Directors of children’s services have slammed Ofsted’s proposals for integrated inspections of children’s services, saying they lack credibility.
Responding to the proposals, set out in an open consultation document from Ofsted, the Care Quality Commission (CQC), HMI Constabulary (HMIC), HMI Probation and HMI Prisons, the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) raised concerns about the increased scope of inspections. They warned it creates risk of inconsistent inspections.
ADCS president Alan Wood said: “Safeguarding children is everybody’s business which is why the Association has supported, and at one time called for, multi-agency inspections. The interactions between agencies and the impact of these actions on individual children and families are highly interdependent, however the complexity of judging multi-agency child protection work and the incomparability of the resulting outcomes of the proposed integrated inspections has led us to conclude that the goal is not currently attainable.”
Ofsted is proposing integrated inspections of services for children in need of help and protection, children looked after and care leavers and the joint reviews of Local Safeguarding Children Boards. The watchdog explained the single inspection programme will continue, so all local authorities will continue to be judged against published criteria, and be the ‘spine’ of the new integrated inspection.
The consultation document stated: “The other inspectorates will carry out their own inspection within the same four-week period as Ofsted to evaluate the contribution of other agencies to the help, care and protection of children in the local authority area.
“This would happen in a small number of local authorities after April 2015 whilst the current inspection programmes of Ofsted, the CQC, HMIC and HMI Probation continue.”
These integrated inspections would include individual judgements about the local authority, health services and police and their contribution to the care and protection of children. However, Wood said they “lack credibility and show how disunited the inspectorates are”.
The ADCS submitted an alternative proposal called for more thematic inspections and an unannounced inspection of multi-agency ‘front door’ arrangements, which made an assessment of each of the relevant agencies contribution.
Wood said: “Thematic inspections help to drive improvement by setting out examples of what good practice looks like”.