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LGA criticises Ofsted’s ‘blinkered approach’ to inspecting children’s services

Senior local government leaders convene summit on CSE

The true quality of activity to tackle child abuse and neglect across the country could be being obscured because of Ofsted's blinkered approach to inspecting children's services, local government leaders have warned.

The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents councils in England and Wales, is calling for an overhaul of the way children's services are inspected, so the roles of everyone involved in protecting vulnerable children are monitored and included in a judgment.

Current Ofsted arrangements for the inspection of children's services are too narrow, taking a limited view of council performance and failing to assess the contribution of crucial agencies such as health and the police, the LGA said.

The warning came as senior local government leaders convened at a summit on child sexual exploitation, jointly organised by the LGA, Solace and the Association of Directors of Children's Services (ADCS). Politicians and senior council officers discussed how to better protect children in the future.

Ofsted's proposals to revamp inspection of children's services would, says the LGA, continue to see the regulator and other inspectorates work in narrow silos, conducting separate inspections at the same time rather than adopting a fully multi-agency approach that assesses the contribution of all agencies together. Council leaders say this fails to recognise the crucial importance of all agencies working together around the needs of children and young people.

The LGA says that councils take their responsibility to protect children seriously and are working hard to tackle child sexual exploitation but cannot do this alone. Councils work with health services, the police and other organisations, such as youth clubs and outreach services, to protect children, and inspection of children's services must mirror this approach.

Delegates at the summit focused on sharing information and best practice to ensure the fight against child exploitation becomes everyone's business. The LGA also launched a resources pack at the summit to help council leaders assess the robustness of local approaches.

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

"Keeping children safe is the most important thing that councils do, but we know we cannot do it alone. Protecting children does not fall only to councils, but to the police, health services, schools and local groups. Inspections must reflect this. It is not fair to the children we are working to protect that Ofsted inspections only focus on council children's services, failing to properly assess the essential work done by other organisations.

"Today's local government summit on child sexual exploitation brings together council leaders with police, the NHS and children's charities. We all recognise that it is only by working together to improve the way we protect children in the future that this evil crime can be eradicated and victims given the confidence to come forward.

"We need scrutiny processes to adopt the same approach, so every organisation involved in child protection is examined during an inspection. Councils are committed to this joint work; we need inspection processes to adapt so nothing falls through the cracks."

The LGA has previously raised concerns that Ofsted is too media-focused and can no longer be relied upon to deliver trustworthy judgments.