Headlines: February 4th, 2009

A new report has warned that national targets and inspection regimes often override the local needs and demands of children’s services. The report, ‘Fitter for the Future’ said there were major concerns among directors of children’s services about the impact on local priorities of the new performance assessment framework.

The report, which has been published jointly by the Children’s Services Network run by the Local Government Information Unit and the children’s services partnership PIRGE – Performance Information Reference Group in Education. In a survey of 82 local authorities in England it found evidence of concerns about the use of the national indicators in the Comprehensive Area Assessment and other regulatory processes. Almost half of authorities disagreed with claims that the National Indicator Set would lead to the improvement of services in local areas.

Jasmine Ali, the head of the LGiU’s Children’s Services Network, said “Councils continue to be burdened with bureaucracy and pressure from government offices, which is hampering their ability to meet local concerns and needs. We need to change the way in which council children’s services departments are inspected, especially in the light of the tragic Baby P case. This requires moving away from a paper-based system to focusing on a more qualitative approach.”

The report also found that as well as being concerned about the National Indicators Children’s services directors were dissatisfied with the negotiating process of the LAA partnership. Almost half of survey respondents said the LAA timescales were problematic and 70 per cent of directors said they had been pressured by their Government Office to choose indicators that were in line with the policies of central government.

The report calls for clarification of the role of Government Offices to improve the relationship with local councils and it recommends that the Government should commission an independent review of CAA after its first year of implementation.