Ofsted and Foster Care
When you read about foster parenting, you will often encounter references to Ofsted. What is Ofsted and how does it relate to fostering? To begin, it is helpful to have an idea of how the fostering system functions in the UK.
The local authorities take youngsters into care upon investigating instances where they might need time away from their family home. By the end of the 1990s, the local authorities were unable to keep up with the need for foster carers. The system was then opened up to independent fostering agencies.
As the system developed and grew, it was necessary to have overall guidance and standardisation. Part of this is carried out by Ofsted, the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills. The role of this non-ministerial department is to inspect and regulate services involving children and young people as well as those services which provide education and skills for learners, regardless of their age.
Ofsted strives to be responsive and reactive to the realities of schools and agencies and thus updates and improves its way of inspecting and reporting. As an example, in April 2017, Ofsted launched the social care common inspection framework (SCCIF).
The SCCIF was updated in May 2018. SCCIF is directed toward three core principles when they carry out inspections involved in children’s social care. These three principles are:
- to focus on the things that matter most to children’s lives
- to be consistent in Ofsted’s expectations of providers
- to prioritise Ofsted’s work where improvement is needed most
SCCIF is not a one-size-fits-all approach to inspection. There are different, but specific, expectations from each type of social care provider. To explain what they mean by it not being a one-size-fits-all assessment, Ofsted notes that while the inspectors have a description of what ‘good’ looks like, and they use this as a benchmark, they don’t proceed with a checklist, ticking off this and that achievement or lack of achievement.
They look at the overall picture of the impact and effectiveness of the support provided to children and young people, using their professional evaluation. This means that if all of the criteria for ‘good’ are not met, the inspectors do not automatically judge that the situation ‘requires improvement’.
The inspection is all about the child and whether the child’s needs are being met. This way of measuring the effectiveness of an agency is more dynamic and there is less chance of problems being overlooked because they are strictly adhering to a checklist.
In the past, independent fostering providers were given 10 days’ notice of an upcoming inspection, but the notification process has been shortened to two days. The results are published and serve as a guide to overall improvements in the quality of the services being provided. Excel Fostering received a mark of Good on our last Ofsted report, which was in April 2017.
If you have an interest in becoming a foster carer, or want more information about our foster placements, and have a spare room, make an enquiry by phone or email.