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Ofsted seeks to raise standards in foster care with improved inspection regime

Regulator explains how changes to inspection procedures will benefit fostered children

As Foster Care Fortnight 2012 comes to an end this weekend, Ofsted has published an explanation of how its latest revisions to the inspection of fostering services places are intended to focus even more firmly on the welfare and safety of children and young people.

Better inspection arrangements
From April, after consulting with children and young people, foster carers and professionals, Ofsted made further improvements to its arrangements for inspecting the fostering services that local authorities and independent agencies provide. One of the key changes is that inspectors focus much more on the views and experiences of those using the service and on the progress children and young people make. Ofsted has also introduced new online questionnaires to gather the views of children, young people, birth relatives and foster carers as well as other interested parties.

Ofsted says that its trained social care inspectors talk to social workers, staff, children, young people and foster carers to find out whether children and young people in foster care have been placed in suitable placements within good time and whether they are being looked after properly and making progress. They also look at the impact on children from the training and support that agencies provide to foster carers. They read case files and examine other evidence but they do not visit foster carers' homes as this is an inspection of the fostering service provider not individual foster carers. Inspectors have to report honestly and clearly, ensuring that the judgements they make are fair and reliable and based on clear evidence and promote the best interests and well-being of service users.

Focusing on the child
Ofsted says that it inspects the quality of services and whether the placements made are stable, appropriate and of benefit to children and young people. It also looks at what safeguards are in place to ensure that unsuitable people do not have unsupervised contact with children and young people. The inspectors check that leaders and managers are monitoring the quality and impact of the services, are continually striving to improve them and making sure that effective partnerships have been forged with all those involved with the children and young people.

At the end of the inspection, inspectors give feedback to service providers about their initial findings including the strengths and weaknesses that they have found. They discuss the requirements that services need to fulfil and recommend how they can improve further.