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Ofsted announces no notice inspections for child protection

Inspections are re-focused to concentrate on key areas

Ofsted is to introduce no notice inspection for child protection services. The new child protection framework will come into effect in May.

The no notice inspections, carried out over a two-week period, will see a team of experienced inspectors spending the majority of their time talking directly to children and their families about their experiences, as well as front-line social workers and managers. Inspectors will also shadow social workers in their work with children and their families, and observe multi-agency working.

Ofsted Deputy Chief Inspector, John Goldup said:

'This new framework puts the child's experience at the heart of inspection. We want to ensure that inspectors are able to judge the impact that professionals working in child protection are making to help children and protect them from harm.

'For the first time in our child protection inspections, we'll be talking to children and their families directly and shadowing social workers in their day-to-day work. This will be a very important part of the evidence that inspectors will use. We won't just look at what happens to children when they become subject to formal child protection processes – it's just as important to evaluate the help that children and their families do or don't get early on, when problems first emerge, because that can make a critical difference to whether the problems get worse and the risks to the child escalate.'

The number of cases being examined by inspectors will be doubled to ensure there is an in-depth understanding of how well children are protected. Inspectors will sit alongside social workers and managers to go through case files and explore the support provided for each child.

The new framework will focus on those things that Ofsted identifies as making the most difference to children. Inspectors will make judgements in three key areas, replacing the nine judgements made in current inspections:

Inspectors will gather evidence from these key areas and make a summary judgement on the overall effectiveness of the service.

The new framework comes about after taking into account the responses from a public consultation held between July and September last year.

BASW welcomes Ofsted's announcement
The British Association of Social Workers (BASW) has welcomed Ofsted's announcement that it will introduce no notice inspections for child protection services.

Commenting as Ofsted publishes its new framework, Nushra Mansuri, BASW professional officer, said:

"We wholeheartedly support unannounced inspections; there is less opportunity to mask poor practice and more reflection of reality.

"We have anecdotal evidence from members of how poorly performing local authorities can still get through inspection processes through unscrupulous means such as altering information. We also hear from members that the current Ofsted process is not effective or trusted by social workers.

"We do have reservations about proposals for giving local authorities currently rated 'outstanding' far longer periods between inspections, as they could easily revert to poor practice.

"We want to see a new inspection framework that enables the sharing of good practice across the country. Inspectors should consistently have personal experience of social work practice and ideally be qualified social workers.

"It is critical that the voices of frontline practitioners are heard, and that workplaces have an effective whistle blowing service so that social workers can raise concerns without being identified and punished, as enshrined in our Code of Ethics.

Children and young people should be involved in partnership with inspectors, so that their voices can be heard and we can learn to develop services according to their experiences."