Number of authorities rated good or outstanding increases

Ofsted annual report shows improvement in local authorities rated good or outstanding

Published on 4th December 2018

The number of local authorities judged to be good or outstanding for their social care continues to rise, Ofsted's annual report states.

Two thirds of local authorities that were once judged inadequate have improved at re-inspection, the report adds.

"Currently, 42% of local authorities are judged good or outstanding, 45% as requires improvement to be good and 13% inadequate. This is an improvement from last year, when 36% were good or outstanding," said the report.

"We monitor inadequate local authorities and then re-inspect them. We have seen two thirds of inadequate local authorities improve at their re-inspection, some even to good. Seven local authorities, though, are struggling to improve," it added.

In children’s social care, funding for statutory services has largely been protected locally. However, reductions in funding for other areas, such as youth services, mean demand has been pushed downstream because LAs are less able to intervene early when young people need help.

Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector, Amanda Spielman said: "While statutory services have largely been protected from funding cuts, early help and prevention have indeed been cut back."

The report added: "The evidence suggests that these cuts to youth and other services are a false economy, simply leading to greater pressures elsewhere. More recently, LA leaders have begun to report unsustainable budget pressures in both adult and children’s social care. The recent experience of Northamptonshire should act as a cautionary tale of how  the funding situation in local government, coupled with poor management, can lead to a rapid decline in the quality of children’s services."

Ofsted explains that there are almost 12 million children and young people in England. The 152 English local authorities’ children’s services impact around 400,000 children in need in England each year and more than 75,000 of these children are children in care.

The annual report outlines how the inspectorate carried out 142 inspections and visits in 88 local authorities in the last year. Ofsted has also carried out joint targeted area inspections (JTAIs) in seven LAs and held annual engagement meetings with almost every local authority.

The final six SIF inspections carried out this year resulted in five LAs being judged good and one as requires improvement to be good. The first of the new inspections of local authority children’s services (ILACS) are showing that most LAs and their overall judgements are improving:

- Only one LA has declined since its SIF inspection

- Of the 16 LAs inspected three were judged outstanding

- Eight were judged as good

- Four require improvement

- One was rated as inadequate.

"One of the outstanding LAs was also the first LA to be judged outstanding in all areas judged," the report added.

"Most of the previously inadequate LAs improved at their SIF re-inspection. Of the 21 LAs to have received SIF re-inspections, two thirds improved from inadequate. Three were judged to be good and 11 to be requires improvement," it added.

Ofsted explains that nationally, the overall effectiveness of LAs continues to improve. When looking at the latest national picture compared with the picture after each LA’s first SIF inspection, the proportion judged good or outstanding has improved from 36% to 42%. There has been a large decrease in the proportion judged inadequate, from 22% to 13%.

However, the inspectorate warns that grooming gangs are a potential challenge in all  local authority areas. Practice over the past four years has "improved exponentially", leading to a wholly different response to vulnerable adolescents.
Many of the high-profile prosecutions of these gangs still relate to practice that pre-dates the watershed moment that was the  Alexis Jay report into Child Sexual Exploitation.

"Overall, the LA children’s services sector is a service demonstrating improvement, albeit not everywhere," the report adds.

To support LAs in improving their services for children, Ofsted carries out quarterly monitoring visits to those judged inadequate. This year, 66 monitoring visits have been carried out to 24 inadequate LAs.

Seven LAs were judged to still be inadequate at their re-inspection. Common features of LAs that struggle to improve from inadequate are:

● a failure to address longstanding weakness and their general pace of improvement

● insufficient staff and managers, including failures to recruit and retain them and the resultant high caseloads

● the quality of social work practice, including failures to identify risk and delay in both protecting and achieving permanent alternatives for children

● a lack of purposeful management oversight of practice.

The ILACS framework introduced 'the focused visit' as a new type of visit to local authorities and 39 were carried out this year.

Ofsted also carried out JTAIs looking at two themes: the neglect of older children and children at risk of exploitation.

"In the last year, we have conducted joint targeted area inspections on the neglect of older children and on children at risk of exploitation. When we looked at older neglected children, we found many examples of children being abused outside the family home, including being subject to exploitation.  When we looked through the lens of exploitation, we found many children who had experienced abuse in the home, including suffering neglect."

"The truth is that, while there has been a welcome focus in the public eye on tackling neglect of younger children, the same is not true as children get older. Indeed, because of the behaviours they can exhibit, older neglected children can at the same time be victims in need of support and doing harm to others," said the report.

"For that reason, a culture shift in how we understand and respond to the needs of older children is essential," the report concludes.

The Annual Report of Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Education, Children’s Services and Skills 2017/18

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