Memorandum submitted by Christine Gilbert
CBE, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector Ofsted
1. The Office for Standards in Education,
Children's Services and Skills is a new organisation, established
on 1 April 2007 and built on the strengths of four predecessor
inspectorates. The reach of the new inspectorate is extensive.
It brings together the regulation and inspection of day care and
children's social care and the inspection of local authority children's
services, schools, colleges, initial teacher training, work-based
learning, Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Services,
adult education and more. At least one person in three in England
makes use of the services Ofsted inspects or regulates.
2. The Education and Inspections Act 2006,
which established the new Ofsted, sets out three overriding considerations
to underpin the work of Ofsted:
(a) To promote improvement in the services we
inspect or regulate.
(b) To ensure that these services focus on the
interests of the children, parents, adult learners and employers
who use them.
(c) To make sure that these services are efficient
3. On 1 January 2008, Ofsted held responsibility
for the inspection of 276 independent fostering agencies, 140
local authority fostering agencies and 2000 children's homes in
4. Ofsted has lead responsibility for the
integrated inspection of children's services, Joint Area Reviews
(JAR) and for the annual performance assessment of 150 local authority
children's services. The methodology underpinning JARs was modified
from 1 April 2007 to increase the focus on the most vulnerable
children and young people, including those who are looked after.
5. This submission informs the Select Committee
Inquiry on Looked After Children scheduled for February 2008.
The inquiry seeks firstly to examine the provisions of the Children
and Young Persons Bill, consider the extent to which the Bill
reflects the outcome of the consultation process, and make recommendations
for amendment where appropriate; and secondly, examine provision
for looked-after children more widely in the context of the Care
Matters: Time for Change White Paper and the Government's
proposals for change on:
family and parenting support;
transition to adulthood; and
role of the practitioner (including
training and workforce development).
6. The response is based on the evidence
gathered by Ofsted through its inspection, review and annual performance
Joint Area Reviews conducted between
November 2005 and December 2007.
2007 Annual Performance Assessments
of 150 councils.
Performance data for children's serviceAppendix
1,632 inspections of children's services
conducted in accordance with the Care Standards Act 2000 between
1 April 2007 and 31 December 2007.
Inspection of Cafcass East Midlands
region conducted in 2007.
Reports of the Children's Rights
Director produced between 2006 and 2007.
7. Between the period from April 2007 to
January 2008, 27 JARs have been completed under the new methodology.
These judged services for looked after children to be outstanding
in three areas, good in 18 areas, adequate in five areas and inadequate
in one area.
8. The number of looked after children,
measured per 10,000 population under 18, has increased slightly
over the past seven years but has stabilised over the past three
years. In 2000-01 the rate was 52.6, rising to 54.6 in 2006-07.
The rate peaked in 2003-04 to 55.2 and has remained constant from
2005-06 to 2006-07. However, this national data masks considerable
variation across regions. North West, West Midlands and outer
London regions show significant increases over this period. East
Midlands, South East, South West and Inner London regions all
show a decrease. The rate within Inner London region is reducing
but remains significantly higher than elsewhere.
9. Evidence from regulatory inspections,
joint areas review and annual performance assessment shows that:
Corporate parenting is increasingly
effective in most areas.
Family and parenting support is increasingly
accessible and effective but is yet to make a significant impact
on numbers of looked after children and young people.
Processes to secure the number of
placements to meet the local needs of children and young people
have been strengthened in most areas with some impact on placement
stability. However choice and consistency in the quality of placements
are areas for concern.
The quality of fostering services
and of children's homes is inconsistent and 10% of all provision
does not meet the national minimum standards and regulations for
safeguarding children and young people. These impact directly
on the health and safety of children within these settings.
The stability of placements is improving
Planning arrangements for individual
children and young people are satisfactory overall but vary from
outstanding to inadequate.
The quality of Children's guardians'
practice in care related proceedings is variable, with some front
line practice judged inadequate.
Arrangements to engage and support
the education of looked after children and young people have been
strengthened in most areas but are yet to make sufficient impact
on raising their attainment and attendance levels. Virtual schools
for looked after children are emerging but it is too early to
judge whether these can deliver sustained improvements nationally.
Processes for monitoring the health
and wellbeing of looked after children have improved in nearly
all areas but these are not always leading to improvements in
outcomes. One in five regulatory inspections of children's homes
result in requirements to improve the quality of provision for
their treatment and health care.
Arrangements for preparing and helping
young people to leave care have improved and are satisfactory
or better in nearly all areas. However safe accommodation for
care leavers remains a concern.
The quality of front line social
work practice across the range of provision for looked after children
is adequate or better in nearly all areas. However, it is of concern
that in a few areas it remains inadequate and impacts adversely
on the experience and well being of looked after children and
10. Both regulatory and service inspections
show that strategic arrangements across agencies and processes
for the care of looked after children and young people are improving
overall. However, this masks inconsistencies within and across
areas in the implementation of current policy and guidance resulting
in one in ten children receiving an inadequate quality of care.
11. A key feature of services for looked
after children which are judged to be outstanding is that they
do all the important things well that impact directly on the experience
of parenting for children and young people. This spans the range
of national minimum standards, regulation and guidance relating
to assessment, care planning, health care, education support and
day-to-day personal care which directly affect the experiences
of looked after children and young people. Doing some things well
is not good enough. This is relevant to future inspection methodologies
and in particular to judgements.
12. The evidence from inspections suggests
that current arrangements for the corporate parenting function
are effective where they are implemented fully, where Members
across the council are engaged and demonstrate a commitment and
understanding, and address all aspects of provision for looked
after children and young people. However, the variation in performance
is significant and supports the proposal for the introduction
of an independent review body.
13. Inspection findings identify a few areas
where policy or guidance needs to be strengthened. Children's
homes do not always have sufficient numbers of qualified and competent
staff to be able to respond effectively to the complexity of needs
of looked after children in their care. Guidance is needed to
ensure effective management of behaviour is in place and implemented.
14. Inspection of field social work practice
is limited currently to Joint Area Reviews. The proposal to discharge
some functions to independent providers of social work services
would require consideration of an appropriate inspection framework
for this purpose.
15. The findings demonstrate the need for
a closer alignment of regulatory and service arrangements and
a stronger focus on effective commissioning of care provision,
value for money, stability and security in placement and improving
outcomes for looked after children and young people.
16. There is increasing attention to Corporate
parenting in most areas. Corporate parenting boards comprising
members and officers across council departments and agencies involved
in the delivery of children's services have been established in
nearly all areas. These vary in size and composition particularly
with regard to the involvement of children and young people themselves.
Most boards have developed clear processes for consulting with
looked after children and young people through links with well
established participation groups specifically for looked after
children and young people. However opportunities for face to face
discussions between members and senior officers are limited in
the main to small groups of children and young people. Children
and young people placed with foster carers or with families are
less likely to participate in consultation activities.
17. A positive development is the increased
number of corporate parenting boards which celebrate the achievements
of looked after children and, in a few areas, those of carers
and staff working directly with looked after children. Such events
are highly valued by adults and children and contribute to the
well being of the children concerned.
18. In most areas, boards have been effective
in raising the priority and profile of looked after children across
councils and partner agencies. However their impact on the understanding
of the role of the corporate parent by all members and officers
is yet to be fully achieved in most areas and varies from very
good to poor. A key feature of areas judged to be outstanding
is an excellent approach to corporate parenting which provides
strong leadership from senior councillors and officers, effective
championing and rigorous challenge to performance across all aspects
of care for looked after children. Where they have been effective,
corporate parenting boards have contributed to improving compliance
with assessment, care planning and review processes, strengthening
joint working arrangements and in increasing access to leisure
activities for looked after children. Where they have been less
effective, corporate parenting boards share characteristics of
limited representation from officers, weak mechanisms for hearing
the views of children and young people and an over-reliance on
high level performance indicators to monitor local performance.
19. The evidence from inspections suggests
that current arrangements for the corporate parenting function
are effective where they are implemented fully and address all
aspects of provision for looked after children and young people.
However, the variation in performance is significant and supports
the proposal for the introduction of an independent review body.
20. Family and parenting support is increasingly
accessible but is yet to be effective in reducing the numbers
of looked after children and young people. The development of
children's centres, extended school provision and an increase
in multi-agency integrated services to support children, young
people and their families have increased the range of services
potentially available to support families. These developments,
led by the Children and Young People Strategic Partnerships, are
nearly all targeted appropriately on areas of highest needs among
children and young people. Children and young people's plans show
that further development is scheduled over the next three years
in most areas. However the current position is insufficient overall
and reveals significant variations in access to support for children
and their families; with broad and effective provision in some
localities and patchy or uncoordinated services in others. Access
to these services is particularly difficult for children and families
who live in rural areas.
21. Expenditure by local authorities on
those children in need who are not looked after as a percentage
of expenditure on all children's services has increased to a national
level of 40%. (See Appendix 1 PAF CF/E44) Just over a half of
local authorities were judged to be performing well against this
indicator in 2006-07. However, in 17 % of local authorities, performance
was judged to be less than acceptable.
22. Family and parenting support is highly
valued by professionals and users of services. Much anecdotal
evidence has been provided on improvements to the wellbeing of
children, young people and their parents and carers. Examples
include improved parenting skills, improved attendance at school
and increased opportunities for vulnerable young people and parents
to engage in education or training. Reliable and consistent measures
of the impact of this provision are yet to be developed.
23. Evidence is emerging that only the most
targeted family support has any effect on reducing the numbers
of children looked after. Examples of effective provision include
family conferences, designated children's centres for assessment
of parenting skills, evidence-based therapeutic interventions
and rapid response teams to family breakdown. Where services are
most effective, they are characterised by multi-agency staffing
arrangements with high levels of experienced and qualified staff
from social work, health and education services.
24. Most areas have established clear thresholds
for admissions of children into care although a shared understanding
of these across agencies is yet to be developed in some areas.
A wide range of gate-keeping arrangements are in place and in
some areas these are leading to reductions in emergency placements.
The most effective arrangements include multi-agency panels which
can access and coordinate a combination of local specialist and
mainstream services quickly and effectively.
25. Inspection of field social work practice
is limited currently to Joint Area Reviews. The proposal to discharge
some functions to independent providers of social work services
would need further consideration of an inspection framework for
26. Processes to secure the number of placements
to meet the local needs of children and young people have been
strengthened in most areas with some impact on placement stability.
However choice and consistency in the quality of placements are
still areas for concern. Strategic placement planning and management
arrangements for looked after children are being strengthened
in nearly all areas with some evidence of impact on increasing
placement choice and ensuring qood quality in care provision.
Where councils have been judged to be good or better, joint commissioning
arrangements are established and supported with effective contract
monitoring arrangements. Further, a clear commitment to maintaining
children and young people safely within their local communities
has resulted in a reduction of children being placed in out-of-area
placements. However, in most areas joint commissioning arrangements
are under developed, particularly for children with learning difficulties
and/or disabilities both within children's services and with partner
27. Nearly all local authorities have entered
into some form of collaborative regional arrangement to strengthen
their commissioning of out-of-area placements. Such initiatives
have increased consistency in contracting practice but the impact
on expenditure and providers' pricing strategies is less evident.
High levels of expenditure arising from enhanced provision of
individual support for children and young people within residential
and foster homes is not always well evidenced by commissioners.
Further, joint commissioning arrangements for children's placements
are at an early stage of development in most areas. The gross
weekly expenditure per looked after child in foster care or in
a children's home has increased year on year. In 2006-07 the national
average was £753 with variations between £467 and £1826.
The proportion of local authorities judged to be performing below
an acceptable level in relation to expenditure on looked after
children has increased year on year to 40%.
28. Placement choice remains limited for
nearly all children and in particular for children from black
and ethnic minority communities, sibling group and children with
complex needs. These children feature frequently amongst those
who are placed more than 20 miles from their home. In 2006-07,
86% of local authorities, placed at least 14% of their looked
after children more than 20 miles from their home.
29. The range of placements provided for
looked after children spans a wide range of family and residential
placements. The proportion placed with relatives and friends peaked
in 2002 at 14% and has fallen to its lowest point of 12.7% in
2006-07. This is in part due to improved arrangements in many
areas for discharging care orders following successful rehabilitation
of children and young people with their families. The vast majority,
81% of children aged under 10 are placed in family placements.
Support and training for foster carers is improving in most areas
and some recent developments such as intensive treatment fostering
schemes are contributing to improved outcomes for young people
with challenging behaviours.
30. The quality of fostering and residential
services is inconsistent and 10% of provision does not meet the
national minimum standards and regulations for safeguarding children
and young people. This has a direct impact on the health and safety
of children within these settings. Inspections of fostering services
conducted between 1 April and 31 December 2007 show that the quality
of service is inconsistent and more so in the public sector. Inspections
judged 76% of independent and 55% of local authority fostering
services to be good or better. Seven per cent of independent and
10% of local authority fostering agencies were judged to be inadequate.
Nine independent agencies ceased to operate from 1 April 2007.
Inspections found the highest levels of concerns in independent
fostering agencies related to Staying Safe, 8%, Being Healthy,
3% and organisation arrangements 7%. For local authority fostering
agencies, levels of concern relating to Staying Safe and Organisation
were higher at 10%, the same for Being Healthy and 5% for Making
a Positive Contribution.
31. Inspections have found higher levels
of concern about inconsistency in the quality of residential children's
homes. Inspections conducted between 1 April 2007 and 31 December
2007 judged 61% as good or better and 10% as inadequate. During
this period 143 homes have closed. Actions requiring providers
to improve reveal there is a widespread failure to comply with
regulations and national minimum standards. These failures impact
directly on the health and safety of children and young people.
The 10 most frequent actions are set out in Table 1. Concerns
about compliance with health and safety requirements are compounded
by less frequent but significant (7%) failure to comply with requirements
for risk assessment to be completed and safe maintenance of gas,
electrical and water equipment. One or more of the actions identified
in Table 1 featured in 66% of all inspections. The findings from
regulatory inspections contrast sharply with the outcomes of Joint
Area Reviews which found that only one area is providing inadequate
services for looked after children.
32. The role of staff in keeping children
safe in children's homes is a critical feature that distinguishes
good or outstanding providers. In these homes, children and young
people talk positively about the support they receive. However,
for some children, this is a key area for concern:
One group told us that staff in their children's
home were important in keeping them safe, and being people they
could talk to. But, they said, their staff often spent a lot of
their time in the staff office rather than with the children and
young people, so couldn't see what was happening around the home,
and weren't around to keep people as safe as they could have been.
(OCDR JAN 2007 Children's views on the DCFS Priority Review)
|Action ||% of|
|1||Compliance with fire regulations
|2||Safe management of medication
|4||Quality of individual children's plans
|5||Safe recruitment practice
|6||Supervision of staff
|7||Administration of medication to children and young people
|8||Adequate staffing arrangements
|9||Compliance with child protection procedures
|10||Records of methods of control (behaviour management)
33. The evidence from inspection supports the proposal
to strengthen arrangements for the enforcement of national minimum
standards and regulations within children's homes and fostering
services. Further, it supports a model for the proposed rolling
programme for inspection of services for looked after children
which more closely aligns findings from regulated settings with
those of wider service inspections.
34. The stability of placements is improving overall.
Short term placement stability has improved with a national average
outturn of 12% of children having three or more placements in
2006-07. (PAF CF/A1) Over 93% of councils performed at a very
good level against this indicator. With regard to longer term
placement stability, a new indicator introduced in 2007 identified
a national average outturn of 66 % of children who had been looked
after continuously for at least 2.5 years, who were living in
the same placement for at least two years, or are placed for adoption.
(PAF CF/D78). However there is considerable variation in performance
with 20% of local authorities performing below an acceptable level.
35. Planning arrangements for individual children and
young people vary from outstanding to inadequate. Joint area reviews
and inspections of regulated services have identified inconsistency
in compliance with guidance and requirements in relation to assessment,
recording practice and sharing of information between social workers,
commissioners and providers of children's placements. Furthermore,
whilst in nearly all areas children have individual care plans
with supporting plans specific to the current placement and health
and education arrangements and the quality of these plans is satisfactory
or better overall, there is significant variation from very good
to poor across and within local authorities.
36. Planning for permanence for looked after children
is improving. Despite the gradually increasing numbers of children
made subject to guardianship orders, the number of children adopted
has stabilised in recent years at 8.3%. Numbers of children adopted
in councils show significant variations year on year often due
to ongoing delays in court proceedings but also to the significant
proportion of children who are safely rehabilitated to the care
of their families.
37. The numbers of asylum seeking children who are accommodated
can form a substantial proportion of the looked after children
population particularly in areas where numbers are small. Inspections
have found that the quality of care planning and provision varies
from outstanding to inadequate across local authorities for this
group of children. In a few areas, the quality of service for
this group of children and young people is poorer than for other
looked after children and young people in those areas.
38. Compliance with arrangements for statutory reviews
of care arrangements for looked after children has improved overall
with a national outturn of 85% of reviews completed within timescales
in 2006-07 (PAF CF/C68). However, 24% of local authorities are
performing below an acceptable level with the lowest recorded
in 2006-07 at 34%.
39. The quality of Children's guardians' practice in
care related proceedings is inconsistent and some of it is inadequate.
Inspections have found insufficient guidance within Cafcass as
to how the tasks should be undertaken to ensure a consistent and
high quality service, and a lack of transparency about the way
assessments are undertaken. This disadvantages those adults whose
parenting capacity is being scrutinised. Further, a key responsibility
for children's guardians in care related cases is to validate
the work undertaken by the local authority social worker. This
role sometimes leads to boundary confusion, particularly about
the respective functions of the children's guardians and the local
authority social workers. Although stakeholders, including courts,
voluntary and statutory agencies and service users, who were consulted
during the inspection, considered the work of children's guardians
was generally good, there was widespread concern that management
arrangements for public law work were unsatisfactory. These stakeholders
lack confidence that Cafcass effectively addresses issues of poor
performance by its front-line staff.
40. Inspections found that progress has been made across
Cafcass in developing management and quality assurance arrangements
but that these are not yet fully effective. Part of this strategy
includes a significant organisational restructuring in order to
prioritise front-line services. These changes also aim to strengthen
Cafcass's capacity to successfully play its part in the implementation
of planned changes in how courts manage public law cases from
April 2008 onwards ("the Public Law Outline").
41. Arrangements to engage and support the education
of looked after children and young people have been strengthened
in most areas but are yet to make a significant impact on raising
their attainment and attendance levels. Evidence from both Joint
Area Reviews and regulatory inspections of children's services
show that support and planning arrangements for looked after children
in schools and their care placements have improved overall. Designated
teachers for looked after children are effectively established
in schools in nearly all areas. Most children and young people
receive encouragement and assistance from their carers to attend
and achieve in school. Whilst compliance across areas for all
looked after children to have a personal education plan has increased
substantially, the quality of these plans is inconsistent.
42. School attendance by looked after children is an
area of serious concern. In 2006-07 the percentage of looked after
children who missed at least 25 days of schooling, nationally,
13.3%, was higher than previously in 2004-05. (PAF CF/C24) The
proportion of councils who are performing below an acceptable
level in this area was 30% in 2006-07.
43. The proportion of children who achieve one of more
GCSEs at Grade A*-G (PAF CF/A2) has shown year on year gradual
improvement. This national average, however, masks considerable
variation from 26% to 89%; and with performance in 20% of local
authorities falling below an acceptable level. This very low measure
of performance clearly demonstrates that the gap in attainment
compared to other children is not narrowing.
44. Ten per cent (presumably this is a more recent figure
than the 12% identified in the last AR?) of looked after children
nationally leave care with five or more good GCSEs.(PI 3073SC)
Whilst comparisons across local authorities are not reliable due
to significant variations and some small cohorts of children,
this level of performance nationally is unacceptable.
45. It is clear that the current arrangements for the
provision of education for looked after children and young people
are not impacting sufficiently on reducing the gap in attendance
and attainment when compared to most children and young people.
Inspections have identified that some local authorities are developing
measures to track the progress of children which reflect the individual
difficulties experienced by these children and young people. Examples
include progress in development of language skills for children
whose first language is not English and attainment of other qualifications
for children who have difficulties in learning within a classroom
setting. In a few areas, virtual schools have been developed but
it is too early to judge whether these can deliver sustained improvements
in education attendance or attainments.
46. Where councils were judged to be outstanding, joint
working arrangements did not differ from elsewhere, yet the children
had achieved better levels of performance. It is arguable that
children who receive a good standard of care overall, are able
to engage better in their education.
47. A recent small survey of 21 schools with particularly
good practice in respect of looked after children identified the
following key elements of their practice which were increasing
the progress made by these pupils in these schools:
a focus on looked after children within a framework
of high expectations and good teaching and learning for all pupils,
for example recognising that looked after children may well be
gifted and talented;
looked after children engaged in and taking responsibility
for their learning;
close monitoring of academic, social and personal
the involvement of looked after children in learning
outside the classroom and after school activities;
unified but low profile support in school for
each looked after child so that they were not made to feel different
from other children;
swift and early intervention if a problem began
to emerge, for example with behaviour or attendance; and
the successful engagement of carers and parents
48. Processes for monitoring the health and wellbeing
of looked after children have improved in nearly all areas but
one in five regulatory inspections of children's homes result
in requirements to improve the quality of provision for their
treatment and promotion of their health care. The national outturn
for the percentage of children who had their teeth checked and
an annual health assessment (PAF CF/C19) reached a very good level
of 84%. Nearly all local authorities performed at a good or better
level. This contrasts sharply with findings from regulatory inspections
which found high levels of failure to comply with regulations
and national minimum standards relating to the management of medication
and the administration of medicine to children. (See Table 1).
In addition, actions from regulatory inspections requiring improvements
to the quality of individual health plans and access to health
care provision to address identified health needs were made in
9% of all regulatory inspections.
49. Joint Area Reviews found that fast tracking arrangements
for looked after children to specialist child and adolescent mental
health services (CAMHS) and other therapeutic services were effective
in nearly all areas for those with high levels of needs, such
as risk of self harm or imminent placement breakdown. However,
in some areas, children and young people who display lower levels
of concern, such as behavioural difficulties, often have to wait
long periods before having an assessment or treatment. These delays
impact adversely on the wellbeing of the children and young people
and on the quality of life for foster carers and their families.
50. High levels of physical and emotional needs have
been identified in the group of young people who entered the care
system as asylum seekers. Nearly all these young people have endured
trauma, abuse or bereavement. In some local authorities, very
good health care practices which are sensitive to the needs of
this group have been developed in consultation with the young
51. Arrangements for preparing and helping young people
to leave care have improved and are satisfactory or better in
nearly all areas. Compliance with requirements for care leavers
to have pathway plans and personal advisors is at a good or better
level in nearly all areas. The majority of care leavers who met
with inspectors during Joint Area Reviews said that services had
improved and were very positive about the care leaving service.
Transition planning for care leavers with profound learning difficulties
and/or disabilities has also improved with good joint working
arrangements between children and adults services having been
maintained in most areas despite structural changes in local authorities.
52. The engagement of care leavers in education, employment
and training is at a high level and 90% of local authorities are
performing at a level judged by the performance assessment framework
(PAF) as very good.
However, the quality of provision varies with some young people
being occupied in activities which do not lead to qualifications
or opportunities for employment. The best performing councils
provide a fixed number of apprenticeships and other forms of employment
for care leavers. Funding arrangements for care leavers are broadly
consistent across most areas, with variations in incentives to
achieve qualifications or to ease difficulties arising from transport
difficulties particularly in rural areas.
53. The best performing authorities are providing opportunities
for care leavers to remain within their foster carers or in supported
accommodation. However, in some areas, young people are still
required to live independently before they are ready.
54. Housing is the biggest concern for care leavers in
nearly all areas, despite some good joint working arrangements
between housing providers and children's services. Choice of accommodation
is limited for nearly all care leavers and many feel unsafe within
Many were keen to make the point that their accommodation
was filthy, and that they did not feel particularly safe or secure.
Other young people expressed concern at what they described as
being forced to share residence with adults and other young people
who they said they would never have been allowed to mix with whilst
in care. (OCDR Jan 2007, Children's views for the DCFS Priority
55. The quality of front line social work practice across
the range of provision for looked after children is adequate or
better in nearly all areas. However, it is of concern that in
a few areas it remains inadequate and impacts directly on the
experience and well being of looked after children and young people.
There are still significant concerns about the recruitment and
retention of good quality staff. Evidence from both service and
regulatory inspections for looked after children and the views
of children and young people show that the quality of practice
at the front line is the key feature that differentiates good
or outstanding services for looked after children.
"Recognise that staff and carers are important in children's
lives. People working with children and young people must be the
right people, properly recruited and checked." (Views of
children and young people on the Care Standards Act OCRD Dec 2007)
56. In most areas, the practice established in children's
homes of including young people in the selection of staff, has
been extended to enhance selection procedures of wider groups
of staff including social workers and managers.
57. Joint Area Reviews have found that whilst the allocation
of looked after children to qualified social workers is just over
95% nationally, and that nearly all local authorities are performing
near to this high level, children and young people in most areas
continue to experience frequent changes of social workers. Much
of this change arises from staff turnover, but some is also due
to local arrangements for managing high caseloads. These impact
adversely on continuity of planning and in delays in delivering
the objectives of their care plans.
58. Vacancy rates in social work staff directly employed
in children and families services have shown a downward trend
over the past three years with a national average outturn of 11%
in 2006-07. This masks significant variations across regions and
local authorities between one and 38 %. Turnover rates of social
work staff and levels of reliance on agency staff show similar
trends. Strategic workforce plans are developing in most areas
with some evidence of a positive impact on recruitment and retention
rates in children's services. However, in some areas, workforce
development strategies are yet to fully involve partner agencies
and difficulties are compounded by pressures in recruitment of
CAMHs workers, foster carers and adopters.
59. Inspections of regulated services show high levels
of actions requiring services to improve their staffing arrangements.
(See Table1) These include ensuring experienced and competent
staff are employed in sufficient numbers for the safe running
of the service and meeting the individual needs of children and
young people. In sharp contrast to mostly good supervision arrangements
for field social workers, compliance with requirements for the
supervision of staff in children's homes is inadequate in 10%
of children's homes.
60. Inspections found that access to training for front
line staff is inconsistent. Evidence from Joint Area Reviews show
that social workers have mostly good access to training particularly
with regard to child protection. The proportion of social workers
with the PQ1 qualification has increased to and national average
of 56%. Access to training for foster carers and for staff working
in children's home is more difficult. The percentage of residential
child care workers with NVQ 3 has fallen well short of the national
standard of 80% with a national average outturn of 56% in 2006-07.
In 25% of local authorities, the proportion of staff achieving
NVQ3 is less than 33%. This performance measure is consistent
with findings of inspections which identified that 15% lead to
actions requiring improvements in training. The most frequent
training issues related to child protection procedures and behaviour
management including restraint.
Performance Assessment Framework indicator CF/A4 is defined as
the ratio of the percentage of those young people who were looked
after on 1 April in their 17th year (aged 16), who were engaged
in education, training or employment at the age of 19 to the percentage
of all young people in the population who were engaged in education,
training or employment at the age of 19. The PAF banding of "Very
good" is awarded to a local authority if the above ratio
is above 0.6. Back