Social care: guidance for Ofsted staff

This handbook sets out the legal background to Ofsted’s social care compliance work and Ofsted’s powers.


Social care compliance handbook

Social care compliance handbook

This file may not be suitable for users of assistive technology.

Request an accessible format.
If you use assistive technology (such as a screen reader) and need a version of this document in a more accessible format, please email Please tell us what format you need. It will help us if you say what assistive technology you use.


Ofsted uses this handbook in its regulation of adoption support agencies, children’s homes, holiday schemes for disabled children, independent fostering agencies, residential family centres and voluntary adoption agencies.

Providers, managers and interested parties can read it to understand Ofsted’s compliance processes.

You can also read the social care common inspection framework for each provider type. This framework sets out how we inspect.

Published 15 October 2014
Last updated 26 October 2020 + show all updates
  1. Updated Annex D: surveillance to reflect Ofsted new guidance on directed surveillance.

  2. Amended the 'Visits to potentially unregistered settings and/or managers' section to clarify our policy and to show it is under review.

  3. Updated sections on ‘Written representations under the Care Standards Act 2000’ and ‘Working with other agencies and serious case reviews’. Added a new annex on contacting the DCS after an inadequate judgement.

  4. Handbook amended to reflect the revised registration guidance updated earlier this month. Also updated to explain that Ofsted doesn't do joint visits with other agencies but that we may visit or inspect at the same time as another agency.

  5. Minor updates and revisions to sections on written representations, offences, and disqualification.

  6. Updates to section 3.4, page 41 and section 3.5, page 47 to reflect changes to our policy when suspending providers’ registration and restricting accommodation.

  7. Handbook re-structured for ease of use.

  8. Updated for a suite of small changes following a review and in response to feedback from inspectors.

  9. This document was updated in December 2014.

  10. First published.