Comment on the Future of Children’s Services Inspection

Commenting in the Guardian about the Single Inspection Framework (SIF) and the future of inspection, Alison O’Sullivan, President of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, said:

“A more tailored approach to inspection is required. One which better reflects the complexity of child protection and considers the significant impact of reduced local authority resources. We believe that inspection has three core functions. It must facilitate a learning culture that supports local authorities to develop their services and drive improvements in outcomes for children. It should ascertain whether the range of services being provided lead to better outcomes for children and their families and that inherent risks are being appropriately managed. And it is a vehicle through which public sector organisations are held to account for the effectiveness of outcomes achieved for children and their families in relation to expenditure. This is not delivered by the Single Inspection Framework (SIF).

“The SIF itself is broken and is too concerned with process compliance rather than outcomes. It is burdensome and disproportionately consumes the resources of both the inspectors and the inspected. So we must redesign the current arrangements. In March 2015 ADCS, the LGA and Solace published a proposed alternative to the SIF. An annual unannounced inspection of front door arrangements identifying those places where the arrangements are not adequate and there the focus should then be on understanding in more depth the extent of challenge and doing whatever is needed to put it right. And most crucially those places that are found to have adequate arrangements should be left to get on with it.

“This is not an argument for less scrutiny or less accountability. We both need and want a rigorous approach to independent evaluation of the effectiveness of services. It is time that we develop a truly effective and integrated framework to assess how well local agencies work together to safeguard the most vulnerable children and young people in the communities they serve.”


The Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) Ltd is the professional leadership association for Directors of Children’s Services and their senior management teams in England.

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