According to the Local Government Association, Ofsted’s approach to inspecting child protection services in England is ‘blinkered’.
The LGA say the current system fails to assess the work of crucial agencies such as health services and police. They believe that joint inspections of all the services involved in child protection would help ensure fewer children suffer abuse and exploitation. Ofsted said it was evaluating pilot schemes of such integrated inspections.
The LGA says it is concerned that without a major overhaul inspectorates will continue to work ‘in narrow silos, conducting separate inspections at the same time rather than adopting a fully multi-agency approach that assessed the contributions of all agencies together.’ Instead all agencies should work together around the interests of the children and young people, and ‘the inspection of children’s services must mirror this approach.’
Cllr David Simmonds, chairman of the LGA’s children and young people board said: ‘Keeping children safe is the most important thing that councils do – but we know we cannot do it alone. It is not fair to the children we are working to protect that Ofsted inspections only focus on council children’s services, failing to properly assess the essential work done by other organisations.’ He said that scrutiny processes are needed so that, ‘nothing falls through the cracks.’
Ofsted said it agreed that inspections should take into account all the different services involved. A spokeswoman said the watchdog was evaluating recent pilots of integrated inspections with the Care Quality Commission and the criminal justice inspectorates – but warned that inspectors ‘with the right knowledge and experience’ needed to take the lead in their own areas. ‘Maximising the collaboration between inspectorates remains at the heart of how we believe we can continue to support improvement in the sector and contribute to sharing the best practice across all the agencies seeking to protect children from sexual exploitation and other forms of abuse and neglect.’