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Ofsted will prioritise inadequate authorities when inspection re-starts

Local authority children’s services rated inadequate at their last inspection will be prioritised when Ofsted re-starts its inspection process and begins focused visits again after it was temporarily halted during lockdown.

When Ofsted begins prioritising local authorities for focused visits from late September to early October, it will take into account those judged inadequate at their last inspection, those with an area for priority action, those which Ofsted has concerns about following information received since their last inspection/visit, those that have not yet had a standard or short inspection under the inspection of local authority children’s services (ILACS) framework and timing of other activity.

“We also plan to include a sample of local authorities judged good or outstanding at their last inspection to identify practice that will help others to improve their plans for recovery and help maintain confidence in this essential work,” said Ofsted.

The inspectorate will carry out a phased return to routine inspection. While their regulatory work has never stopped, Ofsted will now visit more providers to provide assurance about the settings and services we regulate. In the interim phase, Ofsted will return to providing assurance about the work of local authorities for the most vulnerable children.

“Our goal is to give helpful feedback to providers and reassurance to children, families, commissioners and other stakeholders,” said a statement from the inspectorate, which added that graded judgements will not be given.

“We will set out our findings in a report/letter to the provider/local authority. We will make it clear if we have any serious concerns about practice and/or the experiences of children. When necessary, we will make requirements and recommendations for improvement,” added the statement.

The interim arrangements will not start before September 2020 and for local authorities, the interim period will run initially until the end of December 2020 although this could be extended if measures for responding to and recovering from COVID-19 carry on into 2021.

In terms of the social care common inspection framework, Ofsted will focus on providing assurance that children are safe and well cared for, and on identifying any serious or widespread concerns in the interim period.

Both off-site and on-site activity will be carried out based on an assessment of risks for individuals and taking into account government guidance at the time of the visit.

Regarding visits, these will take place from September 2020 and will be prioritised based on the most recent inspection judgements, other information held about the provider, the amount of time since the last inspection and whether the provider is newly registered and therefore not yet been inspected.

Ofsted will evaluate:
- the experiences and progress of children and young people, taking into account the COVID-19 context
- how well children and young people are helped and protected
- the effectiveness of leadership and management, including arrangements to meet the needs of children as restrictions are eased.

Ofsted will publish a report after the visit, without a graded judgement. Each report will clearly state whether inspectors found any serious or widespread concerns for the welfare of children. When they do so, the report will clearly identify and describe those concerns. The report will make requirements and recommendations for improvement, as necessary. Enforcement powers will be utilised if necessary.

In relation to monitoring visits, Ofsted concluded: “We are still looking at how we can best respond to local authorities judged inadequate at their most recent inspection but that have not yet had their first monitoring visit. We will confirm our plans later in July.”

“These local authorities may still receive an assurance visit in the remainder of the interim period,” the statement concluded.

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