On March 12th 2021 Evette Stanley the National Director of Early Years Regulation and Social Care at Ofsted publicly welcomed the Independent Children’s Review. In this public address it is acknowledged that Ofsted need to play their part. It says they want to encourage flexibility but are too often hampered by the restrictions of current legislation.
For this reason, Ofsted say they have asked the review team to take a fresh look at the regulatory framework they work under. They say this is because key aspects and specifically the Care Standards Act need modernising.
Whilst this news is welcomed it will be of no comfort to those who have suffered discrimination and significant harm under Ofsted’s interpretation of the present arrangements.
The number of individuals who have suffered the shame of disqualification from the children’s workforce and the number of children’s home closures and reasons for them is not publicly known. Ofsted say this is because it is not in the public interest. The concern is that this lack of transparency and unyielding determination to defend the right to rely on untested information and conciliatory avoidance has wreaked havoc in children’s social care and prevents proper scrutiny of regulatory decisions that affect so many lives.
It is of course true that too many children have been harmed and that care fails too many. It is good that the review aims to consult with children and adults with lived experience of children’s social care. Although, it is difficult to see how meaningful this will be in such short timescales and without taking into account the views of those who provided their day-to-day care.
As I see it, modernising the legislative framework in the proposed way will not bring about the necessary improvements, that will require significant cultural change and a new approach to regulation. Specifically, a regulatory system that draws on findings from behavioural science, transparency and ethical practice.
Without this, the reliability and validity of regulatory processes and the judgments made based on them will remain questionable.
Amanda Knowles 2021