Press release

New single framework for inspecting local authority services

One inspection for child protection, services for looked after children and care leavers, and local authority fostering and adoption.

Ofsted has today published its single framework for inspecting local authority services for vulnerable children, examining help, protection and care from the time it is first needed until a young person who is looked after has been successfully helped to start their lives as a young adult. The inspection is universal and will be conducted in a three-year cycle.

Coming into effect from November 2013, the framework brings together into one inspection: child protection; services for looked after children and care leavers; and local authority fostering and adoption services.

Two other frameworks are also published today for inspecting voluntary adoption agencies and independent fostering services. Both take immediate effect.

The ambition is clear – only ‘good’ is now good enough. The protection of children and young people is a key judgement. Services that are less than ‘good’ will no longer be judged adequate, but to ‘require improvement’ until they meet the standard that children, young people and their families deserve and have a right to expect. The key test is the extent to which children’s experiences are prioritised and the effectiveness of the help, protection and care that they receive.

Ofsted’s new National Director for Social Care, Debbie Jones, welcomed the new single inspection framework.

I am delighted to join Ofsted at this significant time. While I understand the pressures and recognise that the social care landscape is changing, I believe that this new framework has children and young people and the quality of professional practice at its heart.

It is our ambition to establish ‘good’ as the new minimum and for this to become the agreed standard for all services for children and young people. It is right to introduce the harder test asking what difference we are all making and I am impressed with the extent to which the new framework sets this out.

Ofsted has worked collaboratively with the sector during the development phase, building upon previous frameworks and taking account of the experiences and views of those working in children’s services. We are pleased with the responses from many Directors about the focus of the new framework being the right one and it being ambitious for our children.

Inspectors will make three key judgements in the single inspection:

  • the experiences and progress of children who need help and protection
  • the experiences and progress of children looked after and achieving permanent homes and families for them
  • leadership, management and governance

If a local authority is judged ‘inadequate’ in any of these three critical areas, it will automatically be judged ‘inadequate’ overall.

For the first time, Ofsted will also make discrete, graded judgements on the ‘experiences and progress for care leavers’ and adoption. Inspectors will evaluate the quality of plans for children’s futures, the management and practice oversight of those plans to make them happen and the extent to which any delays are being swiftly reduced. They will also consider the quality of support and care for young people becoming independent and leaving the system, including the provision of safe and good housing, access to education, training and employment and the extent to which those individuals feel supported by their corporate parents.

These inspections will be delivered in all local authorities in England over a three-year period. During that time, Ofsted will be working closely with partner inspectorates to establish the additional criteria required to evaluate and judge the contribution of health, police, probation and prison services in the help, care and protection of children and young people. This work will inform the development of a joint inspection of child protection and safeguarding arrangements to be led by Ofsted from 2015. These criteria will be subject to consultation during 2014.

Notes to editor

  1. All local authorities in England will receive an inspection under the single framework over the forthcoming three years and, as such, the selection will not target ‘inadequate’ authorities. There will be a balance of authorities from the outset, including those previously found to be ‘good’.

  2. Debbie Jones was previously Director of Children’s Services at Lambeth Council and president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services.

  3. The Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted) regulates and inspects to achieve excellence in the care of children and young people, and in education and skills for learners of all ages. It regulates and inspects childcare and children’s social care, and inspects the Children and Family Court Advisory Support Service (Cafcass), schools, colleges, initial teacher training, work-based learning and skills training, adult and community learning, and education and training in prisons and other secure establishments. It inspects services for looked after children, safeguarding and child protection.

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Published 25 September 2013