Ofsted to change qualification rules for social care inspectors

Ofsted has bowed to pressure to require all its social care inspectors to have qualifications recognised by the GSCC or equivalent, Community Care has learned.

The watchdog plans to change its qualification policy, but claims no one will lose their job as a result. It says current staff will be helped to acquire the qualifications. But a spokesperson said Ofsted had yet to finalise details of the new requirement, or a timeline for when it will come into force.

“As well as providing any necessary training for our current inspectors, we will shortly be recruiting for a small number of vacancies in our social care inspection team,” said the spokesperson. “We have not yet finalised the recruitment and selection arrangements but would expect candidates to have the necessary experience and qualifications to become an Ofsted inspector of social care.”

The spokesperson was unable to confirm how many vacancies there will be nor the number of current inspectors who will require retraining to meet the new qualification requirements.

The policy change is a result of Lord Laming’s recommendations after the Baby-P case, which said inspectors should have direct experience of child protection work. Ofsted has also been criticised by social workers and directors of children’s services who claim the inspectorate lacks social care experience.

Unison, the union that represents Ofsted workers, welcomed the move. Jon Richards, senior national officer, said he would be demanding that Ofsted support current staff in retraining and that there were no job losses. “But Ofsted seems to have agreed to that already, so we’re happy,” he said.

Matt Dunkley, vice president elect of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, said inspectors should be held to “the same standards as the social workers they assess, updating their training and qualifications as often as possible”.

“Without the additional application of professional judgment to consider context and circumstances, inspection judgements could be misleading. It is difficult to see how someone without a GSCC-recognised qualification would acquire this understanding,” he added.

But Ray Jones, professor of social work at Kingston University and former BASW chair, said he was surprised it had taken Ofsted so long to change its qualification policy.

“Ofsted seems to have drifted for several years without having the necessary experience or requirements and as a result it’s been very difficult to see Ofsted’s judgements as reliable or consistent.”

Barry Sheerman, Labour chair of the House of Commons’ children, schools and families select committee, said the move showed Ofsted understood there was something “seriously wrong with the fitness-for-purpose of its ability to inspect the social care area effectively and positively”.

“The whistleblower who contacted my committee last summer said many of the people working in social care within Ofsted had experience in education and not social care. That’s been a continuing massive concern,” he said.

However, Ofsted denied it was bowing to pressure in making the change or that it had been criticised by social workers and directors of children’s services for a lack of social care experience amongst its inspectors. A spokesperson said: “From the beginning of the programme, our inspections of front line child protection and looked after children services have only ever been undertaken by qualified and highly experienced social work professionals.”

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