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12.08.15

Council chiefs critical of Ofsted’s child safeguarding inspection plans

Council chiefs have stated that Ofsted plans to introduce new multi-agency child safeguarding inspections from this autumn lack “clarity” and could add “pressure” to already stretched services. 

In a joint response the watchdog’s proposals on joint targeted area inspections (JTAIs), the Local Government Association (LGA), Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS), and Solace added that the proposals could “draw staff and senior leaders away from frontline activity to service inspection”. 

While all three organisations welcomed the recognition that local authorities are not the sole agency responsible for safeguarding children, as well using narrative rather than graded judgements, they say it is unclear if the proposed ‘deep dive’ element of the JTAI will offer the same benefit as the current thematic inspections. 

Phil Norrey, Solace spokesperson for Children and Families and chief executive of Devon County Council, said: “Whilst we welcome the recognition from Ofsted that the work local areas undertake to protect children is multi-agency, we are concerned that coming on top of, not instead of, existing inspection frameworks, these proposals will add more pressure to already stretched services. 

“The whole Ofsted system needs a radical rethink, and this is not what is being offered here.” 

The initial six inspections that will be carried out between October and April 2016 will focus on children at risk of sexual exploitation and those missing from home, school or care. The assessments will review services within local authority areas. 

In the response, the council chiefs added that they would “like to propose that after undertaking the first six JTAIs, between November 2015 and March 2016, there should be a pause to consider whether there is value in this approach”. 

Alison O’Sullivan, president of ADCS, said that her organisation have previously called for an inspection regime that takes into account the contributions of all safeguarding partners to achieving better outcomes for children and young people. 

“Sadly the complexity of this work is not yet reflected in these plans and I am not convinced that the JTAI will add to our understanding of issues such as child sexual exploitation, radicalisation or disruption of gangs,” she said. 

They also added that to maintain the JTAI beyond the proposed six inspections would be “unsustainable for inspectors and inspected, unaffordable to government, and represent a significant increase in the inspection burden placed upon LAs”. 

It was stated that it is not proportionate to retain the SIF (Single Inspection Framework), commence a multiagency JTAI, a single agency JTAI focused only on the local authority and begin a new inspection of SEND provision within the same short timeframe. 

Cllr David Simmonds CBE, Local Government Association spokesman, said: “This new level of joined up inspections does nothing to solve this issue but merely adds another layer. “We want to see the inspectorates bite the bullet and introduce a new joint inspection which fully replaces all other current inspections as soon as possible.” 

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