The watchdog Ofsted has announced plans for a new form of children’s services inspection that will run alongside its existing programme of checks.
Under the plans, published for consultation this week, Ofsted will embark on a new programme of “integrated” inspections in which it will work alongside the Care Quality Commission and the national inspectorates of constabulary, probation and prisons.
Between 20 and 25 councils will see their Ofsted inspection replaced by one of the new integrated inspections, in which the five watchdogs will visit a local authority area within a four-week “inspection window”.
They will produce separate findings and judgments about different services – local authority children’s services, as well as NHS and police services covering children – within one report.
The report will also include a shared judgment about the effectiveness of the local safeguarding children board, a panel on which local agencies co-ordinate safeguarding activities.
In its consultation document, Ofsted said councils to which it was returning following a previous “inadequate” judgment would be among those facing the new inspections. Local authority areas in which other inspectorates had concerns about services would also face the new checks, it said.
However, it said at least 25% of the areas inspected under the integrated system would be those in which no concerns had been raised. This was to allow the watchdog to “disseminate good practice”.
The new integrated inspections are due to begin in April 2015. Ofsted’s current cycle of inspections of local authority children’s services started in November 2013 and will run for three years.