Ofsted is consulting on the phased introduction of ‘integrated’ multi-agency inspections of how local authority areas deliver help, care and protection of children and families.
Under the proposals, from next April Ofsted, the Care Quality Commission, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation and, where deemed appropriate, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons, will work jointly to carry out ‘targeted’ inspections of children’s services, health, police, probation and other agencies.
Sue Kent, professional officer at the British Association of Social Workers, said she was pleased to see this consultation “and the proposal for a combined, effective inspection model that should lead to a better shared responsibility for protecting children”.
“Our members will be providing the views of social workers in a response to this consultation,” Kent said.
The scheme will sit alongside the existing three-year single-inspectorate programming cycle, which began in November 2013, and will initially affect between 20 and 25 council areas.
Most authorities will be selected where Ofsted would be returning following a previous ‘inadequate’ inspection judgement, or “where other inspectorates have concerns about practice that suggest we should evaluate the quality of multi-agency working”, according to the consultation paper.
But at least 25%, it is proposed, will be drawn from high-performing councils to highlight good practice and strong partnership working.
Debbie Jones, Ofsted’s national director for social care, said: “The consultation we are launching today is an important and complementary step for inspection.”
“This approach will enable us to bring together in those places that benefit from an integrated inspection, a better picture of how children are helped, cared for and protected by agencies in a local area. The ambition is to encourage a far greater focus – from all agencies involved – on the experiences of children and the quality of the help and care they are given.”
Under the integrated approach, inspectorates will visit a local authority area within the same four week window. They will publish their respective findings and judgements together in one report which will also include the shared judgement for the local safeguarding children board.
The move toward integrated inspection was recommended Professor Eileen Munro’s 2011 review of child protection, which found the quality and effectiveness of care and protection for children and young people could only be properly evaluated by taking into account the contributions of all local services.