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Ofsted announces tougher inspections as senior figures resign

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Ofsted has announced more rigorous inspection of services for looked-after children, as details emerge of the resignations of two children’s services heads because of “inadequate” ratings in its most recent round of safeguarding checks.

The inspections body has published details of a new form of unannounced, two-week inspection of services for looked-after children and care leavers, which it will carry out alongside the Care Quality Commission from April 2013.

During the new inspections, details of which are out for consultation, inspectors will look at a sample of cases, assessing each child’s experience from entering care to leaving care. They will also focus on children placed in care homes far from their home, asking how the councils placing and hosting them are meeting their needs.

Stephen Richards, executive head of safeguarding, child protection and corporate parenting at Sutton LBC, left the council in late May after Ofsted rated its children’s safeguarding services as inadequate.

Last week Duncan Clark resigned from his post as director of learning and children’s services at Kingston upon Thames RBC, after the authority’s safeguarding services were rated as inadequate.

Kingston will share neighbouring Richmond LBC’s director of children’s services Nick Whitfield. Kingston leader Derek Osbourne (Lib Dem) said he was surprised by the rating because the authority’s services had previously received strong ratings, but that he welcomed Ofsted’s “tough scrutiny.”  

LGC reported last week that councils had been taken by surprise by the phasing in of tougher measures over the past four months, which caused a spike in the number found to be failing. Ofsted reports show Wiltshire Council and Cumbria CC are also among those in which children’s safeguarding services have been found inadequate.

In a speech to the annual conference of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services last week, children’s minister Tim Loughton said: “I am acutely aware of the fact that these successes [of some councils] do not excuse the very serious examples of service failures we have sometimes seen … They are challenges I want you to put at the top of your in tray if they aren’t already.”

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