The government could be set to toughen up the inspection system for children’s services in the wake of the Baby P case, a senior Ofsted official has told Community Care.
Michael Hart, Ofsted’s director of children’s services, said the “recent tragic events would be taken into account” in the introduction of the comprehensive area assessment for councils, which will replace joint area reviews and annual performance assessments of children’s services next year.
This could strengthen consultative plans, published in August, to inspect local safeguarding children boards once every three years and for inspectors to carry out “limited” annual site visits of local areas to “provide necessary assurance on safeguarding”.
Hart was speaking to Community Care after the publication of Ofsted’s annual report, which showed safeguarding was inadequate in 7% of children’s social care services. It raised particular concern over serious case reviews, after 38 out of 92 were judged to be inadequate.
Publishing the report last week, chief inspector Christine Gilbert also said Ofsted “needed to be more astute in picking up local concerns,” adding: “Inspection needs to be smarter at intervening and flagging concerns before they escalate.”
Ofsted was criticised for giving Haringey Council an overall rating of good (grade 3) in its annual performance assessment last year, published less than four months after Baby P’s death in the borough.
Hart said the joint area review of Haringey in 2006, which involved an inspection, had raised concerns about safeguarding, but the 2007 assessment was a “paper-based exercise”.
“We are coming to the end of that process and recognise the need for something different in the future,” he added.
A Department for Children, Schools and Families spokesperson said it was “too early to speculate” on whether there would be any changes to Ofsted’s powers.
Ofsted, the Healthcare Commission and the police inspectorate are due to report to the DCSF on their joint area review of safeguarding in Haringey, ordered following the Baby P case, on 1 December. It will be published soon afterwards.