Ofsted joint inspections 'will heap pressure' on children's services
Wednesday, August 12, 2015
Plans to introduce joint inspections of child protection services will add greater pressure to already stretched services, it has been claimed.
Ofsted has said it wants to launch a new inspection system - known as joint targeted area inspections (JTAIs) - in the autumn to evaluate the effectiveness of multi-agency work to protect children.
Responding to a consultation on the plans, which was launched last month, the Association of Directors of Children's Services (ADCS), the Local Government Association (LGA) and council chief executives group Solace, have raised fears that the new inspection process, which would be over and above the existing single inspection framework, could be burdensome for services.
"We all need to be mindful of the efficiency of the overall system and the need to ensure that new arrangements do not add unreasonable burden for either inspectors or the inspected," the joint consultation response states.
In light of this, the three organisations have called for a "pause" after the first six inspections are conducted, to "consider whether there is value" in the approach.
They are also calling for the findings of the first six inspections to be used to develop an integrated inspection system in the future.
"It is important that the learning from this exercise informs the methodological basis on which the next universal inspection framework is formed and that immediate consideration is given to how to incorporate this important aspect within the new inspection regime in a sustainable way," the response states.
Alison O'Sullivan, president of the ADCS, said children's services leaders would back an inspection regime that takes into account the contributions of all safeguarding partners to achieving better outcomes for children and young people.
"Sadly the complexity of this work is not yet reflected in these plans and I am not convinced that the JTAI will add to our understanding of issues such as child sexual exploitation, radicalisation or disruption of gangs."
David Simmonds, chair of the LGA's children and young people board, said: "Keeping children safe is the most important thing that councils do, but we know we cannot do it alone.
"We have long argued that inspecting the agencies involved in child protection separately does not provide a true picture of how they are working together which is key to protecting children.
"This new level of joined-up inspections does nothing to solve this issue but merely adds another layer.
"We want to see the inspectorates bite the bullet and introduce a new joint inspection which fully replaces all other current inspections as soon as possible."
Phil Norrey, Solace's spokesman on children and families, said: "Whilst we welcome the recognition from Ofsted that the work local areas undertake to protect children is multi-agency, we are concerned that coming on top of, not instead of, existing inspection frameworks, these proposals will add more pressure to already stretched services.
"The whole Ofsted system needs a radical rethink, and this is not what is being offered here."