More children's homes were rated as outstanding and fewer as inadequate than at any time since Ofsted became responsible for their inspection, according to the inspectorates Annual Report 2009/10.
Overall 14% of children's homes were outstanding, 59% good, 23% satisfactory and 4% inadequate. The proportion and number of homes judged good or outstanding have risen steadily since autumn 2008.
The report reveals that the majority of local authorities provide front-line safeguarding services that meet the minimum requirements for keeping children and young people safe. However, safeguarding services are inadequate in a third of the local authorities inspected, although Oftsed stresses that the sample inspected is not representative of local authorities nationally since many of them were prioritised for inspection.
The report identifies ten local authorities that are performing poorly, primarily because of inadequacies in their safeguarding arrangements.
Ofsted also found that Cafcass is performing poorly, with four out of five service areas inspected this year judged to be inadequate overall.
However Cafcass says that the report is based on inspections which were carried out, in some cases, over a year ago and do not capture some of the improvements it has made, especially since the last of the inspections was seven months ago.
A Cafcass spokesperson said: "Since then [April 2010] there has been a 91.8% reduction in unallocated care cases which now stand at 45 out of a total of 12,869 care cases and our use of duty allocations in care cases has also fallen by around 50% between April and October 2010. Our staff are working incredibly hard so that today we are helping children involved in more than 43,000 family court cases, 3,000 more than in April this year."
The head of Ofsted, Christine Gilbert, who is married to former Labour minister Tony McNulty, is due to step down at the end of her term in October 2011.
She commented on her fifth and final Annual Report: "We have improved inspections so we now see much more of what happens on the front line.
"In local authorities, our unannounced visits to children's social care services have allowed us to get a clearer picture of what's happening on the ground. At the same time we are prioritising the inspection of weaker providers and devoting fewer resources to those that are good or outstanding. These changes are sharpening inspection and accountability, and should ensure more rapid improvements."