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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Children in the care of the Nottinghamshire Councils Investigation Report

B.5: External inspections

26. Until the 1980s, the Home Office and the Department of Health carried out occasional inspections of children’s homes. Responsibility for the inspection of children’s social care then varied over time.

26.1. In 1985, the SSI was established to inspect social services (including children’s social care) in order to “improve effectiveness and efficiency and to promote necessary development”. However, its focus was on the provision of social services as a whole; it rarely conducted specific inspections of individual children’s homes and did not undertake dedicated inspections of fostering services.[1]

26.2. From April 2002, the National Care Standards Commission (NCSC) was responsible for registering children’s homes and fostering services and then carrying out inspections after registration.[2] They carried out some,[3] but did not establish a programme of regular inspections.

26.3. The SSI and NCSC were subsumed in April 2004 into the Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI), bringing registration, inspection, regulation and review of all social care services (including children’s homes and fostering services) under the remit of one organisation.[4] It was only from this point onwards that there were regular external inspections of children’s homes and fostering services. 

26.4. The CSCI and then Ofsted inspected children’s homes at least twice per year.[5] From 2004 to 2013, the Councils’ fostering services were subject to specific and regular inspections by the CSCI and then Ofsted, carried out against the framework of the national minimum standards.[6] 

27. In April 2007, the registration and inspection of children’s services became the responsibility of Ofsted.[7] Between 2007 and 2013, Ofsted conducted separate inspections of each local authority’s services in relation to “protection, care, adoption and fostering”.[8] This changed in 2013 to one single inspection framework,[9] including fostering services in a broader assessment of services for children in care.[10] This regime, criticised as an ineffective method of evaluation,[11] was replaced in 2018 with the Inspection of Local Authority Children’s Services (ILACS) framework.[12] Local authorities will continue to be inspected every three years but will also receive up to two “focused visits” between inspections that will look at specific issues. The less positive the outcome, the greater the number of follow-up visits and inspections that take place.[13]

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