Services for vulnerable children are set for a major overhaul which will see the role of health services, police, probation and local authority services come in for closer inspection.
At present, unannounced child protection inspections are carried out by Ofsted, but these only scrutinise in depth the performance of the local authority. Inspection of the crucial contribution of health, police, probation and other services is not within Ofsted’s remit.
The overhaul will mean that inspections will now examine the role of these other agencies. Child protection inspections will be unannounced and carried out over a fortnightly period. Ofsted will consider 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 a multi-agency approach to identify, help and protect children who may be at risk of harm.
The inspection team will observe and shadow 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.
Ofsted has also announced that its programme of inspections of services for children in care will be carried out jointly with the Care Quality Commission. The regulator will generate 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.
Ofsted proposes that unannounced inspections will be carried out within a two-week period with CQC. Inspectors will meet and talk directly with children who are in care and care leavers, carers, adopters, practitioners and staff, and if suitable, birth families.
The new method of inspection will explore the effectiveness of local authorities, 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.
Ofsted propounds that the involvement of CQC is important because high quality health services are essential for the health and well-being of looked after children. Children in the care system often enter it with a worse level of health needs.
Ofsted deputy chief inspector, John Goldup said: “Child protection is everybody’s business it can’t just be left to local authorities. I am really pleased that inspectorates have been able to come together to make sure we can effectively scrutinise the performance of the whole system. These unannounced and joined up inspections will, I believe, have real potential for improving the protection of children in this country. There has rightly been much attention paid recently to failures in the care system for some of our most vulnerable children. These new inspections will have a really strong focus on ensuring that the most careful decisions are made about children’s placements, their safety and welfare are paramount at all times, and that authorities and providers work together effectively to share information and make sure children are well cared for.”
Director of regulatory development at CQC, Philip King said: “CQC will also be working jointly with Ofsted to inspect health services and health outcomes for children and young people who are looked after.”