Multi-agency child protection inspections will now be introduced in April 2015, the chief inspector of Ofsted has announced.
Directors of children’s services across England welcomed the renewed commitment to a multi-agency approach, but were outraged by the lack of commitment to a review in the meantime of the current safeguarding inspection system.
The multi-agency, multi-inspectorate approach, which is backed by Professor Eileen Munro, was due to be brought in last month.
But Ofsted chief Sir Michael Wilshaw scrapped the proposal in April following concerns from the sector over how the various agencies involved would be held to account.
Speaking at the Association of Directors of Children’s Services’ (ADCS) annual conference on Friday, Wilshaw said he understood the disappointment at his decision.
But he strongly defended it: “Ultimately a change as significant as multi-agency inspections can only go ahead when those involved have full confidence in the system.
“I didn’t have confidence in it. I think we should have done a lot more work – and I have given us the breathing space to get that work done.
“If we find the police and probation service aren’t doing a good job, how would that be reflected in the overall judgement? That needs to be worked out.”
Wilshaw said the new system would only be brought in subject to further consultation with the agencies involved and further training for Ofsted and other inspectors.
ADCS president Andrew Webb, who yesterday reaffirmed the association’s commitment to multi-agency inspections, welcomed the announcement of a new deadline.
But he said to Wilshaw: “There is a lot of concern, shared by myself and colleagues, that the current system is calibrated in the wrong way.
“The likelihood of being found inadequate is much greater than you suggest it should be. I wonder if it would be possible to re-examine the current and interim arrangements while working towards the multi-agency system?”
However, while Wilshaw admitted there were flaws in the system, he would not commit to a review.
He said: “It’s somewhat of a conundrum and paradox that our children are among the safest in Europe, yet 20-25% of authorities are judged inadequate for child protection.
“It’s an issue we need to do more work on. Now we have a single inspection framework, that will enable us to do that more effectively. When we move to multi-agency, it will improve further.”