Ofsted relaxes inspections for struggling 'inadequate' councils

Neil Puffett
Monday, September 17, 2018

Councils where children's services standards are deemed to be "inadequate" are to receive shorter, less intense re-inspections, Ofsted has announced.

Under the inspection of local authority children's services (ILACS) system, which was officially introduced in January, inadequate councils received up to six quarterly monitoring visits prior to a three-week re-inspection under the predecessor to ILACS - the single inspection framework (SIF).

However, Ofsted has now announced that inadequate councils will no longer receive a three-week SIF inspection, instead getting a two-week standard ILACS visit - the same inspection that councils judged to be "requires improvement" get.

An updated ILACS framework, which was first published in November 2017, sets out the change.

"We will no longer carry out re-inspections of inadequate local authorities using the single inspection framework," the document states.

"We will re-inspect using a standard inspection under this [ILACS] framework."

ILACS has been touted as a less demanding inspection regime, designed to reflect the pressures councils face as a result of funding cuts. Its predecessor the SIF had been criticised for being too demanding.

The framework sets out a new requirement for councils to produce an action plan if concerns are raised on a focused visit.

Ofsted has struggled with resources in recent years in the face of cuts to its budget imposed by central government.

Concerns have been raised in the past that scaling back re-inspections of inadequate children's services departments carries an element of risk.

Steve Crocker, chair of the Association of Dircetors of Children's Services standards, performance and inspection policy committee, said: "It is sensible that Ofsted will no longer carry out re-inspections of ‘inadequate' local authorities under the single inspection framework.

"This will bring greater consistency across the sector which is to be welcomed."

Yvette Stanley, Ofsted's national director for social care, said: "The ILACS framework is working well, and we are confident it is providing effective assurance of quality and progress. Inspections so far have shown that our approach recognises improvement and outstanding practice, but is equally able to identify where improvement is needed most.

"In streamlining our approach we retain the same high expectations about the quality of social work expected, and the impact of practice on children. This decision makes sense, both for inspection, and for the sector."

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