be carried out jointly with the Care Quality Commission.
The two-week long, unnanounced child protection inspections will look at the work of social care, health, education, the police and probation.
Inspectors will focus on how the agencies work together to identify, help and protect children at risk of harm.
There will be four inspection judgements: the overall effectiveness of multi-agency work to protect children and young people; the effectiveness of help and protection; the quality of practice and leadership, governance and partnerships.
Ofsted also proposes to create a dedicated inspection programme for looked-after children and care leavers, which will replace the current separate inspections for looked-after services, local authority adoption agencies and local authority fostering services.
These inspections, which will also be unannounced and carried out within a two-week period, will focus on the effectiveness of local authorities as corporate parents.
Inspectors will spend time talking directly to children in care, care leavers, carers, adopters, staff and, where possible and appropriate, birth families.
Both proposals will be subject to consultations. The consultation for the joint inspection of multi-agency child protection arrangements will run until October 2 and be implemented by June 2013.
The consultation for the inspection of services for looked-after children and care leavers will run until September 18, with the new inspections beginning in April 2013.
John Goldup, Ofsted’s deputy chief inspector, said the two consultations will significantly change the way Ofsted inspects and holds agencies to account for the quality of their services.
He said: “Child protection is everybody’s business – it can’t just be left to local authorities. These unannounced and joined up inspections will, I believe, have real potential for improving the protection of children in this country.
“There has rightly been much attention paid recently to failures in the care system. These new inspections will have a really strong focus on ensuring that the most careful decisions are made about children’s placements, their safety and welfare are paramount at all times, and that authorities and providers work together to share information and make sure children are well cared for.”
Inform guide: Inspection of children’s homes for inspections from 1 April 2012