A new report published today, which explores the challenges faced by children’s services, calls for the inspection process to be modernised and offers a vision for what a future sustainable model of care should be.
The report, Breaking the Lock, by consultancy firm iMPOWER, highlights what it believes to be a fundamental disconnect between Ofsted and local government and explains what is driving this dysfunction.
The paper claims that Ofsted's approach to inspection is outdated and 'fails to appreciate the role that partner agencies can plain in delivering better outcomes for children and families, while also helping to ensure safe access to services for children in need or at risk of being in need'.
The report attempts to argue and evidence a new model for children’s services that is both financially sustainable and improves life chances for children. The model proposes a major shift towards integrated prevention and early help for vulnerable families, the need for which has been highlighted successfully by the government’s Troubled Families Programme.
Amanda Kelly, Executive Director for iMPOWER and author of the report highlights the following key points:
The impact of the single word judgement ‘inadequate’ from Ofsted can have a catastrophic spiralling effect on a local authority, turning a poorly performing authority into a broken one (data provided in the notes below from four randomly sampled authorities shows this).
The rise in family breakdown as a leading cause of children needing support is exposing fundamental weaknesses in the current model of children’s services (a lack of early intervention is allowing manageable problems to descend into acute crisis).
There is national shortage of social workers meaning that struggling councils are overly reliant on agency staff costing more money and leading to less consistency of support for vulnerable children.
Children’s services and Ofsted need to collaboratively modernise to reflect the reality of the public sector’s financial climate and the growing complexity of needs that vulnerable families have.
The report also calls for the newly elected government in May to make improving the safeguarding of vulnerable children a core priority of its first 100 days in office. The report recommends that a new government create a Royal Commission into the protection of vulnerable children and young people, similar to a recent royal commission conducted in Australia to institutional responses to child sexual abuse.