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Children’s Services Directors respond to Ofsted’s criticisms of children’s services

‘Ofsted’s approach is not conducive to strong, stable leadership’

The Association of Directors of Children's Service has responded to Ofsted's National Social Care Report in which it described a lack of stable leadership in may authorities' children's services.

Andrew Webb, President of the Association of Directors of Children's Service (ADCS) said:

"All DCSs, whether their services have been judged to be outstanding or inadequate, are committed to improving services for the children in their local area.

To deliver sustainable, good services we need strong and stable leadership teams in local authorities as one of the key factors in high performing children's services departments.

Ofsted's approach to inspection, namely the single word judgment, is not conducive to this. A judgment of inadequate, and the subsequent instability this can cause, can be detrimental to the improvement journey of a local authority. A narrative judgment would allow local authorities to work with their local partners including health, police and education to form an action plan to ensure improvement in their local area."

Ofsted's report found that there remains a need for improvement in the performance of local authorities. Whilst finding at the end of the first full cycle of local authority inspections that around four in 10 local authorities to be good or better for safeguarding, it said:

"17 local authorities to be inadequate. After reinspecting the weakest, focusing on child protection as the area of highest risk, this increased to 20 inadequate local authorities. What makes this picture complex is the extent to which the cohort of local authorities has changed position between the two inspections. The group of authorities currently judged inadequate is different to the group with an inadequate judgement last July. Additionally, four local authorities have improved convincingly and are now judged good, some with a trajectory that may improve further.

".... In the weakest places, the most basic acceptable practice is not in evidence. There are weaknesses in supervision, management oversight, purposeful work with families and decisive action when children are at risk of being harmed. Conversely, where change programmes have worked, local authorities have focused intently on front-line practice and management: their senior leaders have made sure that expectations were clear; and they scrutinised the impact of practice on children and families."

Cllr David Simmonds, Chairman of the Local Government Association's Children and Young People Board, said:

"Nothing councils do is more important than protecting children and the responsibility on local authorities to continually make sure children are becoming safer is one which every council takes incredibly seriously.

"Heinous crimes of neglect and abuse have brought sharply into focus the need for vigilance. As a result there are tens of thousands more children on the radar of social services than seven years ago. The number of looked-after children under the care and supervision of local authorities is now higher than at any point in almost 30 years.

"Councils know they have a key role to play in looking after children but it is not a job which they can do alone. It is everyone's responsibility to keep children safe from harm. The aim must now be to create a culture of moral responsibility in which people know how to raise the alarm and feel confident that if they come forward with legitimate concerns those concerns will be dealt with in a swift, proportionate and effective way."

Ofsted's National Social Care Report can be read here.