Social care common inspection framework (SCCIF): adoption support agencies

11. Preparing for an inspection

What happens before an inspection.

11.1 Analysis and planning

Pre-inspection analysis and planning are an important part of all SCCIF inspections. Inspectors are allocated one day to prepare for an inspection of an adoption support agency. This time should be used to review the information held by Ofsted and to ensure that the fieldwork is properly focused and used to best effect in collecting first-hand evidence.

Inspectors will look at the information that Ofsted already holds about the agency, including:

  • previous inspection reports
  • pre-inspection data submissions from the agency
  • updated data and case lists submitted by the adoption support agency following notice of the inspection
  • reports made under national minimum standard 25 (not required for individual providers)
  • completed questionnaires from adopters, children, young people, birth relatives and others
  • the up-to-date statement of purpose and children’s guide
  • concerns and complaints made to Ofsted
  • notifications of significant events made to Ofsted
  • any changes to registration, including change of manager
  • the content of the provider’s website
  • any enforcement activity within the last inspection year

Some of this information is drawn together in the provider information portal (PIP) and in the pre-inspection briefing.

In addition, the inspector should always familiarise themselves with relevant background and context information such as the most recent inspection of the local authority where the agency is situated.

If information has been received that indicates potential non-compliance with regulatory requirements, Ofsted may use the information as a line of enquiry during the inspection. The inspector usually outlines the concern to the registered person(s) or person in charge of the adoption support agency at the beginning of the inspection. There may be circumstances where it is not appropriate to share all the information about a concern – for example, where the allegation is about the registered person or person in charge themselves, or where sharing the information could compromise an investigation being carried out by another agency, such as the police.

The inspector carries out an analysis of the available evidence and information and must record their planning notes on the inspection database.

The plan for the inspection should identify lines of enquiry, any areas of apparent weakness or significant strength, or areas where further evidence needs to be gathered. The focus of the inspection may change during its course as further evidence emerges.

11.2 Questionnaires

Each year, Ofsted uses online questionnaires to gather a range of views about different types of setting. Where relevant, this includes the views of:

  • children and young people
  • parents and carers
  • staff
  • foster carers
  • adopters
  • adult service users
  • other interested parties such as placing social workers and independent reviewing officers

Ofsted sends links to the questionnaires annually to each provider by email and asks them to distribute those links on its behalf. The responses are submitted directly to Ofsted.

Responses are shared with the inspector for the service or setting and are used to inform the planning and scheduling of inspections. Where there are no responses for a service or setting, this also forms a line of enquiry for the inspection.

11.3 Notifications and reports under national minimum standard 25

Inspectors must regularly review notifications and reports under national minimum standard (NMS) 25. This is important regulatory activity. Inspectors must focus on both the content and quality of the reports as part of their evaluation of how well the agency monitors its impact on the experiences of service users.

Information from any of these sources may lead to:

  • further activity, such as speaking to the registered manager and/or individual registered provider or other stakeholders
  • the rescheduling of inspections based on either identified concerns within reports and/or notifications; or on a failure to submit reports or notifications
  • lines of enquiry for the next inspection - emerging lines of enquiry must be noted in the inspection database and inform pre-inspection planning

Registered persons (providers and managers) must notify Ofsted without delay about specific events and incidents as set out in Regulation 24(1) of the Adoption Support Agencies (England) and Adoption Agencies (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2005. Schedule 4 lists the specific events.

Online forms and further guidance about notifications are available. Agencies should always seek advice from their link inspector about individual cases if they are uncertain.

If the inspector identifies issues that give them cause for concern about the welfare of children, they should ask for evidence that shows what has been done to help and protect the child. If notifications are incomplete, the inspector should always contact the agency or ask for more information.

Whenever there are concerns about the safety or welfare of a child or adult, the inspector must contact the agency’s manager so that Ofsted is fully aware of the actions being taken by the agency and other relevant parties (such as the host authority and police) to promote and safeguard the welfare of the service user. Managers and staff should take into account the appropriate parts of the statutory guidance outlined in Working together to safeguard children (2015).

If the inspector has any concern about the practice of either the commissioning local authority or the host local authority, this is managed in line with the published policy Management of cross-remit concerns about children’s welfare. The director of children’s services must be notified immediately of the concerns so that they can review the situation. This information also informs planning for any forthcoming local authority inspection.

Inspectors always monitor closely whether Ofsted is informed of the outcome of any child protection enquiry in line with regulations and statutory guidance. Where this has not been received promptly, the inspector should contact the agency. Inspectors must follow up any failure to notify Ofsted of the outcome.

NMS 25.6 states that the executive side of the adoption support agency’s trustees, board members or management committee members should:

  • receive written reports on the management, outcomes and financial state of the agency every 6 months
  • monitor the management and outcomes of the services in order to satisfy themselves that the service is effective and is achieving good outcomes for children and service users
  • satisfy themselves that the agency complies with the conditions of registration

As part of the pre-inspection preparation, inspectors consider the NMS 25 reports and any emerging lines of enquiry are included in the inspection plan.

Individual providers do not need to make reports under this standard.

Reports can be submitted online. This is the most secure, and our preferred, method of receiving notifications.

Reports can also be emailed to However, information sent by email is not by secure link; providers should remain aware of the associated risks while operating within the information guidelines of their own organisation. Providers must include Ofsted’s unique reference number (URN) and the date on which the visit occurred on the report.

Reports can be posted to:

Document Handling Centre Manager
Applications, Regulatory and Contact Team
Piccadilly Gate
Store Street
M1 2WD