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Joint Targeted Area Inspections: Supporting better multi-agency working?

The Joint Targeted Area Inspection (JTAI) programme began over two years ago. In my view, this has been, and continues to be, a hugely valuable piece of work.

For those who are unfamiliar with JTAIs, Ofsted, working alongside the police, health and probation inspectorates, looks at how well local agencies work together in an area to protect children. Each set of 6 inspections focuses on a different ‘deep dive’ theme. The most recent inspections have looked at the neglect of older children, and domestic abuse.

Unsurprisingly, one central finding runs through all of these inspections. They show that to respond effectively to children’s needs, effective joint working is needed at both a strategic level and at a practice level. It’s a simple message: No agency can deliver an effective child protection response by itself!

A good example is Cheshire West and Chester. Here, strong partnership working leads to ‘a clear and collective commitment to improving responses to children who suffer neglect. Collaborative and well-coordinated work at a strategic level to address neglect has been in place for some time, and the impact is evident in effective partnership working at an operational level. This is resulting in many children receiving a timely and appropriate response to reduce the risk and impact of neglect.’

I wanted to reflect here on what you’ve been telling us about these inspections so far. But, more importantly, to encourage you to get in touch about what themes you think we should focus on in 2019 and onwards. We want the JTAIs to share good practice, help us understand the collective challenges agencies face, and to be a force for improvement.

Since joining Ofsted, I wanted to understand how JTAIs have been received by the sector. Are they helping the system improve? Do they support strengthening joined-up practice locally? So far, the feedback has been really positive. Agencies tell us that they have been the impetus for partners to work together more effectively and be more joined up in their response to children.

Announcement of the deep dive theme

Agencies tell us that when a ‘deep dive’ theme is announced, this can have a positive impact on their work. For example, we have seen local children’s safeguarding boards (LSCBs) respond by assessing how effective the partnership is in responding to a particular deep dive theme, through audits and developing action plans and strategies.

It is really important that our deep-dive themes resonate with the sector’s priorities and that we choose deep dive themes that we believe will add the most value.

As we start to consider what might be in the programme for 2019 and beyond, I am interested in hearing where you think we should focus our attention next.  It has to be a theme that is creating challenges in all local areas and one where all the inspectorates have a role to play.

A catalyst for effective multi-agency working?

We know that individual inspection reports are shared among local partner agencies and influence their practice. After their experience of the JTAI deep dive theme children living with domestic abuse, Hounslow told us -

The JTAI has enabled a deeper, shared understanding of our joint service offer and practice. It shone a light on the good and some excellent services the partnership is providing and offered insight into areas where joint working can be enhanced to improve outcomes for children, young people and their families.The JTAI itself both builds on and develops partnership working and therein lies its key strength; JTAIs offer an opportunity to test, challenge, stretch and support partnership working.Partners have fed back that they found the process of joint inspection and the development of the joint action plan a constructive and positive experience which has enhanced communication channels, professional understanding and collective commitment to a common improvement in services for children and young people and their families.

Another local authority described the JTAI as a ‘game changer’, commenting that it led to a different approach to improve the response to children in need of help and protection, as the emphasis was on making improvements through a multi-agency approach.

As a group of inspectorates, we want to better understand how local areas are using the JTAIs, so that we can make sure that we are having as much impact through the inspection programme as we can.

Publication of the overview report

 After each of the deep dive programme of inspections, we publish an overview report of the main findings to support improvement across the sector. If you haven’t read them all, I would urge you to do so. They are not summaries of the six inspections that led to the findings. Instead, we have drawn out the most important learning for all of the agencies both individually and collectively.

Our report, ‘The multi-agency response to domestic abuse: prevent, protect and repair’ was published on 19 September 2017. I’m pleased to say that it was well-received. We have had feedback that its recommendations, such as a greater focus on the perpetrator, and developing a more preventative approach, are the right ones. The report’s findings on written agreements, (which my predecessor, Eleanor Schooling also blogged about here), provoked a welcome debate on how these can be used more effectively.

Growing up neglected: a multi-agency response to older children

So, in reflecting on what has gone before and how the JTAIs influence practice, it’s timely to let you know about our next joint publication. This week we will publish the main learning points from our six inspections focusing on the neglect of older children.

This group of children is close to my heart. We often read negative media stories about older children without a broader consideration of what might be going on in their lives. I hope you will read the report, and that it will prompt discussion and debate between agencies about our collective and individual responses to vulnerable older children.


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