Children’s centres ‘missing out on Ofsted checks’

22 Jan 18

Nearly 1,000 children’s centres across England have not been inspected for more than five years, according to the charity Action for Children.

It said the government suspended inspections by Ofsted in September 2015 on what was supposed to be a short-term basis pending a consultation on the future of children’s centres.

That consultation though had never taken place and so the inspections remained in abeyance.

The charity said it estimated that 969 centres – around 40% of the total – would otherwise have been inspected for safety, financial management, services and identifying prospective families in need.

Ofsted has remained responsible for emergency inspections of centres in the event of a safeguarding concern, but Action for Children said a Freedom of Information disclosure had shown that none were required.

Sir Tony Hawkhead, chief executive of Action for Children, said: “Without evidence from Ofsted about how centres can improve, central government has left local authorities with no clear national standards or framework for these vital services.

“How are we to know how well families are being supported, or the impact of the £1bn of public money spent on children’s centres since 2015? Would we allow all schools and hospitals to go uninspected for so long?

“While it continues to drag its feet, central government is letting down tens of thousands of children and families who need support now.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said it was up to local authorities to decide how to organise and commission local services, whether using children’s centre buildings, family hubs or delivering services through another model. 

They added: “All early years provision in children’s centres is subject to robust and regular Ofsted inspection. Local authorities who manage children’s centres must also ensure that other services provided in the centres have appropriate safeguards in place.”

Children’s centres are ‘one-stop shops’ offering a range of parenting support and advice for families with children under five including play sessions, health and development checks and speech and language therapy.

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