Revised model for joint inspections for children and young people 2018

Revised model for joint inspection of services for children and young people to commence April 2018 – update briefing 1 March 2018

In 2017, the Scottish Government’s child protection improvement programme set out a vision for a child protection system in Scotland that places the wellbeing of children at the heart of everything it does.  As part of this review, Scottish Ministers asked the Care Inspectorate to work with scrutiny partners to develop a revised model of inspection that takes a more focused look at vulnerable children and young people. Ministers want inspections to take account of the experiences and outcomes of children and young people in need of protection and those who are subject to corporate parenting responsibilities. 

What have we done so far?

During 2017 we:

  • listened to and spoke with care experienced children and young people, many of whom also have been involved in the child protection system
  • established an advisory group representing a broad range of key stakeholders with responsibility for protecting children and improving the lives of looked after children and care leavers
  • reviewed the findings from our inspections and those of our scrutiny partners to date, identifying what supports successful practice and leadership and where the barriers are
  • took into account the ‘root and branch’ review and recommendations of the child protection systems review.

How has this early work influenced decisions about the scope and focus of our methodology?

When we engaged with children and young people about the focus of inspections their most important message was that children and young people should be enabled to experience sincere human contact and enduring relationships.  They want to be able to build trust through consistent relationships with adults and they want to be supported to maintain contact with those people who are most important in their lives.  Our new inspections will therefore look carefully at how well the system is organised to ensure children and young people can experience continuity in their care and develop and sustain lasting relationships. We believe that staff who are well trained and supported, and who feel valued and empowered, are more likely to be able to provide high quality services for children and young people. We will therefore explore how well staff are valued supported and equipped to carry out their task. We know from our inspection findings that partners recognise the critical importance of achieving high standards in assessment and planning to ensure the safety of, and improve outcomes for, children and young people.   However, we also know that performance in assessment and planning is not as consistently strong across the country as it needs to be. There is a consensus that improvements in performance here are supported by robust quality assurance and high quality reflective supervision. Therefore, we will look at the extent to which these are in place. The child protection systems review identified the need for a clearer collective understanding of when child protection concerns should give rise to consideration of compulsory measures of care. Our inspections will consider the appropriate use of legal measures to achieve security and stability in the lives of vulnerable children. Strong collaborative leadership is essential within the challenging context of providing high quality public services in an integrated landscape. Inspections will include a focus on the role played by staff who work in adult services in protecting children and young people and supporting sustained positive change for them and their families.  We will continue to evaluate the effectiveness of collaborative leadership, including leadership of the child protection committee and its relationship with chief officers, and we will identify any barriers that impact on continued improved performance.  We will look at how well leaders can demonstrate what difference they are, together, making to the lives of children in need of protection and those for whom they are corporate parents.

What have we agreed to do?

We agreed with Scottish Minsters to carry out a minimum of five joint inspections across the country each year, reporting publicly on the findings for each community planning partnership area.  Our approach will continue to be based on self-evaluation and we remain committed to using the European Foundation for Quality Management (EFQM) model.  We have invited our partners in HMICS, HIS and Education Scotland to work with us to build the methodology and deliver inspections. Our young inspection volunteers will continue to play an important role in helping us engage with children and young people throughout our inspections. We aim to strengthen their role in providing support and challenge to leaders about the extent to which children, young people and their families get the right help, at the right time to ensure their safety, support good health and wellbeing and improve their life chances. The introduction of a revised model for inspection will coincide with the introduction of the new health and social care standards. The revised standards ask challenging questions, not just about the quality of the registered care service being delivered, but about whether it is the right service to meet the person’s particular needs. This has implications for those partners involved in service planning, service design and commissioning as well as for service providers themselves. For children and young people within the scope of revised joint inspections who also experience care through a registered care service, we are committed to sharing information and making best use of evidence gained in the course of scrutiny and improvement of care services to inform joint inspections, and vice versa. This means having a clear focus of the pathways of children and young people through the care system, so that we can comment usefully on the positive contribution of registered care services to improved outcomes for children and young people and identify any barriers that constrain outcomes and experiences.  We recognise, however, that our scrutiny of regulated care services will not allow us to understand the experience of a high proportion of care experienced young people, including those who are looked after at home or in kinship care and most young people using through care and aftercare services. We will therefore seek to have a particular focus on these children and young people in joint inspections.

What will the inspections report on?

Each inspection will result in a published report which will seek to answer the following questions.

  1. How good is the partnership at recognising and responding when children and young people need protection?
  2. How good is the partnership at helping children and young people who have experienced abuse and neglect stay safe, healthy and well and recover from their experiences?
  3. How good is the partnership at maximising the wellbeing of children and young people who are looked after?
  4. How good is the partnership at enabling care experienced young people to succeed in their transition to adulthood?
  5. How good is collaborative leadership?

What work still requires to be done?

  • Revising our quality improvement  framework (QIF). There has been strong support for quality improvement framework as a vehicle to support partners to evaluate their own performance. The advisory group asked us to maintain the familiar shape and format of the frameworks which partnerships have used over the last decade. They asked us to update and refresh it to orientate it towards outcomes for the most vulnerable children and to ensure it was relevant for the current context in which services for children and young people are delivered. We are doing this work in collaboration with a range of stakeholders and will issue a draft QIF for consultation shortly.  We are committed to continuing to use this revised QIF for inspection.
  • Collaborating with Scottish Government and CELCIS to deliver a data improvement programme.  The development of a shared data set should support partners to demonstrate how well they are working together to keep children safe and delivering on their responsibilities as corporate parents. The aim is that, over time, interrogating returns on this data set will, along with other information and intelligence, support better assessment of risk and help determine where and when inspection can be of most value. We recognise this may take some time to achieve but are hopeful about the potential of this work to support a more proportionate approach to scrutiny.
  • Preparing a proposal for the systematic audit and review of case records. There is strong support for the systematic review of case records as a window into the quality of practice, particularly about processes which underpin safe and effective practice for vulnerable children and young people, such as the assessment and planning and the approach to quality assurance. Partners have greatly welcomed the involvement of local staff in this part of the inspection, and report how effective this has been in helping build capacity for quality assurance and self-evaluation across services. We are committed to continuing and further strengthening the involvement of local staff and managers as part of inspection teams.
  • Reviewing our approach to partner’s self-evaluation to achieve maximum impact with minimum intrusion.
  • Considering the range of activities we will use to gather evidence, including how we engage with children, young people and families.

What next?

We will continue to engage with the high-level advisory group and other stakeholders as we develop the new inspection model.  We will publish blogs about our progress on our website and provide alerts through our social media. We will consult more widely on our proposed quality improvement framework, shared dataset and our approach to the systematic scrutiny of case file records.

Kevin Mitchell Executive Director of Scrutiny and Assurance