Children’s services reviews – summaries for children to be axed

The Department for Education has announced its intention to repeal the duty on inspectorates to prepare dedicated feedback for children on the findings of reviews of services which exist to protect and care for them.

The proposal to repeal this duty, in law for a decade, was made in a consultation document issued in the summer. Only five organisations responded to the consultation – two councils, the Ministry of Defence, one local safeguarding children board and the trade union Prospect. Four of the five respondents supported the repeal, and one opposed it. The government’s rationale for axing the duty is that Ofsted says it will continue to prepare summaries on a voluntary basis.

The same level of support was given to the government’s proposal to remove the duty on local authorities to send the results of the joint area review to at least one local newspaper and one local radio station. However, the Department for Education has backtracked on that proposal, “[b]ecause of the importance that the Government places on transparency”.

Joint area reviews were established by Section 20 of the Children Act 2004. The duty to prepare summaries for children was included in regulations issued the following year.

Article 39’s Director, Carolyne Willow, says:

“This is a seriously retrograde step. Inspectorates should be required by law to communicate directly to children, before, during and after inspections. Listening to children, and respecting their expertise, is vital to making sure services work in the most effective way. Professionals being made, by law, to sit down, think about children and to carefully write in a way that makes sense to them is an excellent mechanism for reminding us what the work is all about. This should not be left to the goodwill of Ofsted or any other body.”