“Ofsted to require struggling councils to produce urgent action plans ”

By Derren Hayes

| 16 August 2018

Councils where inspectors have uncovered major weaknesses in children's social care practice will need to draw up urgent action plans to address the problems under changes to be introduced by Ofsted next month.

The inspectorate has told CYP Now that a revised version of the inspection of local authority children's services (ILACS) framework to be published in September will include a requirement for local authorities subject to priority actions after a focused inspection visit will need to submit a draft action plan within 20 days.

Under the existing ILACS framework, authorities must submit an action plan on how to tackle serious deficiencies within 70 days. This requirement will also be retained under the new version of the inspection framework.

Although the new framework is yet to be published, inspectors are already applying the new requirements - a letter detailing the findings of a focused visit of child protection services in St Helens earlier this month included the requirement for children's services leaders to submit a draft plan by 10 September "to help us understand the quality of planning" to address major concerns raised.

Confirming the change, an Ofsted spokesperson said: "We are amending the ILACS framework for when we identify that a local authority has areas for priority action after a focused visit. This is to take immediate effect and we will re-publish the framework next month.
"In line with current legislation, the local authority will need to submit a final action plan responding to the findings within 70 working days of receiving the letter. We will also ask that local authorities share an early draft of the action plan within 20 working days, to help us understand the quality of planning."

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The Ofsted spokesperson said the change had been taken "in discussion with the Department for Education", and would help earlier identification of areas struggling to get to grips with problems and enable additional support to be put in place sooner.

The spokesperson added: "The action planning process and timescales will support decisions about whether the local authority would benefit from a package of support to help them respond to the priority actions. The DfE will contact the local authority in relation to this.

"The relevant Ofsted region will use the action plan to inform decisions about future inspection and visit activity, in line with our framework principles in paragraph four of the inspection framework for local authority children's services."

According to one director of children's services, the move represents a "step up on action" by Ofsted and the DfE.

The DCS said: "A priority action is a serious action needing urgent attention because children are not safe or are potentially unsafe.

"The revised timescale would be reasonable in order to demonstrate or otherwise that there is capacity to react and plan urgently and coherently given the duty to protect and the need to show the regulator and government that you can discharge this effectively."

Another DCS said making the timescale for responding shorter is not "too onerous" because "in reality council management teams are interested in an update on improvement work in advance of the 70 days ILACS allows".