Deprivation an indicator in some ratings according to Ofsted research

Ofsted annual report finds general improvement in local authority overall effectiveness in children's services

Photo: Ivan Kruk/Fotolia

Local authority areas with the lowest levels of deprivation are more likely to get higher overall effectiveness judgements, according to suggestions in Ofsted’s latest annual report.

Early research by the regulator suggests that less deprived local authority areas were more likely to be rated ‘good’ and less likely to be rated ‘requires improvement’.

However, all those judged ‘outstanding’ were found in the mid-range or ‘more deprived’ areas, and Ofsted noted no direct relationship between levels of deprivation and those authorities judged ‘inadequate’

Spending less influential

Ofsted found little correlation between level of spend per child in need and judgement ratings. But it said: “This does not mean that the level of funding is unimportant to an LA’s performance. Social care demand continues to rise. Numbers of children looked after, for example, are at a record high since the introduction of the 1989 Children Act.

“It is clear that highly deprived LAs that have high demand and that are facing further reductions to funding will have the greatest challenges to either achieve or maintain good services.”

The research in Ofsted’s annual report, published today, supports that which was published in the British Journal of Social Work last year by Rick Hood, senior lecturer at the School of Social Work, Kingston University and St George’s, University of London. The comparison of the national datasets for children’s social care between 2009-14 found that local authorities in more deprived areas experienced higher demand for children’s social care.

Performance improvement

Ofsted’s report stated that local authorities were in general improving. Just over a third had been judged good or outstanding at their last inspection, compared to 26% at the point of the last social care report (1 April 2016).

Six authorities had been subjected to a re-inspection after an inadequate judgement and monitoring visit and of these, four had received an improved judgement, with West Berkshire jumping from inadequate to good.

The regulator said its new Inspection of Local Authority Children’s Services (ILACS) framework – which will be fully rolled out in the new year – will “support the earlier identification of risk and success”. Quarterly monitoring visits to inadequate local authorities will continue, and will precede a re-inspection under the Single Inspection framework.

Alison Michalska, president at Association of Directors of Children’s Services said: “The report finds that outcomes in many local authorities have improved as a result of them maintaining a focus on ‘getting the ‘basics right’. Whilst all local authorities are committed to this endeavour it is increasingly difficult to achieve given the LGA estimate children’s services face a £2bn funding gap by 2020. This is likely to grow if left unaddressed and could reverse much of the good progress being made to date.”

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