Proposed changes to child services inspections ‘don't go far enough’, LGA warns

A consultation on the re-inspection of children’s services rated inadequate has just closed, and the LGA has warned that Ofsted is ‘falling significantly short’ of helping providers to improve.

LGA teamed with iMPOWER Consulting to analyse the current inspections of children’s services, and concluded that Ofsted is inadvertently creating an environment where it is harder for authorities to improve their ratings. According to the LGA, those which were rated inadequate often find themselves locked behind an ’insurmountable barrier’ to improvement, as the low rating has a significant impact on staff morale, which leads to staff resignations and negative publicity.

In response to these concerns, the LGA has joined forces with Solace to call for the current Single Inspection Framework (SIF) to be replaced by sector-led, multi-agency inspections that will make sure councils can use the process to turn around under-performing services and better identify examples of best practice.

Roy Perry, chairman of the LGA's Children and Young People Board, said: "It's clear that the Single Inspection Framework for children's services isn't working. Despite national data showing improvement in most areas of children's services since 2007, Ofsted ratings have been falling, giving more councils poor judgements which then act as barriers to improvement.

"We need a new inspection framework that looks at the contributions of all agencies involved and supports councils to improve, providing a narrative rather than a simplistic rating that cannot take into account the complexities of the service. Good local authorities are best placed to support other councils to turn around their services, helping to implement the changes needed to provide the best possible care and protection for our most vulnerable children."

Graeme McDonald, director of Solace, said: "It is vital that councils provide the best possible support and protection for children in need, and that they should be challenged and supported to raise their standards where this is not the case. However, the current Ofsted inspection regime has often hindered rather than helped these efforts; typically having a disproportionate impact on the local authority and failing to appreciate the many agencies that all play a part in a child's welfare. The reforms proposed by Ofsted do not, as yet, go far enough to remedy this".