Ofsted new framework for the Inspection of Local Authority Children’s Services [ILACS] will begin in 2018. Each year, Ofsted will ask local authorities to share a self-evaluation of social work practice and meet with Ofsted regional representatives to discuss data, plus there will be standard and short inspections as described here.
Ofsted says the LA’s self-evaluation should focus on what does the LA know about the quality and impact of social work practice in the local authority; how is this known; and what are the LA’s plans for the next 12 months to maintain or improve practice.
If the self-evaluation identifies weaknesses in practice and the local authority has credible plans to take clear, appropriate and effective action in response, Ofsted will treat this as effective leadership rather than an automatic trigger for an inspection or focused visit.
Ofsted says there is no prescribed format or content for the self-evaluation, although it may include the following documentation: an overview of how the local authority evaluates the impact of social work practice with children and families; high-level performance reports that give the most recent position of the local authority case audit plans; case audit summaries of learning; outcome of multi-agency section 11 audit work; recent learning about frontline social work practice, for example from complaints or serious case and management reviews; feedback from children and families. See also data listed in Annex A.
The annual engagement meeting may be solely about children’s social care or part of a broader meeting covering education and early years. This will be determined by the region. The intelligence gathered from the meeting will inform any plans for future inspection activity and focused visits. Ofsted will write to the Director of Children’s Services within a month of the meeting but the letter will not be published.
In standard and short inspections, inspectors will evaluate the experiences of all specified groups of children and young people below whereas on focused and monitoring visits, they will narrow it down.
- children who are at risk of harm but who have not yet reached the ‘significant harm’ threshold;
- children who have been referred to the local authority, including those for whom urgent action has to be taken to protect them;
- children subject to further assessment and those subject to child protection enquiries;
- children who become the subject of a multi-agency child protection plan;
- children who have been assessed as no longer needing a child protection plan, but who may need continuing help and support;
- children/families who are receiving social work services because there are significant levels of concern about their safety and welfare;
- children who are missing from education or are being offered alternative provision.
In addition, inspectors will evaluate the impact of leaders and managers on social work practice with children and families and whether the local authority’s own evaluation of the quality and impact of its performance and practice is accurate.
On a standard inspection, Ofsted will give five working days’ notice of the inspection. The inspection team will usually be four social care inspectors. A schools inspector will be on site for one day. The schools HMI will analyse data and information about: the educational progress of children in care and care leavers; elective home-educated children; children missing education.
A short inspection covers the same scope as a standard inspection. In a short inspection for good (or rare outstanding LAs) inspectors will seek to answer three questions: has the quality and impact of practice been maintained; are there any areas where the quality and impact of practice have improved; are there any areas where the quality and impact of practice have deteriorated.
Pre Inspection Analysis [PIA] will summarise: a contextual overview of the local authority; findings from relevant inspections (including previous focused visits) and regulatory activity, including some inspections carried out by other inspectorates; regional intelligence about the effectiveness and impact of the virtual school on the educational progress of children in care; the summary of findings from published serious case reviews; analysis of published statistics and national comparisons; evidence from whistleblowing or complaints to Ofsted; regional intelligence including events of public concern, such as high-profile court cases or media issues; search and review of recently published documentation, such as the independent reviewing officer annual report.
Focused visits will happen between standard and short inspections, usually with five working days’ notice. Ofsted will make the final decision about the focused visit topic based on one or more of the following: a specific area of service that has been identified in a local authority as an example of good or outstanding practice; a specific area of service that has been identified as one that needs to improve or an area where themes, trends and issues are identified. Inspectors will not make graded judgements at the outcome of a focused visit. The outcome will be findings about strengths and areas for improvement, reported in a published letter. Where inspectors find serious weaknesses, they will identify areas for priority action.
When the lead inspector contacts the local authority, she/he will ask for lists containing child-level data. ANNEX A
List 1: All those who have been the subject of a contact in the three months before inspection.
List 2: All those who have been the subject of an early help assessment, a common assessment or a targeted intervention in the six months before inspection.
List 3: All those who have been the subject of a referral in the three months before inspection.
List 4: All those who have been the subject of a statutory assessment in accordance with section 17 or section 47 of the Children Act 1989 in the six months before inspection.
List 5: All those who have been the subject of a section 47 enquiry in the six months before inspection.
List 6: All those in receipt of services as a child in need at the point of inspection. Include those who ceased to receive services as a child in need in the three months before inspection.
List 7: All those who are the subject of a child protection plan at the point of inspection. Include those who ceased to be the subject of a child protection plan in the three months before inspection.
List 8: All those children in care as at the point of inspection. Include all those children who ceased to be looked after in the six months before inspection.
List 9: All those care leavers who are receiving leaving care services as at the point of inspection.
List 10: All those children who have been adopted in the 12 months before inspection, those where the decision that the child should be placed for adoption has been made but they have not yet been adopted, and those who had an adoption decision which was subsequently reversed during the period. List 11: All those individuals who in the last 12 months have had contact with the local authority adoption agency by having (a) made an enquiry, received an information pack and attended a follow up interview; and/or (b) had an enquiry or application in progress 12 months ago and have subsequently been approved / rejected; and/or (c) had a child placed with them in the last 12 months.
1.02 The local authority’s scheme of delegation, case transfer policy (including step-up/down from or to early help) and any workflow documents/flowcharts that will help inspectors understand how children’s social care work is structured
1.03 Management information reports that the local authority uses to monitor and improve performance. This should include the most recent monthly/quarterly report/s and the last annual overview document
1.04 The local authority’s arrangements to gather feedback from children and their families, complaints and serious case reviews and what the local authority has done in response to improve practice
1.05 The most recent self-evaluation of social work practice and any peer review or similar external evaluation of practice, undertaken in the last 12 months
1.06 A sample of local authority and multi-agency practice audits of work with children in need, at risk of significant harm and those who are looked after or care leavers undertaken in the six months before inspection and any associated improvement/action plans
1.07 The workforce profile for social care staff working with children in need, children subject to child protection plans, children in care and care leavers (including: the number of qualified social workers and their post-qualifying experience; the number of vacancies for permanent staff; the number of locum/agency staff; the extent of staff turnover/stability and sickness levels; and average caseloads of staff by team). This should include information the local authority uses to understand its workforce profile within particular localities, offices or teams.
1.08 The workforce development strategy, including the core training and development offer for social workers and their managers and any evaluation of the impact of this undertaken in the last twelve months
1.09 Social work caseload and supervision policy
1.10 The thresholds/criteria for the provision of services to children at different levels of need
1.11 the annual report by the local safeguarding partners
1.12 the safeguarding arrangements agreed by the local safeguarding partners
1.13 minutes from the last 12 months of meetings of the local safeguarding partners
Children in need of help and protection, including early help
2.01 The early help strategy, any associated action plan and relevant management information on the quality, timeliness and impact of the early help provided to children and their families. This should include, as a minimum, the number of early help assessments or similar, completed in the last 12 months and the number currently receiving a service through a team around the family (TAF)
2.02 Information about children missing from home or care, children suffering or at risk of sexual exploitation and the services these groups of children receive. This should include the unique ID and dates of birth (where available) for children who have been missing or at risk of sexual exploitation within the last 12 months. This should indicate the current status of these children (care leaver, looked after child, child protection, child in need or not receiving a statutory service) and highlight those that are both missing and at risk of sexual exploitation, any child sexual exploitation or missing strategies and associated action plans
, any workflow documents/flowcharts that will assist inspectors to understand work done to reduce the risks to children from sexual exploitation and going missing is structured and delivered, the most recent performance management and quality assurance information used to monitor and develop practice in these areas of work.
2.03 A report on those children known to the local authority who are currently being privately fostered. This report should include, for each child: child unique ID and the date of birth, date private fostering arrangement commenced
2.04 The number of children who are electively home educated
2.05 A report on children, for whom the local authority is responsible, who are of school age and who are not in receipt of full-time school education at the time of inspection. This report should include for each child: type of educational provision that they are receiving, including home tuition, number of hours provision per week (in particular, whether they are receiving more or less than 25 hours per week), type of exclusion (if the child has been excluded), date when alternative provision commenced.
3.01 The strategic plan for children in care, the corporate parenting strategy/plan and the last three sets of minutes from the meetings of the corporate parenting board
3.02 The latest sufficiency strategy and any associated action or commissioning plans
3.03 The arrangements for permanence planning and any associated strategy, action plan and management information used to monitor performance
3.04 The most recent adoption and fostering panel reports to the local authority
3.04 The local Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) strategy, any associated action plan and recent, relevant management information, including length of waiting time, average length of help offered and any outcome information routinely collected
3.05 The management report of the independent reviewing officer service
3.06 The annual report of the headteacher of the virtual school
3.07 The data the virtual school head and the local authority use to monitor the attainment, progress, attendance, exclusion, employment and training of children in care and care leavers
3.08 Evidence of an appropriate focus on maintaining and improving the health of children looked after, including data on health (physical, psychological and emotional) assessments and dental checks
3.09 The number of young people currently placed under secure accommodation welfare orders (section 25 of the Children Act 1989)
3.10 Any care leavers strategy, associated action plan and relevant recent management information used to monitor and develop practice (to include ‘in-touch’ figures and information about the completion of Pathway plans).
3.11 Information the local authority uses to track and manage cases in the public law outline (PLO).