An overview of Ofsted's registration process for adoption agencies, fostering agencies, children’s homes, residential family centres and residential holiday schemes for disabled children.
Applies to England
Services that must register with Ofsted
The following social care services must register with Ofsted before they can operate. You can read introductory guides for each one:
- adoption support agencies
- children’s homes, including secure children’s homes (see below for court-ordered placements prior to registration)
- independent fostering agencies
- residential family centres
- residential holiday schemes for disabled children
- voluntary adoption agencies
You need to apply to register as the provider of a new service. Each application, except for voluntary adoption agencies, must also include an application to register a manager.
You also need to apply to register the new manager of an existing service, except for voluntary adoption agencies.
Services that must register with Ofsted are inspected by Ofsted.
If you are providing care and accommodation to a child as a result of a court order and your provision is not registered with Ofsted, you must urgently apply to register and you must highlight in your application that this is the case.
In these exceptional circumstances, it is helpful to ask the child’s local authority to contact Ofsted to alert us that your application is being submitted.
Services that Ofsted inspects but does not register
There are some children’s social care services that Ofsted inspects but does not register.
Children’s social care services that are not required to register with Ofsted are:
- boarding schools (unless these require registration as children’s homes)
- local authority children’s services
- residential special schools (unless they require registration as children’s homes)
- secure training centres
Temporary changes to the registration process
We have made some temporary changes to this registration process. Please follow the temporary guidance alongside the main registration guidance.
Before you apply
You should not submit an application to Ofsted until you:
- are familiar with the regulations and national minimum standards for the type of establishment or agency you wish to register (these are listed at the bottom of this page)
- have a Disclosure and Barring Service certificate for everyone who needs one (this includes all those who must submit an SC2 form) obtained online via the Ofsted DBS application
- are familiar with how Ofsted processes personal data, as outlined in our personal information charter and social care privacy notice
- have all of your policies, documents and procedures in place as detailed in the service specific regulations and this guidance (these must relate to the establishment or agency you are applying to register)
- have appointed a manager (please note that you must include their application to register with us as part of your application – if you do not, your application will be returned to you)
- have appointed a responsible individual, where necessary
- have a completed health declaration booklet for everyone who needs one
- have the relevant planning permission documentation
- have premises that meet any planning requirements and are ready to accommodate the proposed service
Before you apply for registration, everyone who is completing an SC2 declaration and consent form must have obtained a DBS certificate. The certificate must be at an enhanced level with barring information. There is further reading in ‘Disclosure and Barring Service: guidance for children’s social care providers’.
Everyone who needs a DBS certificate must either:
- apply online through the Ofsted DBS application – if you’re not also signed up to the DBS update service, you must submit your registration application within 3 months of your DBS certificate date
- provide us with an enhanced DBS certificate carried out via another organisation and be a subscriber to the DBS update service
For further information about the DBS update service go to the guide to registration for children’s social care services.
To help you apply for registration Ofsted has a guide to registration for children’s social care services.
Residential holiday schemes for disabled children should contact Ofsted first.
Adoption support agencies, children’s homes, independent fostering agencies, residential family centres and voluntary adoption agencies can apply to register online.
To apply online you will need a Government Gateway account: follow the relevant application link to create one. Once you have registered with the Government Gateway, you can begin your application.
There are fees to register as a provider or manager.
You must pay a registration fee as part of your application. This fee is non-refundable.
You must also pay a single, non-refundable fee for an application for a registered manager. This fee is payable for an application for a registered manager connected with a new establishment or agency and also when a new manager is registered for an existing establishment or agency.
If Ofsted grants your registration you must also pay the annual fee immediately and then on the anniversary date of your registration.
In some cases you pay an additional fee for the manager, but in some cases this is included in the fee for the provider.
How to pay
If you make an online application, Ofsted will check it. If your application is complete, you will receive a message which explains how to pay the registration fee online. Please note that Ofsted will only begin processing your application once you have paid your fee in full.
If you send your application in the post, you must include a completed fees form and a cheque for the relevant fee made payable to ‘Ofsted’. Please make sure you have signed and dated the cheque. Ofsted will return any application that does not come with the relevant fee.
We only start to process your application once you have supplied all the information that we need to process it, and you have paid the required fee.
We carry out checks and get references for each person connected with your application to make sure they are suitable to work with children and have the necessary skills, knowledge and experience.
You will also have to demonstrate that they meet the relevant requirements of registration. As part of our assessment processes we visit the premises and carry out interviews.
Visit to your establishment or agency
During the visit we assess the premises and services you intend to provide, and interview all those connected with the application. In some cases it may be necessary to make more than one visit during the registration process if several people need to be interviewed.
The inspector uses the visit to assess:
- whether the proposed services protect and promote children, young people and adult service users’ safety and welfare
- your fitness to provide or manage an establishment or agency
- whether the proposed premises are safe and suitable for the purposes intended in the application (please note, this does not apply to residential holiday schemes for disabled children)
At the end of the visit the inspector will:
- summarise the evidence that they have collected
- check that your proposed conditions of registration follow annex A of the ‘Guide to registration for children’s social care services’
- explain what happens next
Once we have all the information from the visit and checks, we make a decision about whether to register you to operate or refuse your application. You cannot start to operate an establishment or agency until you are registered.
Timescales are shown in our guide to registration for children’s social care services.
Applications are not subject to tacit approval (where if an authority does not process an application within the published timescales, then the application is granted by default). There are overriding reasons for this relating to the public interest, namely the need to safeguard and protect children’s welfare (Provision of Services Regulations 2009, regulations 19(5) and (6).
We aim to carry out our work smoothly and without incident. However, if you are dissatisfied with any aspect of the registration process please contact us. See our complaints procedure.
Certificate of registration
If we grant your application for registration, we will send you your certificate of registration.
You must display the certificate where people can see it.
If something happens to your certificate, you will need to get a replacement. Please call us on 0300 123 1231 if you need a replacement certificate.
- Children and Families Act 2014
- Adoption and Children Act 2002
- Education and Inspections Act 2006
- Care Standards Act 2000
- Children Act 1989
- Children Act 2004
Regulations for all providers
- The Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Fees and Frequency of Inspections) (Children’s Homes etc.) Regulations 2015
- The Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010
- The Care Standards Act 2000 (Registration)(England) Regulations 2010
Regulations for children’s homes
Regulations for adoption agencies and adoption support agencies
- Adoption Agencies Regulations 2005
- Adoption Support Agencies (England) and Adoption Agencies (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2005
- Adoption Support Agencies (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2010
- The Adoption Agencies and Independent Review of Determinations (Amendment) Regulations 2011
- The Adoption Agencies (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2013
- The Adoption Information and Intermediary Services (Pre-Commencement Adoptions) Regulations 2005
- The Arrangements for Placement of Children by Voluntary Organisations and Others (England) Regulations 2011
- The Disclosure of Adoption Information (Post-Commencement Adoptions) Regulations 2005
- The Voluntary Adoption Agencies and the Adoption Agencies (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2003
Regulations for residential family centres
- Residential Family Centres Regulations 2002
- The Residential Family Centres (Amendment) Regulations 2013