Memorandum submitted by The Fostering
The Fostering Network is the voice of foster care.
We have nearly 60,000 foster carers in membership, plus most local
authorities and 169 independent fostering agencies. We work in
partnership with foster carers, social workers, parents, children,
and young people, local authorities, independent fostering providers
and voluntary organisations to fulfil our principle objective,
which is to improve the lives of children and young people in
Role and Performance of Ofsted: summary:
The Fostering Network's response concentrates on
the inspection of fostering services. Our response is based on
the experience of our members, the combined views of a group of
staff members and foster carers. Our main recommendations are:
- Focus on improving inspection rather than the
organisation which undertakes inspection
- Inspection must move away from "tick-box"
approach - and become a force for improvement
- Outcomes for children should be the focus of
- Inspectors should have good knowledge of child
- Inspectors of foster care must have expertise
- Inspections should place more emphasis on foster
- Individuals with knowledge of foster care should
be encouraged to enter the inspectorate
- The inspection findings of fostering services
should be compared with the inspection reports of related children's
services within an area
- Ofsted should publish themed reports to indicate
areas for general improvement
- The Office of the Child Rights Director should
2. Ofsted has undergone considerable changes
within a relatively short period of time. Any further significant
revision of Ofsted would usher in the third inspection body within
10 years. This turnover is in itself a problem - each inspection
body requires time to settle down. Therefore we recommend making
improvements to inspection rather than the creation of a new body.
3. We would welcome simplification of the inspection,
and moving away from the "tick box" approach associated
with an overriding emphasis on enforcement, which has often emphasised
multiple issues of lesser importance. Inspections should suggest
ways in which individual and collective fostering services could
improve, as well as rating them. At the same time, inspections
must be robust in challenging services which are not good enough.
4. Inspection standards often seem to be inconsistent.
Frequently there is an over-emphasis on complying with criteria
which are neither evidenced in the National Minimum Standards
nor the Regulations. Above all, the inspection should seek to
establish how the fostering service judges the quality of care.
Outcomes for children are quite rightly more prominent in the
forthcoming revised draft of the new National Minimum Standards
for Fostering Services. Outcomes for children should be the focus
of the inspection. This is particularly pertinent where long-term
placements are concerned.
5. We recognise that there are tensions between
seeking objectively-measured, comparable base-line outcomes, (e.g.
attainment of examination grades), and the need to assess the
realistic personal progress (or deterioration) of individual children.
Therefore inspectors should have a good knowledge of child development
so as to comprehend realistic and attainable outcomes for the
individual child. We regard the interviewing of children as very
important, in order to identify how the fostering service handles
the individual's issues.
6. The level of expertise across the foster care
inspectorate should be consistent, and relevant to the task. Inspectors
of fostering services should have some experience and knowledge
of foster care. In order to bring this about, foster carers should
be encouraged to apply to become Inspectors. One way of doing
so would be to introduce short, specialised training schemes to
prepare foster carers to apply to become Inspectors.
7. Inspections should place more emphasis on
foster carers' evidence, and there should be transparency as to
whether this has happened in the context of individual inspections.
Inspectors should be able to interview both individual foster
carers and also foster care associations. Whilst interviews with
foster carers should take place at random, foster carers should
nonetheless have the opportunity to speak to the inspector if
they wish to do so. The inspection report should be sent to foster
carers by the fostering service.
8. The inspection of fostering services against
the National Minimum Standards for Foster Care must also be backed
up by the quality assessment of other services, such as children's
social work. Foster care can only work to produce good outcomes
for the child if a range of services play their part - e.g. school,
college, health services. Therefore it is important that the combined
provision of different agencies is reviewed in the round, particularly
in the light of removal of children's trusts and joint area reviews.
This does not imply, however, that we favour a dilution of the
expertise of the foster care inspectorate.
9. Ofsted should undertake themed inspections
or pull together assessments on themed issues across fostering
service providers. For example, it could look at the fostering
services' performance in supporting the health of looked after
children. The purpose should be to indicate general areas for
improvement, and ways of driving up standards.
10. The Fostering Network greatly values the
work of the Office of the Child Rights Director (currently based
within Ofsted) in seeking and collating the views of children,
as well as issuing themed reports and advising on individual cases.
In view of the particular vulnerability of looked-after children,
and children in social care, combined with the responsibility
of statutory authorities to assure their rights, this role is
vital, and should be retained, wherever it may be based.