Headlines: December 17th, 2013

Ofsted has published proposals for a tough new framework to improve standards in children’s homes and drive up quality for the country’s most vulnerable children.

The inspectorate is making its registration, inspection and enforcement practice of children’s homes more robust, challenging and effective in parallel with the programme of regulatory reform proposed by the Department for Education. The new framework is integral to those reforms and is now open for consultation.

The consultation sets out the criteria for ‘good’ as the benchmark and minimum standard that children and young people should expect. As such, the current ‘adequate’ judgement is replaced by a judgement of ‘required improvement’.

The purpose of the changes is to make sure that the experiences, care and progress of children and young people are placed firmly at the heart of all inspections. So, for the first time, Ofsted plans to make an overarching judgement on the ‘Overall experiences and progress of children and young people living in the home’ instead of the previous ‘overall effectiveness’ judgement.

Inspectors will additionally make a key judgement on ‘How well children and young people are helped and protected’. If a children’s home is ‘inadequate’ in this area, and therefore not protecting children or promoting their welfare, it will automatically be graded ‘inadequate’ overall. The help and protection given to children and young people must be central to care and professional practice.

Ofsted’s National Director for Social Care, Debbie Jones, said: “Ofsted has no greater responsibility than the inspection and regulation of services for vulnerable children and young people. Our inspections of children’s homes must focus on how it feels to be a child or young person living in this home, the progress and commitment there is to secure good futures for them, and the difference the professional staff there are making to the lives of the children living there.

“Children’s homes are and should be a positive option for children and young people and as such we want the staff to be the best they can and to do the most they can for children and young people. We also want to clearly identify those homes that are not doing enough.

“I encourage all those with knowledge and experience in children’s homes to contribute their views about our proposals to strengthen inspection of this significant part of the children’s social care system.”

The consultation will close on 21 February and the new framework will take effect from April 2014.