Intervention Level In Authorities Rated Inadequate by Ofsted

Inadequate LAs receive quarterly monitoring visits from Ofsted which are explained here

The first quarterly monitoring visit is within four weeks of the deadline for the local authority’s action plan (itself within 70 days of receipt of the inspection report). The lead monitoring inspector confirms the dates of the quarterly monitoring visits in advance. Usually two HMI undertake each visit which generally lasts for two days.  Monitoring activity relates to key weaknesses and recommendations in the inspection report.  Inspectors will also check that performance in the other areas has not declined since the inspection, and will look at new or emerging concerns.  Monitoring visits may not be equally spaced throughout the year.

This blog post analyses what is currently happening with  LAs rated inadequate by Ofsted.

The following flowchart is taken from the National Audit Office Children in Need of Help and Protection, October 2016  which in turn derives from Putting Children First


Demos calls this “externalisation rather than outsourcing.” 

This is the hierarchy of possible intervention, the right hand side of the flow chart deals with “improvement” while the left hand side is about “direction.”  


This is the more radical option.

The first query is “sufficient evidence of persistent or systemic failure.” If the answer is “YES”, then the Government issues a statutory direction and appoints a Commissioner to assess whether services should remain with the council. 

See  this link from Lord Nash, July 2017 explaining which LAs have systemic failure and which have persistent.

IF the Commissioner’s verdict is that the authority is NOT capable of improvement, the next question is whether the local authority is co-operative or is resistant. If the council is co-operative, the Trust will be a partnership; if resistant, a Trust arrangement will be imposed on the council within the year.  (Sandwell for example will be an imposed Trust

(IF on the other hand the Commissioner rules that the authority DOES  have capacity to improve, then the LA will move onto the right hand side IMPROVEMENT track.)


In the first instance, IF there is not “sufficient evidence of persistent or systemic failure” then the right hand side of the flow chart applies. (A local authority may also be moved onto the IMPROVEMENT track if it is assessed as being capable of improvement after persistent failure.)

There will be a Government-appointed Improvement Advisor (who may be an individual or a company) who will work with the council. Although this is not spelled out in the NAO flowchart, there is generally an Improvement Board which may be instructed to appoint an Independent Chair. 

A diagnostic review will be carried out within 3 months and within 6 months there will be a report to the Government. IF sufficient progress has been made, then progress must be maintained and will be assessed at a subsequent Ofsted inspection (which is not the same as  a quarterly monitoring visit) The outcome at the re-inspection stage will depend on whether the council is rated good, requires improvement or inadequate.

IF on the other hand, sufficient progress has NOT been made within 6 months, then as per the December 2015 statement, the council will be moved to the left hand side of the flowchart which deals with statutory DIRECTIONS. 

I will now try to assess where each LA fits in the above flowchart, based on information already in the public domain.



  • Cumbria  DIRECTION (making progress) 
  • Lancashire  IMPROVEMENT NOTICE (making progress) 
  • Manchester  IMPROVEMENT NOTICE (making progress) 
  • Wirral DIRECTION (early days, has Improvement Plan) 


  • Birmingham DIRECTION MUST TRANSFER TO TRUST  Commissioner Dave Hill 
  • Dudley  DIRECTION (Commissioner says keep services with council at present) 
  • Worcestershire DIRECTION Commissioner Trevor Doughty More


  • Darlington IMPROVEMENT NOTICE (making progress) 
  • Doncaster DIRECTION TRUST (making progress)  rated GOOD JANUARY 2018
  • Kirklees  DIRECTION Commissioner Eleanor Brazil 
  • Sunderland  DIRECTION TRANSFERRED TO CHILDREN’S SERVICES COMPANY,  APRIL 2017 working with Nick Whitfield  


  • Leicester City  IMPROVEMENT NOTICE (making progress) 


  • Barnet  DIRECTION 
  • Bromley  DIRECTION (services to stay with council for now) 
  • Croydon  DIRECTION 
  • Lambeth IMPROVEMENT NOTICE (making progress) 
  • Tower Hamlets  DIRECTION 


  • Buckinghamshire  DIRECTION (making progress) 
  • Gloucestershire IMPROVEMENT NOTICE
  • Reading  DIRECTION working with Nick Whitfield, will transfer children’s services to company 
  • Somerset DIRECTION  (working with Dave Hill, services to stay with council) 
  • South Gloucestershire IMPROVEMENT NOTICE
  • Surrey  IMPROVEMENT NOTICE (making progress) 


Map extract from the National Audit Office Children in Need of Help and Protection, October 2016  from which can be seen a cluster of local authorities in the West Midlands all under direction from the Government.



  • First declared inadequate July 2017
  • Ofsted July 7th 2017
  • DfE seeking commissioner, July 2017 Barnet Council have been working with an improvement partner for the last 12 months which has conducted a diagnostic of its services and an improvement board is in place. In addition it has undertaken work to consider an alternative delivery model (ADM) for children’s social care that includes a comprehensive business case. The Commissioner for Barnet would need to consider both the Council’s current improvement activities and the plans for an ADM as well as any other alternatives to assess how to most quickly secure sustainable improvement for children’s services.We expect the role of the Commissioner will take up to 40 days in the first three months in order to complete the in-depth review. Following this there is an option to extend this for a further 9 months at 8 days per month. Up to an additional 3 days per year is permitted for meetings and workshops. The contract duration is 12 months. Please note that the contract can be ended early at the absolute discretion of the Department. The total contract sum is up to £107,520.” Tender document 
  • Systemic failure, DfE July 2017
  • Direction Letter DfE September 2017   Frankie Sulke (also in Bromley) appointed Commissioner








  • Darlington First declared inadequate  in September 2015 (found “adequate” in 2012)
  • DfE Direction Letter/Improvement Notice October 2015, work with  Red Quadrant as Government-appointed advisor                                                                   
  • Set up Improvement Board, Clive Harrison from Red Quadrant acting as Independent Chair 
  • Ofsted August 2016 praise for leadership but issues with social work capacity and quality of assessments
  • Ofsted November 2016  making steady progress in relation to August recommendations but deterioration in some further practice areas.
  • Ofsted March 2017   beginning to make some progress
  • Ofsted July 2017  steady progress maintained for children in need of help and protection, NOT been sustained for children looked after, recently appointed chair of the scrutiny committee has injected fresh energy into the role and committee members of the committee have had extensive mandatory training
  • Ofsted October 2017  improved workforce stability More
  • NORTH WEST  IMPROVEMENT NOTICE  (making progress) 




  • Ofsted declared Gloucestershire inadequate on June 13th 2017  More  
  • Key figures replaced June 2017
  • Council Scrutiny Committee to discuss Ofsted report  July 13th 2017
  • Gloucester Scrutiny Committee documents including discussion of Ofsted report and annual LSCB report July 13th 2017 from LSCB report “Activity to be undertaken in 2017/18 will focus on the following priority areas: Early Help, children at risk of sexual exploitation, disabled children, children living with and experiencing domestic abuse, children who go missing from home, school or care, child neglect. Our overarching response will be a focus on children at risk of or suffering significant harm.” 
  • Council criticised by Judge Wildblood July 2017   (see also previous)
  • DfE Improvement Notice August/September 2017    LA must work with advisor
  • Council reaction  including change of personnel in children’s services and safeguarding, August 2017
  • Analysis problems published in the Guardian October 2017
  • LEAKED Ofsted  monitoring letter November 2017   Until very recently, the pace of change was too slow


  • Ofsted declared Kirklees inadequate November 25th 2016,
  • DfE Direction Letter November 2016, appointment Eleanor Brazil as Commissioner  (also in Slough and Dudley, previously in Sandwell)   to assess whether control of children’s social care should be removed from Council 
  • Kirklees to spend £450K on temporary social workers, November 2016 (Cabinet Briefing Paper November 2016)
  • Kirklees Director Children’s Services resigns + staff announce strike January 2017
  • New DC Gill Ellis (previously Kirklees Learning and Skills, Nottingham City, Sheffield)
  • Kirklees Cabinet debates Improvement Plan and children’s services funding, March 2017
  • Merlin Joseph appointed Improvement Director April 2017   (previously Hillingdon, Bromley, Dudley)
  • Ofsted next monitoring visit due 27/28 June 2017
  • Reports that children’s services could be “taken over” by Leeds, June 2017
  • Strike action + more on Leeds takeover July 2017
  • Gill Ellis DC retires, replaced by Steve Walker also DC Leeds + additional members workforce Leeds July 2017     More
  • Ofsted July 2017 pace of change hindered by workforce instability and high social work caseloads  More
  • DfE seeking commissioner, July 2017 average 4 days per month for 12 months, costs up to £48,960. Tender document 
  • Systemic failure, DfE July 2017
  • Commissioners Report completed March 2017, published September 2017, LA unable to make required improvements, must look at alternatives, Leeds to provide assistance in short term, willing to look at longer-term formal partnership, being President of ADCS during time of decline meant then Director of Children’s Services was away from Kirklees too much  More
  • Ofsted December 2017   pace of change too slow, widespread and serious failures, deterioration in management of risk to vulnerable children and quality of decision-making and assessment






  • Manchester  First declared inadequate in September 2014
  • DfE Direction Letter/Improvement Notice (March 2015, Government MAY appoint advisor, Council must set up Improvement Board including Independent Chair Edwina Grant (also with the Local Government Association and Chair of Solihull Local Safeguarding Children Board)
  • Investment ahead of Ofsted, July 2016 (“From a financial perspective the Prime Minister’s announcement in December 2015 indicates potentially significant financial implications for local authorities that fail their Ofsted multiple times”)
  • Ofsted October 2016 (made some progress)
  • Ofsted January 2017   made some progress More
  • Ofsted June 2017   areas of strength, areas where improvement is occurring, and areas that require more focus and development (* visit was in MARCH but publication of letter delayed by general election)
  • Ofsted July 2017  progress still mixed (* visit was in June)
  • Ofsted December 2017 out of inadequate, moved to requires improvement More




  • Rotherham First declared inadequate in December 2009
  • 4 Government appointed Commissioners to run council services, February 2015    
  • Lead Commissioner Report January 2016   (Sir Derek Myers Lead Commissioner, formerly Kensington and Chelsea/Hammersmith and Fulham)  council has made some good progress)
  •  DfE Direction Letter/Improvement Notice (February 2016 confirms return of certain functions to the council)
  • New Commissioner May 2016 (Patricia Bradwell, current deputy Leader Lincolnshire Council replaces Malcolm Newsam (MN still IB Independent Chair in Knowsley and also now Commissioner in Sandwell)
  • Ofsted monitoring letter, November 2016 clear evidence of improvement in some key areas but the quality of some social work practice remains poor. Arrangements for looked after children are delayed. Procedures not always followed when child protection concerns arise. Link
  • Ofsted monitoring letter March 2017  making continuous progress, positive organisational culture    More
  • Ofsted monitoring letter June 2017  areas of strength, areas where improvement is occurring and some areas where the progress has not met expectations



  • Slough First declared inadequate in 2011
  • Children’s Services Trust took over responsibility for the provision of children’s early help and social care functions along with specific special educational needs services on behalf of the council in September 2015.
  • DfE Direction Letter/Improvement Notice September 2016  (council gets back school attendance, children’s centres and early years sufficiency and funding from the Independent Trust, to be reviewed in March 2017. Commissioner Eleanor Brazil
  • Perspective from the Trust October 2016.                                                           
  • Ofsted monitoring letter, December 2016   improvements in first year of Trust  but much remains to be done          
  • £1.4m Innovation Funding new delivery model
  • Ofsted March 2017  making promising progress from a very low base  
  • Ofsted July 2017 Progress but still too variable
  • Ofsted October 2017   some improvement from low base More





  • Surrey First declared inadequate in 2008 (subsequently found “adequate” but then inadequate again in June 2015 (following inspection October/November 2014)
  • DfE Direction Letter/Improvement Notice  January 2016, Government appointed advisor Rose Durban.
  • Improvement Programme links here.                                                                           
  • Improvement Board  (chaired by Deputy Leader Surrey Council, ie NOT an Independent Chair)
  • Ofsted September 2016   (5th monitoring visit since deemed inadequate in 2015, beginning to make progress, from a low starting point, west of county is better than east)
  • Ofsted February 2017 continuing to make progress, more work to be done
  • Ofsted June 2017         continues to improve with notable progress in some areas 
  • Ofsted September 2017   some strengths + areas where improvement only recently accelerated +  some areas action required to address weaknesses
  • Ofsted November 2017 progress too slow, LA taking too long to address critical weaknesses   More




  • Ofsted April 2017   Council failing to meet ‘basic social work standards; Tower Hamlets was placed in the hands of government-appointed commissioners in 2015, with full powers only being restored to the council in March 2017 Political changes  More   
  • DfE Direction September 2017   appointing  Lincolnshire County Council  and Islington as Intervention Advisers  (Partners in Practice) More + Alan Wood (DfE Advisor, formerly in Hackney, former president ADCS, author of Wood Review advising scrapping LSCBs) as Chair of Improvement Board. More 







“Ofsted will usually re-inspect a local authority judged inadequate at its last inspection within two years of it submitting its action plan. The deadline for the local authority to submit its action plan is within 70 working days of receiving its pre-publication inspection report. A re-inspection will not usually take place until there have been at least four quarterly monitoring visits. This is because our evidence shows it is unlikely a local authority will be able to demonstrate sufficient improvement to alter its inspection outcome in less than a year.
Ofsted will tell the local authority when they decide that a re-inspection is the appropriate next step. At this point no further monitoring visits will be scheduled. Ofsted will not tell the local authority when that re-inspection will take place. The timing of the inspection is not within a prescribed timeframe but will be in the coming months. Ofsted will want to see that the improvements identified in the monitoring visits have been maintained.
Local authorities found to be inadequate across all or most areas will receive a full repeat single inspection. For local authorities in which inadequacy is less widespread – for example, a local authority that is inadequate in either, help and protection or children looked after – Ofsted may undertake a ‘post-monitoring single inspection’ instead.
The scope of the post-monitoring single inspection is the same as the single inspection and inspectors will make the same judgements. Inspectors will be on site for less time than in a full inspection under the SIF. The shorter fieldwork is possible because of the substantial body of evidence gathered by Ofsted on its quarterly monitoring visits.” January 19th 2017

On December 16th 2016 the Public Accounts Committee published its report  into the state of child protection in England saying that the Government must end complacency over children at risk of harm, and that there was still no credible plan to improve services.

“When things are going wrong locally it must intervene earlier—and to do that, it must use the information available to monitor and address emerging problems. It is not good enough to wait for the verdict of Ofsted’s routine inspections.”

In December 2015 the Government said that children’s services in local authorities which had persistently failed in the past, would be taken over “immediately”.

Putting Children First, July 2016 said the Government would: “intervene decisively in cases of failure, removing service control from any local authority which has persistently or systemically failed  and does not have the immediate capacity to improve” 

The focus is therefore on assessing capacity for improvement.

The Local Government Association has also commissioned Isos Partnership  to look at research into improvement in children’s services, focusing on INVESTMENT and STRUCTURES.

“It was very frequently necessary to invest heavily to turn around a poor children’s service. The level of additional investment quoted by local areas involved in the fieldwork ranged from about £1.5 million in a small authority to £35 million in a large authority.”  

“Following on from the current research project, we will be undertaking a follow-up research project focusing specifically on assessing the relative effectiveness of different structural models of formal improvement support and intervention [my emphasis] This research could then feed into:
 a growing evidence base of the models of support and intervention that should be considered and in what circumstances;
 clearer criteria and processes for how decisions about the different types of intervention are taken, allowing for more timely decisions and fewer false starts; and
 a system for ongoing monitoring of the different types of intervention so that interventions can be altered or escalated if necessary.”

Isos Partnership 2016 page 35 and pages 51-2.


At the end of 2015 Ofsted published an analysis of common weaknesses in LAs judged inadequate 

In May 2016 Ofsted said it would carry out  quarterly monitoring visits for councils judged inadequate in terms of safeguarding and children in need of help and protection, including looked after children, missing children, and children at risk of sexual exploitation.  Guidance here.

Sir Michael Wilshaw and Eleanor Schooling of Ofsted were questioned by the Government Education Committee in July 2015

Parliamentary Question arms length trusts, May 2016

“Which local authorities have had their children’s services transferred into arms-length trusts; whether these transfers cover all such services; what Ofsted reports are available on such transferred services; and what changes in performance these reports show.”
Answered by: Lord Nash 09 June 2016

DoncasterChildren’s Services Trust took over responsibility for delivering all children’s social care functions, apart from services for disabled children and universal early help services, on behalf of the council under Direction from the Secretary of State for Education and the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government in September 2014. Ofsted inspected children’s services in Doncaster in September 2015. The judgement was inadequate overall. However, the inspection found improvement since the previous inspection in 2012, when all sub-judgements were inadequate. In 2015, all sub-judgements were requires improvement, save for children in need of help and protection, which was inadequate; and adoption performance, which was good.

BUT SEE  Ofsted September 2016 Doncaster (“The local authority and the trust are making significant progress from a low baseline”)

Slough Children’s Services Trust took over responsibility for the provision of children’s early help and social care functions along with specific special educational needs services on behalf of the council under direction from the Secretary of State for Education in September 2015. Ofsted inspected children’s social care services in Slough in November 2015, less than 8 weeks after the Trust went live. The judgement was ‘inadequate’ overall. Despite the short amount of time that the trust had been in operation at the time of the inspection, Ofsted commented positively on the impact of the Trust leadership. Their report described how the pace of improvement accelerated since it was established. Encouragingly the inspectors reported that there were clear signs that the Trust understands what needs to change and there is evidence that it can deliver the required improvements.

SEE Slough DfE Direction Letter/Improvement Notice September 2016, review again in March 2017. It was reported at the end of October 2016 that Ofsted would be inspecting the Trust shortly.

Achieving for Children is a social enterprise company that delivers all education support and children’s services, as well as integrated health services for children with disabilities, on behalf of Kingston Upon Thames and Richmond Upon Thames councils. Prior to the creation of this voluntary trust in April 2014, safeguarding and looked after children services in Kingston were judged to be inadequate in May 2012, and child protection services were judged to be inadequate in June 2013. Children’s services in Kingston were judged to be good when they were inspected again in May 2015. Children’s services in Richmond were last inspected in March 2012 when they were rated good.”

Sir Michael Wilshaw and Eleanor Schooling of Ofsted were questioned by the Government Education Committee in July 2016:

William Wragg: Sir Michael, the Government have announced reforms that will take place where underperforming children’s services will be taken out of local authority control. What evidence does Ofsted have that this will lead to improvement?

Sir Michael Wilshaw: The picture is mixed at the moment. We were talking about this shortly before coming in. There are some independent trusts that are doing well. Doncaster is one, for example, but Slough isn’t doing particularly well. As you know, Birmingham has set up a voluntary independent trust. We will wait and see what happens there. I am pretty sceptical about whether that will work. If Birmingham has anything to do with it, it won’t go well. We wait to see whether these trusts work, but at the moment the picture is pretty mixed.

Q152       William Wragg: In your professional opinion, Eleanor, do you think that six months is enough time to expect significant improvements from a poorly performing authority? Is six months enough?

Eleanor Schooling: In six months it is possible to see whether there has been sufficient determination, and sufficient thought about what needs to happen next in order to see whether they are beginning to be on the road. Nobody is expecting the whole thing to have completely turned around in six months—that would be unrealistic—but I think that you can see the green shoots. If you look at the places that have improved quickly, they were certainly in a much better place by the time six months were up.

Q153       William Wragg: Are there any examples that really stand out where within six months they have at least changed direction?

Eleanor Schooling: I think in Kingston upon Thames they had changed direction within six months, and when we went back two years later they were good. That is a very rapid and solid improvement, so we do know it can be done. Kingston upon Thames is a similar size and population to Slough, and in terms of deprivation it is not that far away, but it was something to do with the determination of the people involved that meant that it happened in good time.

The person who worked with Kingston upon Thames is currently the commissioner in Sunderland, and we are optimistic about the work that is going on there too.

Formal intervention lifted in Devon, March 2016 

The Local Government Association has explained   here what happens to children’s services judged inadequate by Ofsted.  Unfortunately, this is only of limited value since it dates from  AUGUST 2015, before the introduction of quarterly Ofsted monitoring inspections and also before the then Prime Minister David Cameron  set out a timetable for formal intervention.



74 thoughts on “Intervention Level In Authorities Rated Inadequate by Ofsted

  1. Pingback: Checklist LAs Ofsted inadequate + relevant links | edyourself

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  4. Fiona Nicholson Post author

    Updated February 12th with links to Leicester Lancashire and Surrey new monitoring letters. Updated February 13th with news that South Gloucestershire has just been judged inadequate (more information to follow)


  5. Pingback: LAs Not Yet Had Ofsted Safeguarding Inspection | edyourself

  6. Fiona Nicholson Post author

    Updated June 13th with latest Ofsted for Birmingham, Coventry and Knowsley (2 last moving out of inadequate, but DfE improvement notices not yet closed) Also added notification of Gloucestershire’s being found inadequate


  7. Fiona Nicholson Post author

    Edited June 18th to add new Ofsted letters for Bromley, Surrey, Somerset and Wandsworth, also current DfE Direction Letter for Sunderland from April 2017 (voluntary trust)


  8. Fiona Nicholson Post author

    August 4th updated with latest monitoring letter for Kirklees + news of Reading children’s company + tender documents for commissioners in Barnet, Kirklees, Reading and Worcestershire



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