Headlines: July 16th, 2012

Ofsted’s remit to inspect services for looked after children will be enhanced by collaborating with the Care Quality Commission. It is also planned that Ofsted will play a greater role in child protection by working with all agencies providing services for children.

From 2013 Ofsted will join up with the Care Quality Commission to provide a seamless inspection of looked after children’s services. Proposals have been published for a new inspection programme for children in care. The new inspections will have a strong focus on ensuring that the most careful decisions are made about children’s placements, their safety and welfare.

The proposal is to create a dedicated inspection programme for looked after children and care leavers replacing the current separate inspections for looked after children’s services, local authority adoption agencies and local authority fostering services.

Working with the CQC, Ofsted proposes that unannounced inspections will be carried out within a two-week period. Inspectors will meet and talk directly with children who are in care and care leavers, carers, adopters, practitioners and staff, and, where possible and appropriate, birth families.

The new inspection will focus on the effectiveness of local authorities as corporate parents, the provision of health services for children who are looked after, the quality of professional practice, and the impact of the care on children and young people.

It is also planned to revamp child protection arrangements by joining up all the agencies involoved. Ofsted will partner with the Care Quality Commission, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons and Her Majesty’s Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate.

Under the proposals, inspection will be unannounced and carried out over a two-week period. The inspection team will look at the work of all local services responsible for protecting children including social care, health, education, police, probation and the criminal justice system. They will focus on the effectiveness of how all the agencies work together in partnership to identify, help and protect children who may be at risk of harm.

The joint inspection team will spend much of their time tracking the experience of children which includes observing and shadowing professionals working and interacting with children. Inspectors will also talk to practitioners to discuss casework and where possible to the children concerned, their families and carers.

Currently, unannounced child protection inspections are carried out by Ofsted, but these can only examine in depth the performance of the local council. Scrutiny of the vital contribution of health, police, probation and other services is not within Ofsted’s remit.