How Ofsted inspects children's social care

Information for local authority services, adoption and fostering agencies, residential centres and other children's social care services.

Applies to England

Ofsted registers and inspects some types of social care service; other types are inspected but do not have to register with Ofsted.

The two groups are listed below. The links go to the relevant inspection guidance including the inspection framework/handbook.

Social care services that Ofsted registers and inspects

Social care services that Ofsted inspects

When you’ll be inspected

Your inspection can take place at any time.

Notice of an inspection

Inspections of Cafcass, children’s homes, residential family centres and secure training centres are unannounced. Other types of service receive some notice of inspection. Your inspection framework/handbook has more details.

Before the inspection

You should prepare for your inspection and will need to have ready all the information listed in your inspection framework/handbook.

During the inspection

Inspectors will carry out tasks depending on the service. Tasks usually include:

  • discussions with children and young people
  • observing staff
  • talking to staff and, where possible, parents, guardians, advocates and other professionals
  • checking premises and equipment to make sure they are safe
  • reading files
  • checking records, procedures and other documents

After the inspection

Ofsted publishes inspection reports online within 28 working days of the end of the inspection (within 35 days for local authority children’s service inspection reports).

Complaints about an inspection

You should raise concerns with the inspector as soon as possible during the inspection. If you are unable to resolve the concern with the inspector, you should contact the inspector’s manager.

If it has not been possible to resolve your concern, you can make a formal complaint using Ofsted’s complaints procedure.

Published 3 December 2014
Last updated 31 March 2017 + show all updates
  1. Updated for inspection under the social care common inspection framework from April 2017.

  2. First published.