Memorandum submitted by British Association
of Social Workers |
The British Association of Social Workers (BASW)
is the professional body led by and accountable to social workers
in the UK. The Association has almost 13,000 members working in
frontline, management, research and academic positions in all
social work settings across the UK. Our members share a collective
commitment to those values and principles that will secure the
best possible outcomes for children, young people and their families.
1. Ofsted inspections
are viewed very negatively by the social care sector; they take
up an inordinate amount of practitioners time in terms of satisfying
the demands of the performance management framework at the expense
of direct work with children, young people and their families.
2. Ofsted inspections
do not promote a culture of openness and transparency given the
stakes that are involved for the organisations under scrutiny.
Inevitably, this leads to great pressure being applied to the
workforce to present a "good" front in order to get
through the inspection process.
3. The main focus
of the inspection is to gather vast amounts of quantitative data
rather than qualitative data which really does not provide an
accurate picture of the service being inspected. Frontline social
workers rarely get the opportunity to directly communicate with
inspectors about the nature of their work.
4. Inspection reinforces
the "blame culture" as individuals rather than organisations
are often scapegoated for any perceived weaknesses in the service
which may then invoke a disproportionate use of disciplinary processes.
5. There is variation
in the knowledge, skills and experience of Ofsted inspectors;
at their worst, some appear to have very little understanding
of the work of the sector they are inspecting.
6. Currently, the
inspection regime of children's services is very time consuming,
costly and ineffective in terms of innovating positive change.
BASW is therefore calling for radical reforms to inspection as
part of its Social Work Bill due to be launched on the 14 October
2010. BASW proposes replacing Ofsted and CQC with an independent
social work inspectorate.
"Inspection will be a rigorous process with
a focus on the qualitative experience of service users and the
evidence of front line social workers as well as a thorough examination
of social work practice and outcomes."
1. What the purposes of inspection should
be (relating not only to schools but to all organisations, settings
and services under Ofsted's remit)
To ensure services are of a good and acceptable standard
and provide advice and information on how to improve services
which fall below this standard. The inspection should contribute
to the provision of excellent services for service users and should
involve all those who are responsible for the service, both in
delivery and receipt.
Inspection, our members report (i.e. those working
in local authority children's social care departments and Cafcass)
should not be seen as a punitive measure whereby once notice of
inspection is obtained, all efforts are put into presenting a
"good" front purely for the inspection itself. Social
workers want inspection to be genuine with knowledgeable inspectors
seeing the position as it is, not fabricated for the inspectors
visit. They want to be involved and to be proud of the service
they deliver, not live in fear of criticism.
2. The performance of Ofsted in carrying out
Sadly, a commonly held view amongst the social work
profession is that Ofsted have built a culture of negativity around
inspection. Consequently, agencies which experience regular inspection
perceive this as an intrusion, often putting on hold other areas
of service provision to meet the demands of the Ofsted inspectors.
Social workers (our members report) dread the arrival of Ofsted
as it not only generates stress amongst the workforce but also
lots of additional work as practitioners are often asked to spend
further time on the administration of cases particularly the presentation
of case files which diverts them from the far more important task
of direct work with service users. They report that their supervision
also gets high jacked by any forthcoming inspection as attention
is then turned to meeting the demands of Ofsted's performance
management framework which is often perceived as a higher authority
that needs immediate attention usurping other (service user) demands.
BASW members with direct experience of involvement
in inspections, report that they have often felt that their performance
is criticised with little opportunity to discuss freely the issue/area
being inspected and often receive no feedback from the process.
Some have described the Ofsted inspection as similar to an examination
or job interview, with no involvement in the process only that
of witness. They suggest that there has been little opportunity
to express their views re: possible improvements or reasons for
any given position.
3. The consistency and quality of inspection
teams in the Ofsted inspection process
There are a wide variety of inspectors who perform
this task for Ofsted with some inspectors approaching the inspection
in a friendlier and more participatory way than others. It is
evident, our members report, that the inspection is based mainly
on the acquisition of quantitative information rather than qualitative
with little recognition of many factors influencing practice.
They report that they often feel like they are being doubly judged,
given that they are already governed by line management within
the inspected organisation, and any negative outcome becomes a
personal issue rather than one owned by the Local Authority.
They also add that they have at times, been interviewed by inspectors
who they believe have had little understanding of their role or
the circumstances in which they practice.
4. The weight given to different factors within
the inspection process
Again, the emphasis is placed on administration and
what is visible in the case file. There appears to be very little
understanding included in the inspection of case progress as this
can only be assessed through reading case recordings. It is important
to note that social workers cannot process record their activities
and recording often highlights the main points only. Members
have told us that they would be pleased to have case discussions
with inspectors about how outcomes have been reached but their
remit is restricted to the visible recording. Social workers
agree that recording is crucial but again repeat that it only
highlights a fraction of the direct work undertaken.
5. Whether inspection of all organisations,
settings and services to support children's learning and welfare
is best conducted by a single inspectorate
No, some inspectors appear to have a lack of knowledge
of the service they are inspecting and often Ofsted will return
to re-inspect, to measure progress and it may be a different inspector
or team. Some of our members recall the previous inspection of
children's homes which was conducted usually by a locality inspector
(R & I) who became familiar to management, staff and service
users. Issues of breach of standards could be raised easily by
service users who could contact the designated inspector direct,
social workers and their management became familiar with the requirements
and would consult with her/him re: any proposed changes to the
service etc. There was often involvement in training and events
to ensure the inspector was familiar with the service and adjustments
necessary to meet regulations were done in a positive manner.
This has not been possible with Ofsted. Social workers have
seen a stark change in culture in regard to inspection, they tell
us that in the past, the inspector calling had none of the negative
connotations it has today.
6. Alternative proposal for regulation of
children's social work services
BASW has spent the summer consulting with its members
on a Social Work Bill which will strengthen the position of social
work in England by creating a new structure for social work services
including an independent Social Work Inspectorate which will provide
"greater guarantees of public safety through a refocused
approach to scrutiny and regulation of key services" (please
refer to Appendix).
This Bill will officially be launched on the 14 October 2010.
Below is an extract focusing on inspection:
6.2 Inspection of Social Work organisations and
(a) Inspection of organisations undertaking Social
functions will be undertaken by an independent Social
(b) The independent social work inspectorate may
incorporated as a distinct arm of a wider ranging
Regulations and statutory guidance will require the
independent social work inspectorate to make a formal response
to recommendations of the College of Social Work.
Inspection will be a rigorous process with a focus
on the qualitative experience of service users and the evidence
of front line social workers as well as a thorough examination
of social work practice and outcomes. The result of inspection
will be the agreement of an organisation learning and development
plan which will enable every organisation to move forward positively
with an acknowledgement of both areas of achievement and matters
BASW would be delighted to have further discussions
about this proposal with anyone who has an interest.
Development Worker (England)
Professional Officer (England)
35 Not published on the Committee's website. Back