Ofsted ditches separate social care annual report

By Joe Lepper

| 08 August 2017

Ofsted has abandoned its commitment to produce a standalone annual report on the state of children's social care services.

Ofsted will not publish a social care annual report in 2017

The decision to produce the separate social care report was taken three years ago by former chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw to raise the profile of the sector so that it gained more coverage in the media. It published three between October 2013 and June 2016.

When launching 2016's social care annual report, Wilshaw - who was replaced in January by Amanda Spielman, former chair of qualifications regulator Ofqual - said the introduction of a separate report was needed "because the story we wanted to tell about the state of children's services was being missed".

However, Ofsted has now confirmed that the separate annual report for children's social care services will not be published this year, with the inspectorate's findings for 2017 instead included in its annual report, to be published in December.

"Bringing all our remits together in one document will allow us to look across the breadth of our work and take a holistic approach to maintaining children's welfare," said an Ofsted spokesman.

The spokesman added that it was too early to say if the abandonment of a standalone social care report would continue beyond 2017.

The decision by Ofsted comes amid continuing concerns by the inspectorate over the quality of social care provision and in particular around child protection.

Of the 142 local authority children's services inspected by Ofsted since November 2013, 31 have been rated "inadequate" and 64 "requires improvement". Just two authorities - Kensington and Chelsea, and Westminster - have been rated "outstanding".

Ofsted also remains concerned over a lack of progress at those judged inadequate last year.

Among those handed the rating for the overall standard of children's services in 2016 was Reading Council, which was warned by Ofsted in June this year that the pace of improvement was not quick enough.

Problems also continue at Kirklees Council, which was rated inadequate in November 2016. Last month inspectors highlighted high caseloads and workforce instability as ongoing problems at the council.

The Department for Education revealed last month that it is looking to appoint a commissioner at Kirklees and Reading, as well as two other councils rated as inadequate, Barnet and Worcestershire. 

Ray Jones, emeritus professor of social work at Kingston University and St George's, University of London, said the annual social care report has been a "mixed blessing" with its highlighting of inspection findings not backed by comment on issues such as workload pressures and government cutbacks.

"It has been a missed opportunity to paint the full and fair picture," he said.

"But hopefully Ofsted will find ways to speak about the impact of government policies which are hindering and hampering local authorities from providing the necessary quality and quantity of services."

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