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For the best regulator we can achieve together.
This document contains considered reflections and recommendations by recipients of the regulator’s inspection services. They are offered as practical y as possible to ease implementation by the regulator.
They look towards a set of col aboratively developed shared values underpinning inspection al owing a clarification of conduct and methods and the experiencing of greater consistency and unambiguity in standards/inspection work.
These observations could enhance inspection through a ‘dialogue of improvement.’ Improvements in inspection methodology are addressed with the triangulation of evidence being seen as especial y important.
Transparency of judgement, and of access and equity to quality assurance, is addressed throughout. There is a cal for a reclaimed ‘precedent log’ where situations and judgements are accessible by both inspector and provider.
There are many positive comments along with some important provider perspectives regarding their current negative evaluation of chal enge and complaints.
Throughout there are repeated comments that it is vital that inspector knowledge and experience be suited to the home being inspected. There are many suggestions as to how this can be boosted.
A new relationship is heralded through a desire for the regulator to have a learning and improvement function for and with providers, where definitions and examples of what is seen as good practice are disseminated or developed through regional events attended by inspectors and providers together.
It should be noted that there are not only recommendations made for the regulator but also for providers, and some to be achieved together, hence the title – ‘For the best regulator we can achieve together.’
Recommendations as they appear in the report – for Ofsted
• A statement is sent to al inspectors and providers, to be read immediately preceding the start of an
inspection, setting out the foundation of the inspection and how it is to be evaluated. This to be signed by inspector and provider.
• Need to clarify for inspectors and providers re outcomes re progress and outstanding.
• Ofsted to run regional sessions for providers to make it clear what is expected to gain better outcomes
linking work needed to Ofsted documents.
• The necessity of using the methodology of triangulation of evidence is in need of reiterating for inspectors
and sources being made explicit in each inspection.
• Ofsted to review the delivery of consistency by inspectors regarding their evaluation of outcome grade,
and evidence and information against current bench marking arrangements.
• There should be joint sessions of inspector and providers regional y evaluating scenarios arriving at a clear
shared consensus. These should be disseminated.
• The ‘precedent log’, where real instances are described with the method the inspector used in arriving at
the outcome, should return immediately, with open access to inspectors and providers.
• More use of the Code of Conduct to evaluate inspector and inspection – to be completed by provider
and sent to Ofsted and ICHA as Quality Assurance and subject to joint scrutiny.
• Discussion of the CV of the inspector should always be first action of an inspection.
• Matching inspector knowledge and experience is reported as directly affecting the inspection.
Residential experience in itself is not enough, there must be experience in the type of approach used in the home.
• Explore potential for seconded inspectors from the sector to ensure knowledge and experience are
• Protocol be drawn up and joint exercise between inspectors and providers regional y - engaging in
feedback – constructive dialogue, referenced to good practice
• Discussion between providers and Ofsted as to return of ‘improvement function’ and how best this
• Good practice guide/examples - Ofsted to be clear for providers what is anticipated with regards
to how better to approach outcomes and quality of care with safeguarding, and especial y how to evaluate ‘kept safe and feels safe.’
• There is stil more to be done regarding the consistency and transparency of inspection evaluation
that wil support a ‘dialogue of improvement.’
• Outcomes formats to be developed by providers – evidence provided wil reduce and make
accountable interpretation by inspectors.For providers
• Early discussion with Ofsted and DfE regarding the effects on admissions as affecting placement
• Access to Ofsted QA by both inspector and provider• Inspectors to note dialogue as standard practice and sign off by provider. Ofsted QA to assess
dialogue and not solely evidence from inspector.
• Ofsted QA to write to provider with response of their evaluation of evidence and dialogue. • In al cases where there are a number of chal enges during an inspection there should be a repeat
inspection made and not the current reliance of inspector evidence.For providers
• Need to be assertive and provide evidence.
• Ofsted to review its complaints procedure fol owing workshops for providers where their anticipated
outcomes of a complaints procedure are made clear.
• The current complaints procedure is conducted by Ofsted personnel to stage two. Stage two should
be revised to include an independent person. Ofsted need to note the disrepute with which their complaints system is held. Providers feel it is self-serving for Ofsted, bureaucratic, and as a result it is not used. The lack of a healthy whistleblowing on inspectors and of the few complaints made is of concern.
• Where a home complains the next inspection should not be undertaken by that inspector.
• Take systematic steps to create relationships with commissioners
• Structured feedback from social workers and IRO’s fol owing each visit.
• Develop outcomes framework and communicate frequently
• Develop method for young people to offer structured feedback on experience of placement
• (What positive remarks would you give to inspectors and Ofsted as an organisation?) An exceedingly
helpful set of responses with enormous scope for development into policy and practice. Link to those for the question ‘Was the outcome of inspection a fair and just evaluation of your home?’
• A formal response be sent to providers responding to these helpful suggestions and indicating how
• Explore how inspection can become untied from one pair of eyes – triangulate Regulation 33 and
• Ofsted to involve providers in reflecting on service improvement of regulator – ‘What could providers
do that would assist with burden of inspection and increase effectiveness?’
• Ofsted and DfE should be able to hold publicly divergent perspectives in a dialogue as a
demonstration of partial independence.
• As no other setting or service is regulated by those outwith knowledge and experience so residential
child care requires inspection by peers.
• Clearly there is an untapped resource and the many ways it could be utilised could be explored. Some
examples - peer inspectors; to ensure appropriate knowledge and experience; as seconded inspectors for a period of time or to cover specialist sectors.
• Consistency and unambiguity in standards/inspection work. • Attach an inspector for a series of inspections - al ows a relationship and insight to be built up over time
with discussion throughout the year and to evaluate progression.
• Pro formas – e.g sanctions, logs.
• More consultation.
• Training for providers arising from findings from inspections - themes and good practice.
• Advice, guidance and improvement – inspectors need more on the different models of care so they are
not drawing only on their own experience and ‘able to take a view of young person on the behaviours they exhibited on when they moved into the home.’
• Spending time with young people, especial y mealtimes.
ICHA committee comment
We welcome the many positive ways forward this report brings and urge Ofsted to choose to take them up.
Whilst this report is directed towards development of the regulator as a minimum objective we take this opportunity to suggest looking at other methods of improvement of the quality of care. We should like to join with the DfE and Ofsted in taking forwards aspirations for the regulation of the sector. Responding to a 2012 DfE consultation ICHA made the offer to explore with the DfE and Ofsted the efficiency and effectiveness of current inspection arrangements. A report was not produced by DfE for that consultation and so we take the opportunity of this report to make public the offer.
There are already existing requirements for monitoring and reporting, by internal management through Regulation 34, and by external ‘others’ through Regulation 33. There is opportunity to develop these through the accreditation of practitioners and a national methodology designed to encompass Quality Assurance measures, an aspect noted as valuable in Ofsted reports. Here we could begin to gather in some of the learning within this report as this monitoring would be undertaken only by those with extensive residential knowledge and experience.
The QA could be an expanded version of the current inspection framework. The sector is disappointed by the current National Minimum Standards. We believe that that they do not reflect the needs of young people who come to residential child care, nor of the role and tasks of caring for them. The then DCSF ensured the NMS for children’s homes are too much like those for fostering. We think the decision was based on a misunderstanding of the needs and sector. There should be graduated set of NMS with those for fostering being a base but expanded as needs increase through residential special schools to children’s homes, the children with the highest level of needs.
Ofsted inspectors would be released from their current focus to monitor the work of the QA as a method and personnel. The remit of external scrutiny could become released towards the quality of care rather than the current dominating focus on safeguarding and child protection. We are reminded of the words of Utting, ‘Homes which meet the personal, social, health and educational needs of children are much more likely to be safe places for children than those that do not.’
In the past decade since minimum standards were implemented the sector has gone from being just over 50% compliance at onset to a sustained over 90%. This demonstrates a sector that is able to respond and sustain achievement. We are alive to this being a joint project of providers and regulator.
There are other associated developments too. We would cite two as crucial for a a national strategy, firstly, the col aborative development by providers and commissioners of effective outcomes based commissioning, and secondly, definite strides to a profession, with a “graduate” and registered residential workforce quality driving from within the “professional” standards developed by and for the profession.
Ofsted welcomes feedback from providers about their experience of inspection and we wil want to take further time to reflect on the wealth of detail and the number of suggestions that have been shared with us.
We thank the sector for taking the time to do so.
The report is timely as Ofsted considers how we can better support improvement and raise standards, particularly for our most vulnerable children and young people.
Deputy Director, Social Care
Providers views of inspectors and inspections
April – December 2012
A sample of ICHA provider members, who had received an Ofsted inspection April - December
2012, were requested to complete a questionnaire.
This is the first independent research into Ofsted and children’s homes. It is independent as it was conducted neither by Ofsted nor providers, both being interested parties. The research was conducted by the NCERCC, the independent reference point for Residential Child Care in England. The NCERCC works extensively with both regulator and providers.
The overal work of Ofsted is external y audited. This receives little public attention and is concerned with more general observations of the regulator’s services.
Ofsted does have its own internal Quality Assurance methods for scrutiny of inspection/inspectors.
Ofsted al ows chal enge during inspection and complaint afterwards, which is reported on annual y across al inspections. There is also feedback fol owing each inspection to capture provider experiences of the inspection and inspector. These methods are used sparingly, often not at al , by providers.
The ICHA has provided many examples of inspector/inspection practice directly to Ofsted, usual y after an issue arises. Providers have done so through the offices of the ICHA as they fear a negative reaction in subsequent inspections.
There is no evidential basis for this fear. Indeed, Ofsted Principal Officers have encouraged the ICHA to enthuse its members to be direct in their reporting of what they see as aberrant inspectors or inspections. Whilst they can only act on individual examples of practice or themes where providers and inspectors are named they value the indirect reporting by ICHA officers of instances, issues or themes to feed back to inspectors as a learning opportunity. It al ows them to have an appreciation of the inspector practice for which they are ultimately responsible and shows they are a responsive regulator.
However, such indirect reporting is not evidence. The secondary nature of reporting and the absence of the balance of positive experiences count against such information being more than an assistance for improvement.
There was a need for reflection on the work of Ofsted that could stand as evidence. This is one of the routes for commissioning this research.
The other stems from the introduction of a revised inspection framework in April 2012. This fol owed public statements by the then Minister for Children, Tim Loughton MP, casting doubt on the overwhelmingly positive outcomes for children’s homes’ inspections. From a starting point of just over half being satisfactory or better at the introduction of National Minimum Standards fol owing the Care Standards Act 2000, outcomes of inspection have risen and been sustained over many years at mid-90% satisfactory or better, and 75%+ good or better.
MPs were noting that homes in their constituency experiencing young people running away were in this category, and expressed doubt on the scrutiny being given in inspection.
The Al Party Parliamentary Group into children running away and missing reported on children missing from care received evidence with a particular emphasis on children’s homes from the police and charities’. Corroborating data was at that time unavailable and has now triggered new tighter definitions of ‘missing’ and ‘absent’. Subsequently figures across other placements for looked after children became available: for example, 3,000 young people missing from fostering placements in 2011 according to Ofsted (reported November 2011).1,2
Around the same time, the Office of the Children’s Commissioner issued an interim report concerning Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE3) affecting al young people, including children’s homes.
Reports from children’s homes to Ofsted notifying them of ‘involvement in or suspicion of involvement in prostitution’ are significantly higher than for other groups of young people.
The media focused on homes as a ‘magnet’ for potential CSE with staff reportedly intervening little. It did not report staff actions to establish relationships, or how seemingly straightforward safeguarding measures in the context of a children home can be complex, and differ from those possible for birth parents. For example, blocking a door may be seen as restricting liberty in residential child care.
It did not report that these repetitive behaviours often preceded their arrival at the home and can explain their placement, or that the behaviours were commonly reduced significantly or ended.
Police practice is variable with some taking action to ‘disrupt and detain’ adults outside homes whilst others would only act after an offence or assess that a young person was voluntarily getting into a car.
There was a prominent example of CSE from Rochdale involving one young woman from a children’s homes amongst 40 others. The council leader was vocal in saying that young people could not be kept safe. The later report from the Rochdale LSCB was not given equal prominence when it stated that private homes had been supporting and safeguarding young people.
Another focus in the media was of homes being set up in ‘cheap areas to maximise profit’. Context was provided and could have been included in stories. Many homes in areas had been there for many years and areas had changed. Providers with such homes frequently had others in ‘select’ areas with good nurturing community relationships. Homes were grouped closer together to make best use of specialised resources.
This is the context in which the Minister cal ed for inspections with ‘bite.’ The inspection framework was revised with significant changes to the evaluation of risk such that it was agreed by Ofsted, providers and DfE that there could be no comparisons between before and after.
However, effects were reported immediately that gave providers concern that the highlighting the very needs of the young person that brought them to a children’s home would lead to a lesser outcome for a provider.
The level of risk regarding self-harm, running away, restraint were significantly reduced and any single instance could result in a reduced outcome from that previously given in similar circumstances.
There were reported examples of inspectors commencing inspections stating that they could not give an award of outstanding to a home.
This was the context and impetus for the research. The findings are that some of the above could be upheld, and some not.
1 Ofsted (November 2012) Fostering quality assurance and data forms 2011-12
http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/resources/fostering-quality-assurance-and-data-forms-2011-12-first-statistical-release2 Reported to The Children’s Society but in correspondence taking no action3 OCC report - CSEGG Inquiry Accelerated Report for the Secretary of State for Education - July 2012
Caution about sample
The sample was of those with management responsibility. Responses seem to include a broad cross-section of managers of many homes and Registered Managers of a single home.
It was self-selecting, not random. However, respondents were anonymous. Responses were gathered using a web survey. No names were required and the analysis was undertaken by a NCERCC partner without access to the web survey software.
The sample is smal . However, it seems to confirm the ‘lived reality’ of those managing children’s homes today and the interaction with inspection and inspectors which goes beyond ICHA members. The results suggest more could be discovered from another study.
Ofsted welcome for study
Note was made of the study during the work groups for the DfE Reform of Residential Care May – December 2012. Senior Ofsted col eagues welcomed the study.
It is gratifying that providers report much good practice, and point to how there can be more. The authors of this report see it as a learning opportunity for Ofsted and providers about further work to ensure the regulator is as can be achieved. .
Instructions to respondents as to how to complete the web supported questionnaire were as fol ows
If your home/s has/have been inspected between April and December 2012 please complete this questionnaire by January 31st 2013
NOTE: returns wil only be known to the ICHA secretariat and wil not be shared. A summary wil be written that does not identify any provider. Quotes wil not be attributed.
As with C4EO emerging practice this research aims to offer a clear description and rationale with defined steps identified towards service redesign and/or transformation.
The authors are interested in a product that is useful and practical.
The authors summarise the comments made, provide pertinent quotes and make recommendations with anticipated outcomes.
The questionnaire and answers
Was anything said at onset of inspection that informed you of the change in inspection
Some but not al inspectors mentioned the changes, when doing so they were ‘clear’ and often reported as ‘thorough’.
The changes were explained but not always the changes in thresholds and expectations.
Most before the inspection, but some only before being given the outcome of the inspection
Some inspectors appeared unsure of the changes and what they meant in practice.
‘…the inspector highlighted that it was a better ‘Good’ than the ‘Good’ given 10 months previous and how it was harder to get a good.
‘…the bar had been raised because of the amount of outstandings last year’…’too many services getting outstanding and this not matching other data.’‘…grading would be dependent of outcomes not progress.’‘The inspector explained that they were only able to give ‘outstanding’ judgements to homes of exceptional quality, and so we could not be achieve more than good at the moment.’‘…now exceptional y difficult to get an ‘, everything was evidence based and clear evidence, verbal evidence was insufficient. Monitoring by the Registered Manager had to be evidence based.’
A statement is sent to al inspectors and providers, to be read immediately preceding the start of an inspection, setting out foundation of the inspection and how it is to be evaluated. This to be signed by inspector and provider.
A standard approach for al inspectors to al inspections.
How did the inspector relate the ‘raising of the bar’ to the previous inspection framework?
The commonest responses were that inspectors ‘didn’t,’ fol owed closely by comments from inspectors that it would be ’much harder to now receive an outstanding.’
It was common for inspectors to share that they had been told there had been too many outstandings given previously and this was the reason for the changes.
Where it was explained most inspectors explained that al areas that needed to be outstanding
There was a worrying confusion as to whether it was outcomes or improvement that led to the evaluation as ‘outstanding’.
One beacon of best practice was noted ‘…‘explained ful y how we can do this in relation to what was expected of us to gain better outcomes. He quoted from Ofsted documents in order to ensure we understood’.
‘…al areas to improve as the expectation was higher of al residential settings’.
‘…strictly fol owing the framework, personal opinions no longer…’‘….harder to get an outstanding especial y regarding risk and its management.’‘…depends on outcomes only’‘…it would be much harder to now receive ‘outstanding’ …Ofsted had informed the inspectors that they have given too many outstandings in previous inspections….now only al owed to give a certain amount of outstandings in a year.’‘…on-going improvement was vital to getting an outstanding judgement. ‘
Need to clarify for inspectors and providers re outcomes or progress and outstanding.
Ofsted to run regional sessions for providers to make it clear what is expected to gain better outcomes linking work needed to Ofsted documents.
Did the inspector say anything that suggested predetermination of outcomes?
Overal the message was consistent for inspectors as summarised by one comment for a respondent, ‘There were ‘clear definitions that must be adhered to and no lee-way given regarding these definitions. If the standards were not met in ful it would mean a less than outstanding judgement.’
There were three groups to responses to the question. Inspectors did, didn’t and some that explained it ‘was harder.’
One inspector said inspectors had ‘received a directive that 27% of their inspections had been wrongly graded, so they were tasked with reducing outstanding homes.’
There was a reported predetermination arrived at from other sources that directed inspection. Examples include one inspector arrived looking for Notifiable incidents and on finding one this became the total focus for the inspection. In others it is reported that the inspection was used to validate either inspector’s personal views or gleaned from other reports(professional/parents questionnaires/interviews, notifications especial y missing reports, Reg 33 and 34)rather than triangulate evidence. It is reported that this could become the total focus for the inspection to the loss of other aspects.
There were instances of inspector personal preference rather than meaningful practice or outcomes driving the inspection. In one response in a home working through issues of bul ying without immediate punishment and sanctions was an area the inspector wanted to see changed though this was counter to the theory of practice of the home and the established way of working restoratively.
One inspector is described as trying to ‘trip up.’
‘…harder to achieve an outstanding under the revised framework and that a significant number of homes had been downgraded.’‘…did not make any judgements prior to the visit to the home… he had an idea about the home and what to expect.’ …any risky behaviours would mean it could not be outstanding’
The necessity of using the methodology of triangulation of evidence is need of reiterating for inspectors and sources being made explicit in each inspection.
Ofsted to review the delivery of consistency by inspectors regarding their evaluation of outcome grade, and evidence and information against current bench marking arrangements.
There should be joint sessions of inspector and providers regional y evaluating scenarios arriving at a clear shared consensus. These should be disseminated.
The ‘precedent log’, where real instances are described with the method the inspector used in arriving at the outcome, should return immediately with open access to inspectors and providers.
Consistent thorough inspection practice understood by al parties
The following question relies on your referring to the ICHA document: Evaluation of inspection and
inspector using the Code of Conduct.
How do you rate the inspector(s) knowledge to carry out the inspection?
Please refer to their CV and Part two of the ICHA document: Evaluation of inspection and inspector using the Code of Conduct.
This question elicited comments regarding inspectors understanding of the framework, some were new to inspection, and of residential child care settings.
Where there was substantial knowledge and experience it is reported as showing in the quality of the evaluations made. However there were others who were reportedly lacking in knowledge and experience, some with no residential experience, one with only early years. It can be understood that where this is present as a factor the anxieties of the inspector can dictate that the framework is used in an under-confident way, relying perhaps solely on it as administrative tool. This may account for one respondent saying the inspector was ‘constantly retracting their statements after talking to their line manager’.
There was a report of a home feeling the inspector was ‘discriminatory…oppressive and left many feeling annoyed and upset’
‘…knowledgeable and thorough… good advice and sound reasoning…’‘…meticulous.’‘….explained al issues appropriately discussed and discussed al points and gave explanations.’‘…judgements made on very slender knowledge.’
More use of the Code of Conduct to evaluate inspector and inspection – to be completed by provider and sent to Ofsted and ICHA as QA and subject to joint scrutiny
Discussion of the CV of the inspector should always be first action of an inspection.
Matching inspector knowledge and experience is reported as directly affecting the inspection. Residential experience in itself is not enough, there must be experience in the type of approach used in the home.
Consistent approach and quality of knowledge and experience across inspections
How do you rate their experience to make an evaluation?
Overwhelmingly good or better where suitably qualified and experienced in residential work, with children of higher level needs and with the framework of inspection. Uncertainty in inspection arises out of two things
2. Preconceived determinant thinking prior to the inspection – either intel igence received and acted upon, or lack of knowledge/ experience in the approach of the home.
Some inspectors are reported as very able to ‘balance the inspection with what was happening in the home; the needs of the young people and situations.‘
Across responses ‘the ability to have in-depth reflection beneath the surface consideration…of previous traumatised and fragmented lives’
was counterposed with an unwil ingness to appreciate the needs of some young people being apparent. This latter leads to a disconnect between some inspector judgements and behaviours of young people evident. The inspector was seen using the framework without regard to needs thus any element of risk or expressive behaviour was seen negatively and in the view of the respondent downgraded the judgement. This is an example of the issue raised in the introduction whereby the very expression of the needs of the young person which have led them to be living in a children’s homes are the ones that can lead to a downgrading of evaluation.
Inconsistency was noted e.g. experience of an inspector across a number of homes showed ‘different evaluations and outcomes and … which did not appear consistent or make sense’
Where observations, comments or advice contradict the previous inspections there is a view that grows of inspection being led by the stated ‘individual opinion’
of the inspector. There was an experience reported by one respondent of feeling an inspector reported acting as to ‘impose their views and opinion around particular systems.’
Explore potential for seconded inspectors from the sector to ensure knowledge and experience are always present.
Consistent application of knowledge and experience across al inspections.
How transparent was the inspector in explaining how they arrived at their evaluations?
(Were you able to connect what was seen and the sense they made of it?)
Left feeling undecided
How clear was the inspectors’ feedback regarding successful assessment, planning and
Left feeling undecided
Was the outcome of inspection a fair and just evaluation of your home?
Why do you say that?
The longest set of responses to the questionnaire.
Highly praised and prized is an inspector who shows evidence, engages in discussion, links findings to inspection framework. These are essential as is the need for feedback to be constructive. Of equal importance is the incorporating of suggestions or references to good practice, the return of the improvement function at this direct level, would assist further.
The evaluations of outcomes and quality of care seem to becoming disjointed with those for safeguarding, more is needed regarding how to evaluate ‘kept safe and feels safe.’
To be avoided by Ofsted are instances where • ‘Another inspector would have had a different opinion’• ‘It does not feel to be an ‘overal assessment of the home.’• Inconsistency is apparent e.g. ‘one home where risk is less being downgraded yet others where risk is
higher maintained previous evaluations’.
• Reversal of judgment after talking with line manager
Protocol be drawn up and joint exercise between inspectors and providers regional y - engaging in feedback – constructive dialogue, referenced to good practice
Discussion between providers and Ofsted as to return of ‘improvement function’ and how best this to be delivered
Good practice guide/examples - Ofsted to be clear for providers what is anticipated with regards to how better to approach outcomes and quality of care with safeguarding, and especial y how to evaluate ‘kept safe and feels safe.’
Referenced good practice underpinning al inspections
As a result of this inspection are you more confident in your practice?
The experience of inspection and its outcomes requires more research. Was ‘no change’ because of confirmation of good practice? Or was the experience of ‘improved’ or more the result of another of pair of eyes confirming or finding areas for development. It is clear that inspection has meaning for the participants and is not a neutral activity.
As a result of the inspection do you think that the new inspection framework is leading to
improved quality of care or safeguarding?
Again more to be researched here as to how inspection is taken forwards. Action planning is always an outcome of inspection. The experience of the inspection could be a factor in the effectiveness by which an action plan is taken forwards. Inspection always needs to be supporting engagement beyond merely meeting what is recommended or required and met with an outwardly looking exploration. A quality of care and safeguarding are not ends only in themselves but also say much about the depth and resilience of the ethos of the home. Appreciation of this makes the fol owing findings al the more concerning.
How has your morale been affected?
Why do you say this?
‘Always strive for outstanding regardless of Ofsted.’
‘I am concerned that the quality of the inspector should make a difference to the judgements being delivered.’
Some inspectors are reported as making homes feel at ease with ‘clearly outlined inspection requirements.’
Though the focus on relationships is mainly seen as positive some respondents can see the benefit but remain sceptical.
There seems stil to be a resistant ‘tick box’ approach reported being used by some inspectors.
Respondents would wish inspection to be directed to improvement with recommendations being linked to supportive references.
Positive evaluation and feedback improves morale.
Providers look to a standardisation of inspection and report being unnerved when ‘different inspectors say different things’
or give differing advice.
Progress and time in placement has to be recognised, the level of care may not have changed. As one respondent observed, ’Sometimes outcomes are smal yet a major breakthrough. It seems these do not reach a threshold and it is only large ones that count.’
Ofsted have to take note of comments that their inspection approach could affect admissions and thereby unbalance placement strategy ‘some services…might start to be more selective ….as not to affect future inspection of the home in fear of poor ratings and subsequently losing placements.’
One bold statement said homes ‘may feel penalised for workingwith the most at risk young people.’
‘…we were so badly disappointed in the result we were al affected badly by the grading we received.’ ‘….the lack of recognition of how safe the young people are compared to how they were before being place has upset the team’s morale.’
There is stil more to be done regarding the consistency and transparency of inspection evaluation that will support a ‘dialogue of improvement.’
Outcomes formats to be developed by providers – evidence provided wil reduce and make accountable interpretation by inspectors.
Early discussion with Ofsted and DfE regarding the effects on admissions as affecting placement options for young people.
A focus on evidenced outcomes of the work of provider and inspector.
Did the inspector need to check with Ofsted QA?
Did this change the inspector’s view or confirm?
In one of the 16 responses there was a change of view.
Access to Ofsted QA by both inspector and provider.
Equitable access to expert knowledge in relation to inspection.
Did you have need to challenge the inspector evaluation or judgement?
What was the result?
Some inspectors were reported as listening and wil ing to consider the explanation. Others listened and with no change.
It is reported by respondents as an individual appreciation rather than a consistent attribute across all inspectors/inspections.
There is a worrying rumble in the system heard commonly and expressed in this survey as ‘… No point chal enging when they obviously have the power and a chal enge may affect our next inspection negatively.’
‘….unable to give any clear evidence to support their judgment and kept repeating there were a number of criteria .to consider, when asked what they were he was unable to respond.’
Inspectors to note dialogue as standard practice and sign off by provider. Ofsted QA to assess dialogue and not solely evidence from inspector.
Ofsted QA to write to provider with response of their evaluation of evidence and dialogue.
In al cases where there are a number of chal enges during an inspection there should be a repeat inspection made and not the current reliance of inspector evidence.
Need to be assertive and provide evidence.
Chal enge should be commonplace and part of dialogue of inspection.
Have you needed to make a complaint?
If you wished to complain and did not what was the reason you did not?
Complaining is seen as ‘futile’,’ not make any difference.’
The outcome of the process is not seen as positive.
There was little development of views from the 9% other than the comments above. However from associated work the authors can report providers’ views that it is the independence of the complaints personnel and systems that are crucial for authenticity of the work and decisions to be credible.
Both internal and especial y external audit must be able to overturn decisions re inspecting if justified.
Ofsted to review its complaints procedure fol owing workshops for providers where their anticipated outcomes of a complaints procedure are made clear.
The current complaints procedure is conducted by Ofsted personnel to stage two. Stage two should be revised to include an independent person and consideration given to the involvement of a provider perspective.
A complaints procedure that providers report as responsive.
Consideration of complaints is developed further below.
If you could pay for a re-inspection would you do so?
Given the importance given to it in decisions about placements this is a remarkable response and one that deserves returning to at another time. However events have moved on and in discussion with Ofsted payment for inspection is not something that could be offered in a market economy where it would perhaps advantage those who could afford it.
It is clear though that a home does not necessarily have to wait 12 months for a ful inspection where a grading can be awarded. The next does not have to be an interim. It is possible for consecutive inspections to be ‘ful ’ and award a grading. Clearly this would need to be done as a result of an action plan that had received monitoring from Ofsted in order to be an effective deployment of resources. It further is supported by a proportionate view taken of inspection – why would you wait 12 months if a home had been below expected standard. Inspection There would be continual monitoring in any case and the inspection could be a way of enhancing the experience of care by the young people by the staff having their work recognised, their professional self-esteem boosted. Above al the young people would feel the relief of their home being seen as a positive place to be.
How would you rate the complaints procedure?
What is it that informs that perspective?
Mostly never used the complaints procedure
Those single respondents with experience reported they felt it led to a ‘poor judgement in subsequent inspection’ or that Ofsted didn’t reply
Ofsted need to note the disrepute with which their complaints system is held. Providers feel it is self-serving for Ofsted, bureaucratic, and as a result it is not used. The lack of a healthy whistleblowing on inspectors and of the few complaints made is of concern.
Where a home complains the next inspection should not be undertaken by that inspector.
Responsiveness perceived to have increased
What advice would you give to other providers in relating to Ofsted?
Do not provoke
It is clear from these responses that it is chal enge that is the key aspect for attention. The ability to chal enge is valued by respondents. Acting at the point of inspection, in dialogue, is key. Chal enge is a focussed conversation where the inspector and inspected are working together to make a shared sense of what is apparent for them both. The ways that this can be further developed are addressed elsewhere in this report.
From other response elsewhere if something reaches the complaints stage is already too late, responses to this survey show the disrepute in which the complaints procedure is held.
What will be the effect of the inspection on referrals?
Why do you say this?
‘It is a benchmark whether we like it or not.’
The Ofsted reports are stil used as a ‘first impression’
of a home though this is not as Ofsted would want their work to be used. This survey shows that despite the overwhelming majority being accurate there are times when the report is not agreed by inspector and provider. Indeed the provider may feel it does not reflect the quality of the work being undertaken.
The uniformity of responses makes it clear that local authorities are limiting their placements as a result of the grading of the home.
Inspection has other direct effects on homes admissions with requests to decrease the fees if gradings decrease even from Outstanding to Good reported by one respondent. ‘.Placing authorities want to see Good or Outstanding and also use their own QA ‘the homes have high standards’
Notwithstanding inspections some homes report the value of a relationship with the local authority keeping them aware of the positive outcomes of the care of the home, good stability, proven outcomes, ‘…reputation has ensured the retention of the business.’ And ‘…previous experience, of the work we do, contact with those who have placed with us before and visits to check us out by professionals who wish to place.’
However one respondent considered it was not inspection, ‘the current climate and financial pressure are what determines referrals…’
Another thought local authorities do not value Ofsted inspections and described, ‘ …the social worker who visits regularly is a much better indicator of progress.’
‘We need to be the best we can as a business to keep receiving referrals.’ ‘It depends on each inspection; it wil either increase if the outcome is good or decrease if the outcome is poor.’‘Local authorities do not place in homes that are adequate.’‘…only looking at homes with Outstanding…’
Take systematic steps to create relationships with commissioners.
Structured feedback from social workers and IRO’s fol owing each visit.
Develop outcomes framework and communicate frequently.
Develop method for young people to offer structured feedback on experience of placement .
How do you rate Ofsted independence from Government?
Not independent at all
Equivocation is apparent. Only one quarter see Ofsted as independent of Government. On the one hand this is quite true yet the inspectorate has been presented as independent. Recent changes to the inspection framework can be seen to be at the design of the Government. No doubt the standards were ready to be moved onwards and upwards, ‘raising the bar’, but this was not how it was presented and this may have al owed the independence to be seen, correctly, as partial.
For young people and staff the only thing that matters is that the sector needs to have the best regulator that can be achieve. More insights come from the fol owing set of responses.
In the light of the inspection how do you rate the following statements
I am confident in the ability of inspectors to inspect and evaluate children’s homes?
I am confident in Ofsted as an organisation to evaluate children’s homes
I think there should be an independent review of the work of Ofsted.
What positive remarks would you give to…?
Always act in the ‘Spirit of Partnership’
Procedure and process
• Keep informed al through inspection• Offer solutions• Explain• Give positive feedback• Constructive feedback• The detail given to the work is noted and appreciated
• Engage, interact, with children• Be professional and wel mannered• Being approachable leads staff and young people to feel confidence in speaking• Be friendly• Understand• Be aware of being a representative of Ofsted• Listen• Be organised
• Not to use own opinions in evaluation• Don’t prejudge or be blinkered
Ofsted as an organisation?
A good organisation, good experiences, no concerns.
‘A necessity to make sure al children are safeguarded’, ‘being looked after properly’
However stil some work to be done• ‘…More needs to be in place to regulate how they inspect’
• More transparency• Consistency• More accountability
An exceedingly helpful set of responses with enormous scope for development into policy and practice. Link to those for the question ‘Was the outcome of inspection a fair and just evaluation of your home?’
A formal response be sent to providers responding to these helpful suggestions and indicating how they are to be taken forwards
Demonstration of Ofsted as listening and learning organisation role model ing necessary engagement with customers.
What concerns do you have about…?
A powerful short comment - ‘We pay for this service.’
Inspection is currently reliant on a single individual and from these and other responses it is seen as the quality of this individual that seems to determine the outcome of the inspection.
Inconsistency even contradiction across homes inspectors and inspections is noted e.g. ‘varying feedback between homes despite there being same practices, policies, procedures.’
This is a major concern that has been represented to Ofsted over time but is now by this research given credibility and must receive action by the regulator.
And though singular in responses it is troubling to read the fol owing regarding inspectors especial y as providers see them as ‘representatives of Ofsted’ ( see above)
• Personal views or prejudgement affecting interpretations and evaluations• Unwil ing to work in partnership• Abuse of power• Does not understand their responsibility to the stakeholders
Explore how inspection can become untied from one pair of eyes – triangulate Regulation 33 and 34? Social work and IRO?
Ofsted as an organisation?
Service delivered has not changed but ‘suddenly become rated lower due to the political climate and public opinion. ‘
‘Always making changes and not informing providers wel enough of the changes or consulting.’
‘Too much time spent looking at the administration of homes, this could be donein a much more effective format’ al owing for more time to be spent with young people and staff.
Stil concerns linger at the ‘tick box’ culture ‘not measuring the true quality of care – just compliance with regulations and paperwork’ .
‘Needs more public credibility, and real legal and political clout’, lacks independence’
Consistency is ‘reliant upon the inspector – ‘not sure this is the way it should be.’
Opinion rather than on evidence based practice or statutory guidelines
To observe – educational outcomes starting to outweigh emotional needs? This might require further training for inspectors
Another look at risk is needed• Difficulty with what are perceived as DfE-driven inspection requirements e.g. any single risk event
downgrading outcomes ‘insist it has to stop’…’not take into account relationship or circumstance.’
• ‘If a young person presents as safe and happy then that should not be abad thing and shouldn’t require
the production of a document to say they are safe and happy.’
Ofsted to involve providers in reflecting on service improvement of regulator – ‘What could providers do that would assist with burden of inspection and increase effectiveness?’
Ofsted and DfE should be able to hold publicly divergent perspectives in a dialogue as a demonstration of partial independence.
Do you think that Ofsted are recruiting the very best RCC practitioners to act as
If No - how could this be improved?
Overwhelminglybeing inspected by a fel ow professional as for other regulated settings is appraised highly. Respondents were very clear. • ‘Inspectors need to have a ‘real’ view of residential care.’…• ’hands on experience in residential settings.’ • ‘Inspectors should have a professional background in residential care, to reflect the level of care being
• …relevant and working knowledge of children’s homes.
• ‘pre-condition to have been a children’s homes manager.’
‘Only those with experience of Looked After Children should inspect homes.’
Some were directed to recruitment• Better advertisements.
• Not restricting to civil servants only applying.
• Easier access to interviews for South East as interviews are only held in Manchester.
Others to managementThe same inspector for al our homes.
As no other setting or service is regulated by those outwith knowledge and experience so residential child care requires inspection by peers.
Would you consider secondment to Ofsted?
Clearly there is an untapped resource and the many ways it could be utilised could be explored. Some examples - peer inspectors; to ensure appropriate knowledge and experience; as seconded inspectors for a period of time or to cover specialist sectors.
Are there other ways of inspection that would bring improvement?
Summary, recommendations and outcomes
‘Consistency and unambiguity in standards/inspectionwork’.
Attach an inspector for a series of inspections al ows a relationship and insight to be built up over time with discussion throughout the year and to evaluate progression.
Training for providers arising from findings from inspections - themes and good practice.
Advice, guidance and improvement – inspectors need more on the different models of care so they are not drawing only on their own experience and ‘able to take a view of young person on the behaviours they exhibited on when they moved into the home.’
Spending time with young people, especial y mealtimes.
Would you support an independent organisation undertaking inspections as is
planned by adult care provider organisations?
It is clear that there is a liberty and imagination available as to the source of regulation. In many ways this is already provided in a shadow sense for some homes by personnel previously employed by Ofsted or previous regulators. Often these personnel have lengthy experience and deep knowledge of the Regulations and their application. In the Ofsted publication regarding Outstanding Providers these people were identified as providing as good support for the delivery of the quality of care by the provider.
Should there be changes to strengthen Ofsted’s powers of inspection, enforcement
Most feel it is adequate as it is currently though with more pleas for consistency. Those who see it as having too much power were balanced by those who feel it ‘already carries a lot of weight’.
Strong enough already ‘if they had more powers …it would feel like I was workingfor them ….control more . of what can and cannot do.’
‘I feel there are stil service providers who are unsafe’.
There should be as much power as needed to carry out these processes.
…clear messages to be sent out to those who enter the profession based on money making, those that desire profit and lack integrity. Ofsted needs to be much stronger in chal enging perceptionsof residential care, they need to recognise, endorse and support providers who are working with integrity.’
The ability to question judgements without repercussions should be developed further.
Should Ofsted have an improvement role?
If not then who might be better placed?
An important aspect with which to close. In recent years the regulator became defined as solely concerned with inspection. The loss of the advice and improvement function was mourned by providers.
The improvement function was raised by providers in a meeting with Ofsted and DfE.
There is much that Ofsted do that can support this improvement function. Through analysis of inspection reports examples of outstanding practice could be noted, and not only from homes judged outstanding overal . Learning events could be held regional y and national y, for example seminars aimed at registered managers and placement.
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