Most local authorities inspected fail to meet minimum Ofsted standards for care and adoption
Around three quarters of local authorities fail to meet new minimum standards set by Ofsted for children’s care and adoption services – but local authorities have hit back saying it is Ofsted that needs to improve.
Ofsted, formally called the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills, is the government body which regulates and inspects any services that care for and provide education to children, young people and other learners.
So far a third of all local authorities have been inspected by Ofsted under a new single inspection framework for vulnerable children services. The combined inspection regime for care and child adoption services, which was introduced in November last year, introduced a tougher system of grading.
Under the new regime, which follows recommendations of Professor Eileen Munro, a child protection services expert and professor of sociology at the London School of Economics, the old ‘adequate’ rating is replaced with ‘requires improvement.’
The first Ofsted report under the new inspection framework found that 31 of the 41 local authorities inspected fell below the minimum standard and were placed in the two lowest ranks of ‘inadequate’ or ‘requires improvement’. The remaining ten were graded ‘good’ which is the lowest acceptable grade under the new framework.
Children’s services were rated in three core areas: the experience of children in need of protection and assistance, success in finding permanent homes for vulnerable children, and local authority management and leadership.
The Local Government Association (LGA), the body which represents councils in England and Wales, has hit back hard. It complained that Ofsted is politically motivated, and that it has a blinkered approach to the inspection of children’s services. The LGA also accused Ofsted of being media-obsessed and added that Ofsted cannot be trusted to deliver reliable conclusions.
The LGA is calling for further reforms because the inspections are limited in scope and fail to assess lead agencies such as health providers, schools, police and probation services, and family courts. The association claims that it is unfair to children that Ofsted inspections focus only on local authorities ignoring the performance and assessment of critical work done by other agencies and organisations.