One in six authorities to face multi-agency inspections

Neil Puffett
Monday, June 23, 2014

Up to 25 local authorities will be judged on their multi-agency child protection arrangements under new inspections being introduced in April 2015, it has been announced.

Multi-agency inpsections will run alongside the current three-year cycle of children's services inspections carried out by Ofsted. Picture: Phil Adams
Multi-agency inpsections will run alongside the current three-year cycle of children's services inspections carried out by Ofsted. Picture: Phil Adams

Under proposals published today, Ofsted, the Care Quality Commission (CQC), Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC), Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Probation and where appropriate, Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Prisons will work together on targeted "integrated" inspections.

The new inspections will run alongside Ofsted's current three-year cycle for its single inspection framework for rating children's services - which was introduced in November 2013 and is due to be completed in November 2016.

The proposals mark the end of a year-long delay in the inspectorates setting out their vision for a multi-agency system, after they were shelved just a few months before they were due to start last summer.

consultation document on how the multi-agency inspection system will work reveals that between 20 and 25 local authorities, around one in six of all top-tier authorities in England, will be inspected in the 19-month period between April 2015 and November 2016.

Those targeted will primarily be authorities where Ofsted is returning following a previous "inadequate" rating, as well as those where other inspectorates have concerns.

However, around a quarter of the total will be made up of authorities that are performing well - the idea being that best practice can be shared.

Ofsted, CQC and HMIC will be in the local authority area during a four-week period, all making separate judgments on their respective agencies - local authorities, health services, and police, using the same judgment structure.

Services will be rated on their overall effectiveness and arrangements for children; experiences and progress of children who need help and protection; the experiences and progress of looked-after children; and leadership, management and governance. Each area will receive either an outstanding, good, requires improvement, or inadequate rating.

The inspectorates will publish their respective findings and judgments together in one report, including a shared judgment for the local safeguarding children board.

It had initially been intended that multi-agency inspections of children's services would be introduced in June 2013. But the plan was abandoned in April 2013 after problems were identified from sites piloting the approach.

Debbie Jones, Ofsted's national director for social care said the new system will create a better picture of how children are helped, cared for and protected by agencies in a local area.

"The ambition is to encourage a far greater focus - from all agencies involved - on the experiences of children and the quality of the help and care they are given," she said.

"The protection, help and care of children and young people is everybody's business and I am pleased that following last year's decision to defer this work, we are now in a position to launch our consultation on this targeted and shared programme."

The move toward integrated inspection was recommended by Eileen Munro in her 2011 review of child protection, which argued that the quality and effectiveness of care and protection for children and young people could only be properly evaluated by taking into account the contributions of all local services.

The consultation will run for 12 weeks, closing on 12 September.

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