BASW has described Ofsted’s decision to inspect local authority child protection and services for children who are looked after under a single, combined framework as “puzzling”, and urges the inspectorate to reveal its evidence base.
Ofsted has stated that the recent pilot multi-agency inspections of child protection have “raised a number of issues and concerns”, but have not elaborated further. Ofsted has also shelved plans to inspect child protection and looked after children services separately.
Commenting on today’s decision, which defers the proposed new multi-agency child protection inspections that were scheduled for launch in June, BASW professional officer Sue Kent said: “Ofsted’s decision to withdraw from a multi-agency model of inspection of child protection provision is puzzling, and appears to be contrary to recent debate on the need for greater multi-agency collaboration.
“It does raise the issue that if the inspection processes cannot work co-operatively together with this one aim, how can we ensure successful ‘working together’ in all other services relating to vulnerable children?
“To date, Ofsted have not produced a clear evidence base to support this decision, forcing us to question if it is motivated by efficiencies rather than the welfare of children. Hopefully this isn’t seen as a cost cutting exercise, as done properly, there will be little savings, if any.
“We would like to see Ofsted publish their findings from the pilots, as we are only hearing the voice of local authorities in this statement, not the voice of the children that they serve. There also does not appear to have been a consultation period for the new inspection model.
“We worry that social work services will be left isolated from other agencies, a fear that we voiced during the consultation on revisions to Working Together guidance.
“Following Munro’s recommendation that children’s service inspections need to improve Ofsted reviewed the inspection process and BASW completed four consultations over the last year offering social workers views on improvements. We were pleased that children in care would be included in Ofsted inspections and receive the same attention as child protection services.
“Munro did suggest that if the multi-agency inspection was not possible, and resources were mentioned as a possible cause, that all inspections must consider how other agencies have influenced local authority children’s services. Let’s hope this remains central to the new model.
“Perhaps most concerning is the fear that in this tight economic environment the one inspection may not have the resources available to do the in-depth inspection necessary.
“We hope that this does not lead to a watering down of inspections, especially in areas such as children in care, as the pressure and accountability of child protection dominates public attention.
“Will children who do not fall in the crisis bracket of child protection receive the same service or will those in care once again fall to the bottom of the ladder?”