The head of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS), has slammed Ofsted for the “corrosive” effect of its inspections and called for debate on a new inspection regime.
In his speech to the National Children and Adults Services Conference (NCASC) today, Alan Wood claimed the current inspection system “is not the best one we could have”.
“We need to have a discussion about what form that regulatory body should take,” he added.
The ADCS president hit out following a speech to delegates from Ofsted’s director for social care (and former ADCS president), Debbie Jones who called for a move away from a polarising debate between councils and inspectors, and “towards a consensus”.
“It’s not about who’s to blame, or whether Ofsted is hindering progress, but about providing the highest standard of service for everyone,” she said.
Jones said Ofsted received feedback from local authorities telling them its judgements accurately reflected what services are like for users. She added that families found the inspectorate’s one-word judgements “reassuring”.
But Wood said Jones had accepted the need for a consensus without engaging with social worker concerns that “inspection might hinder improvement”.
“In the medium term, a bad Ofsted inspection is corrosive,” he told conference delegates.
In the gap between an inadequate rating and the necessary changes being brought in to improve, experienced staff leave making it harder to resource those changes. The current inspection framework “leaves a scar”, he added.
“To fail a children’s service sends the most serious message to a community,” he said, adding that being inspected had a huge impact on a council’s resources and undermined its ability to provide services.
Wood also gave a keynote speech to open the conference. He used his address to reveal some of the headline figures from the ADCS’s Safeguarding Pressures research, which is due out in November. He said the research found there had been close to two million initial contacts with children this year, up 11% on the previous year.
He added that the number of children becoming subject to a child protection plan had gone up 13.8% in the past year and that that 14% of children entering the care system are doing so for a second or subsequent time.
Additional reporting: Luke Stevenson