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10th March 2015

Solace statement on Ofsted Social Care Annual Report

On 10th March 2015 Ofsted published their annual report on social care. This is a statement from Mark Rogers, President of Solace and Chief Executive of Birmingham City Council, in response.

This report usefully highlights the ever-increasing strain local authorities are coming under from rising demand, new challenges and significantly diminishing resources. It also graphically illustrates the alarming distribution of overall judgements on councils’ children’s services, with no local area judged outstanding under this framework, thereby raising serious questions about just how fragile the system is becoming.

The document also shows an inspectorate that many in the sector agree is confused about whether its role is to make judgements about effectiveness or to be an improvement agency. The somewhat detached tone of the report further suggests a lack of insight into, and acceptance of the impact of the present contested inspection methodology on some of the key issues that Ofsted identifies as hampering improvement – for example the supply and quality of social workers and system leaders required to deliver excellent outcomes.

Solace is pleased to see, nonetheless, explicit recognition of the financial distress experienced by councils. It now looks forward to future inspections acknowledging this impact, something that local government has long argued for. Solace, with its sector partners, places paramountcy on securing the very best outcomes for children and young people, especially the most vulnerable. We do not accept second best – and have said so repeatedly. But achieving this requires the commitment, support, and coordination of many agencies beyond local government. And Solace argues strongly that effective, consistent and progressive independent inspection has an important part to play. However, in order for Ofsted to make the most of this independence, it needs to clarify its core role, reform its inspection methodology and convert its theoretical understanding of the pressures on the system into a framework that takes account of their impact.