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Changes are being proposed to the way social work audits are to be conducted.

A new Social Care Common Inspection Framework (SCCIF) will be a blueprint to inform the timing and focus of inspections with a revised inspection scenario seeing councils complete audits of frontline social work practice as self-evaluations and sending them on to Ofsted.

Self-evaluation method

The move follows Ofsted’s Future of Social Care Inspection consultation, looking at a new approach to the inspection of local authority children’s services and the introduction of a SCCIF.

It has recently published its official response to that process with the report findings based on data from consultative events, meetings and pilot inspections held between last June and January this year.

The new method of self-evaluation has been developed by Ofsted in close collaboration with organisations such as the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) and the Local Government Association.

The goal, it said, was to establish a method of self-evaluation for social work practice that can work for authorities and inspectors.

In its formal response, Ofsted said it was “determined to reform inspection” so that its inspectors could “continue to meet the demands of an evolving social care sector.”

Targeting services most in need

The reforms – to be introduced from April 2017 and January 2018 – are intended to ensure the inspections are “of high quality and of value to children, families, the profession and the wider public, are proportionate and have greatest impact where it is needed most.”

It said it would return more frequently to services that are less than good – ensuring it targets services most in need of improvement – whilst retaining the ability to go back to good and outstanding providers as and when required.

The proposals is to “move from a single inspection applied universally to all local authorities to a more proportionate approach that takes account of earlier performance and current data and intelligence.”

There would be shorter inspections of those local authorities that were good or outstanding at their previous inspection, while councils rated ‘inadequate’ will continue with the current system of four quarterly monitoring visits, followed by a full re-inspection.

Children’s social care settings

Ofsted has announced that children’s social care settings will also be subject to the same SCCIF but stressed it did not mean a “one-size-fits-all” approach to inspection.

The framework would be tailored to reflect and address distinct types of children’s social care provider including: children’s homes, including secure children’s homes; independent fostering agencies; voluntary adoption agencies; residential family centres; residential holiday schemes for disabled children; boarding schools and residential special schools; the residential provision of further education colleges; and adoption support agencies.

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