News support feature: Annual Report focus on children and families services
Overall, the quality of services for children and families continues to improve in children’s homes, in adoption and fostering and in local authorities. However, one in five of the local authorities inspected this year are failing to protect children in their area adequately from risk of harm, according to Ofsted’s latest Annual Report published on 22 November.
The Annual Report of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Education, Children's Services and Skills 2010/11 is a summary of Ofsted’s work from September 2010 to August 2011. It draws on evidence throughout the year of inspection and regulation by Ofsted, including findings from childcare, children’s social care, schools and education and skills provision for learners of all ages.
This article focuses on the 4,000 inspections Ofsted carried out of children’s homes and 170 of adoption agencies and fostering services. There were a further 131 inspections of local authority child protection contact, referral and assessment services, and 47 full inspections of local authority arrangements for safeguarding children and their services for children in care.
Over two thirds of homes that were judged satisfactory three years ago were found to be good or better this year under new inspection arrangements introduced in April 2011. The new arrangements have a strong emphasis on the experience and outcomes for children and young people in homes. However, the Annual Report highlights that although the education directly provided by or linked to children’s homes is good or outstanding in around half of the homes inspected; in 11% it is inadequate. This is a serious concern as many children entering care need more support to overcome barriers to learning.
Adoption and fostering
Although 61 of the 68 adoption agencies inspected this year were judged good or outstanding, too many children are waiting too long to be adopted. Around 79% of the 102 fostering agencies and services inspected in 2010/11 were providing good or better services.
The majority of authorities are providing good children’s services across the full range of their responsibilities, with 28 authorities providing excellent services for children in their area, 8 more than last year. However, the pattern of improvement is still too variable. In child protection services, as found last year, it is not differences in resources, deprivation, demand, or size of authority that make the difference between a good authority and an inadequate one. The differences are about leadership and management, the strength of partnership working, and whether child protection sits within a well co-ordinated network of other services, especially early intervention services.
No local authority was judged to be outstanding this year for its safeguarding services. In the nine local authorities that were not effective in keeping children and young people safe, we found delays in responding to the needs of children and families, poor quality partnership working and a lack of shared understanding of processes as well as poor performance management of social workers.
On a more positive note, we found that in the second cycle of unannounced inspections of contact, referral and assessment arrangements for child protection that we carried out this year, in a great majority of local authorities the weaknesses identified in the first inspection, a year earlier, had been effectively addressed.
Secure training centres
In 2010/11 Ofsted also inspected the four secure training centres which provide places for children and young people between the ages of 12 and 17 who have been remanded or sentenced by the courts. The quality of care was found to be outstanding in three centres and inadequate in one. Over the last two years we have observed that, the use of physical restraint in these centres is dropping.
New inspection arrangements for local authorities
Building on what we have learnt from these inspections, and informed by the independent review of child protection carried out by Professor Eileen Munro, we are now revising our local authority inspection arrangements so that they will focus even more on the quality of the work for children and on the outcomes achieved by children.
Links to the Annual Report 2010/11 and accompanying videos are listed as associated resources below.