New child protection inspection regime revealed

Ofsted today announced plans to inspect children’s social care services without notice.

Launching a consultation into changes to its inspection regime, Ofsted said local authority children’s social care services should be subject to two-week, on-site, no notice inspections. This would ‘fully assess the contributions of local services in the protection of children’.

Currently councils are given two week’s notice of this type of inspection.

The change was among the recommendations given by Professor Eileen Munro in her independent review of child protection, commissioned by the government and published in May.

Munro called for a new inspection framework ‘that will have at its heart the experiences of children and young people’, rather than focus on particular processes.

Under Ofsted’s proposals, Arrangements for the inspection of local authority children’s services, the new inspections will examine any early intervention actions as well as the child’s journey from referral to social services to their exit from the care system.

The watchdog says the majority of inspectors’ time would be devoted to talking with children and their families as well as front-line staff and managers.  Inspectors would also scrutinise the contribution of all agencies and services, not just the local authority, to the protection of children.

The consultation also seeks views on whether to vary the period between inspections. Re-inspection could be 18 months for local authorities that are judged inadequate, every three years for those who are satisfactory or every five years for those that are judged good or outstanding.

Launching the plans, acting Ofsted chief inspector Miriam Rosen said: ‘These proposals will focus inspection on what matters most – the direct support children and their families receive and the effectiveness of these services in helping to protect potentially vulnerable children.

‘We want to refine and develop an inspection model that will bring about the best possible outcome for children in need of protection or care.’

The consultation will run until 30 September, with a view to a new inspection framework coming into force from May 2012.