Fine-tuning Joint Targeted Area Inspections - A new era?

United Kingdom

Multi-agency Joint Targeted Area Inspections ('JTAI') are making a comeback. Ofsted, the Care Quality Commission ('CQC') and Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services ('HMICFRS') are the JTAI inspectorates who will jointly assess health and care services for children from April 2022.

JTAI inspections were initially launched in 2016 under section 20 of the Children Act 2004 to assess how local agencies (including local authorities, the police and health services) support and protect vulnerable children and young people.  The aim was to identify areas for improvement in those services.  Following a pause in the JTAI programme due to the pandemic, the regime has undergone a restructure and will now be reintroduced.

From 1 April 2022, HMI Probation, which has previously taken part in the JTAI programme since 2016, will no longer be involved.  The remaining JTAI inspectorates will carry out the initial JTAI inspections with the “deep dive” themes of either ‘the criminal exploitation of children’ and ‘the identification of initial need and risk’.  Each deep dive theme has accompanying guidance to allow the inspectorates to target specific areas of interest and concern.  It is anticipated that the deep dive themes will change on a regular basis as they have in the past.  For example, previous inspection deep dive themes include but are not limited to child exploitation, child sexual abuse in the family environment, children's mental health services, and those living with domestic abuse

Alongside the separate deep dive guidance, JTAIs will follow the framework for inspecting local authority's children's services ('ILACS'). Additionally, the government website states that both new JTAI frameworks build on the inspection methodology  used in the previous JTAI Solihull inspection, which followed the death of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes in June 2020. The inspectorate added that this methodology is “more focused to allow the inspectorates to deliver inspections with less burden on local safeguarding partnerships". Ofsted has said that new guidance will be published each year when they announce the deep dive themes of future JTAIs.

Ofsted's National Director for Social Care, Yvette Stanley, said, "Restarting our JTAIs is a significant milestone. Joint inspections play such an important role in identifying areas for improvement and sharing good practice about how local agencies work together to help and protect children….The new joint inspections of the 'front door' of child protection will give us an even stronger understanding of how multi-agency safeguarding arrangements allow local leaders and professionals to work together to identify and respond to children at risk of harm. And the thematic inspections will provide a clear insight into how areas respond to the specific risks children face, starting with child criminal exploitation."

If you are a provider of children's services, work with any such providers or are considering venturing into this area, it is vital that you protect your interests in the face of any changes in the law which would affect your business. Lawyers within CMS' regulatory team regularly advise on compliance with health and social care regulatory frameworks and can assist you as to any changes you will need to make to ensure compliance with any new legislative provisions.

Co-authored by Heather Flaherty, Solicitor Apprentice