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

5. Evaluation criteria

The criteria that inspectors use to make judgements, including benchmarks of what good looks like.

5.1 The overall experiences and progress of children, young people and adults

Areas of required evidence are:

  • the quality of individualised support provided and the influence and impact of the provider on the progress and experiences of children and adult service users
  • the quality of relationships between professionals and children, adult service users and other key individuals
  • how well the views of children and adult service users are understood and taken into account

Good

Children and adult service users are able to build trusted and secure relationships with staff. Children and adult service users view the help they receive positively.

Children and adults, including those who cannot communicate verbally, are supported to actively participate in day-to-day and more complex decisions about their lives, as appropriate. They are sensitively helped to understand where it may not be possible to act on their wishes and are helped to understand why other action is taken that is in their best interests.

Children and adult service users know how to complain. The agency’s complaints policy is easy to understand, accessible and focused on the needs of service users, who understand what has happened as a result of their complaint. Their complaints are treated seriously and are responded to clearly. Urgent action is taken and practice and/or services improve accordingly.

Any specific type or model of support delivered or commissioned by the agency is provided by staff who are suitably trained, experienced, qualified and supervised. The benefits of this to children and adult service users are clearly evident. The support is reviewed regularly.

Children and adult service users develop skills and strategies to manage their own conflicts and difficult feelings through developing positive relationships with staff.

Children and adult service users are treated with dignity and respect. They experience help that is sensitive and responsive to their identity and family history, including age, disability, ethnicity, faith or belief, gender, gender identity, language, race and sexual orientation. Where relevant, the support helps them to develop a positive self-view and to increase their ability to form and sustain attachments and build emotional resilience and a sense of their own identity. It also helps them to overcome any previous experiences of neglect and trauma.

The agency places the well-being of individual children and adults at the centre of its practice, irrespective of the challenges they may present. Staff understand the potential impact of adoption on people’s lives.

Adoption support, including intermediary and birth records counselling and services for birth families and adopters’ own children, is sensitive to service users’ individual circumstances and meets their needs. It is well organised and accessible and has a positive impact on their lives. Work promotes family stability and supports people to understand the impact of adoption on their lives and their family and, if appropriate, the potential outcomes of a search or a reunion with a member of their family.

Assessments are effective and the intended objectives of individual pieces of adoption support work are clear and agreed with service users and, if possible, with children and young people. The outcomes of each piece of work are evaluated, recorded and understood.

Requires improvement to be good

The experiences and progress of children and adults are likely to require improvement when the agency is not yet delivering good support for children, young people and adult service users. The weaknesses identified need to be addressed to fully support children and adults’ progress and experiences and to mitigate risk in the medium and long term. However, there are no serious or widespread failures that result in children and adults’ welfare not being safeguarded and promoted.

Inadequate

The experiences and progress of children and adults are likely to be judged inadequate if there are serious or widespread failures that mean children and adults are not protected or their welfare is not promoted or safeguarded or if their support and experiences are poor and they are not making progress.

Outstanding

The experiences and progress of children and adults are likely to be judged outstanding if, in addition to meeting the requirements of a good judgement, there is evidence of the following.

Professional practice consistently exceeds the standard of good and results in sustained improvement to the lives of children and adult service users even where children and adults have complex or challenging needs. There is improvement for children and adults because of the support provided by the agency. For children and adults with the most complex needs, staff are able to evidence the sustained benefit they have had in making a difference to the lives of children and adults receiving support. There are examples of excellent practice that are worthy of wider dissemination.

Research-informed practice, some of which may be innovative, continues to develop from a strong and confident base, making an exceptional difference to the lives and experiences of children and adult service users.

5.2 How well children and adults are helped and protected

Areas of required evidence are:

  • how well risks are identified, understood and managed and whether the support provided helps children, young people and adults to become increasingly safe, where this is the focus of the work
  • the response to children who may go missing or may be at risk of harm, including exploitation, neglect, abuse, self-harm, bullying and radicalisation
  • whether safeguarding arrangements to protect children meet all statutory and other government requirements.

Good

Children and adults receiving support feel protected and are protected from harm. There is a strong, robust and proactive response from all those working with children and adults that reduces the risk of harm or actual harm to them. Where relevant, that response includes regular and effective contact and planning with the child’s allocated social worker and their family.

Children and adults who use the service report that staff listen to them, take their concerns seriously and respond appropriately.

Careful recruitment and regular monitoring of staff prevent unsuitable people from being recruited and from having the opportunity to harm children or to place them at risk. The recruitment and training of staff have a strong focus on keeping children and adults safe. The relevant authorities are informed of any concerns.

Staff know and follow procedures for responding to concerns about the safety of a child or adult. Where appropriate, child or adult protection concerns are immediately shared with the commissioning and/or host local authority and a record of that referral is retained. There is evidence that staff follow up the outcome of the referral quickly and that appropriate action has been taken to protect children or adults from further harm. Where the agency is not satisfied with the response from either the local authority where the setting is situated or the commissioning authority, it escalates its concerns appropriately, including by writing to the director of children’s services in the relevant local authority.

Allegations or suspicion of harm, including those relating to historic abuse, are shared with the appropriate agencies and are handled fairly, quickly and in accordance with statutory guidance. Children and vulnerable adults are supported and protected.

The agency has effective links with local authorities, designated officers and other key safeguarding agencies. There is good communication about safeguarding issues, such as any concerns relating to current or historical abuse. The agency has good relationships with relevant local voluntary sector organisations that may be able to offer specialist support to children or vulnerable adults in keeping themselves safe.

Effective adoption support ensures that adopters continue to understand the potential impact of abuse and neglect on their adopted child as they grow older.

Requires improvement to be good

The help and protection offered to children and adult service users is likely to require improvement if children and adults are not yet receiving good help and protection, but there are no serious failures to leave them harmed or at risk of harm.

Inadequate

The help and protection offered to children and adults is likely to be inadequate if there are serious or widespread failures that leave children and adults being harmed, at risk of harm or with their welfare not safeguarded.

Outstanding

The help and protection offered to children and adults is likely to be judged outstanding if there is evidence of the following.

The agency consistently exceeds the requirements of a good judgement for help and protection of children and adults. Professional practice results in sustained improvement to the lives of children and adults. Proactive and creative safeguarding practice means that all children and adults, including the most vulnerable, have a strong sense of safety and well-being as a result of the support received.

Research-informed practice, some of which may be innovative, continues to develop from a strong and confident base, making an exceptional difference to the lives and experiences of children and adults receiving support.

5.3 The effectiveness of leaders and managers

Areas of required evidence are:

  • whether leaders and managers show an ambitious vision, have high expectations for what all children can achieve and ensure high standards of adoption support
  • how well leaders and managers prioritise the needs of children and young people
  • the extent to which children and adults make progress from their starting points as a result of the adoption support they receive
  • whether leaders and managers provide the right supportive environment for staff through effective supervision and appraisal and high-quality induction and training programmes, tailored to the needs of the children and adults receiving support
  • how well leaders and managers know and understand the setting’s strengths and weaknesses, to prevent shortfalls, identify weaknesses and take decisive and effective action
  • whether the agency is achieving its stated aims and objectives
  • the extent to which leaders and managers actively promote tolerance, equality and diversity

Please note, if an adoption support agency is an individual, the inspection will focus on the relevant parts of these grade descriptors. In most instances ‘leaders and managers’ or ‘staff’ can be replaced with the ‘registered person.’

Good

The agency is managed effectively and efficiently by a permanent, suitably experienced and qualified registered manager or individual registered provider. Urgent action is taken to address any vacancy of the registered manager post.

The agency is properly staffed and resourced to meet the needs of service users. Staff are suitably vetted and qualified and are able to deliver high-quality services. Arrangements for recruitment and appraisals are robust.

Leaders and managers actively and regularly monitor the quality of the services provided. They use learning from practice and feedback to improve the experiences of children and other service users. This includes, for example, direct testimony from children, young people, parents, adopters and other professionals. They identify strengths and areas for improvement and implement development plans that continually improve the experiences of those receiving adoption support. Robust action is taken to address all issues of concern, including any concerns or complaints from those receiving adoption support. Proper investigations are undertaken. Effective action has been taken to address all requirements and recommendations from previous inspections.

Leaders and managers take steps to ensure that plans for those receiving adoption support comprehensively address their needs. The agency works proactively and positively with commissioners and partner organisations. Leaders and managers seek to build effective working relationships with social workers from commissioning authorities to secure positive outcomes for children and adults.

Leaders and managers understand the plans for the children and other service users and actively drive the achievement of important milestones, goals and, where appropriate, permanence for children’s futures.

Leaders and managers monitor the progress that services users make and can demonstrate the positive impact that adoption support has had on their progress and life chances.

Managers and staff receive regular and effective supervision that is focused on children and other service users’ experiences, needs, plans and feedback. Supervision is recorded effectively. There is effective support and challenge, including through team and management meetings, to ensure that the professional development of staff and leaders results in the right environment for good practice to thrive. The emotional impact on staff of the work is recognised and managed well by leaders and managers.

Training, development and induction activities are effective and focused on ensuring that staff meet the needs of all those receiving support. Activities are evaluated to ensure that they lead to effective practice. Leaders, managers and staff are up to date with current practice in their specialist area.

The staff team works collaboratively to provide consistency and stability. There are clear responsibilities and accountabilities and the staff team has a sense of shared ownership about their practice. Staff report that they are well led and managed and there is other evidence to support this.

Leaders and managers’ decisions about the help provided give priority to the safety and stability of the lives of children and other service users.

The statement of purpose and children’s guide, which are kept under review, clearly set out the ethos and objectives of the agency.

The registered provider is financially viable and can deliver high-quality, stable adoption support to children and other service users.

Case records reflect the work that is undertaken and clearly relate to the experiences of children and other service users. The style and clarity of records increases the understanding that children and adults have about their histories, background and experiences. The records are available to children and service users, who are able to see or contribute to them as they wish, with appropriate support.

All significant events that relate to the welfare and protection of children and vulnerable adults are notified by the registered person to the appropriate authorities. Necessary action is taken following the incident to ensure that the service user’s needs are met and that the service user is safe and protected.

The culture of the agency is characterised by high expectations and aspirations for all service users. The ethos and objectives of the agency are demonstrated in practice.

Requires improvement to be good

The effectiveness of leaders and managers is likely to require improvement if the characteristics of good leadership and management are not in place. Where there are weaknesses in practice, leaders and managers have identified the issues and have plans in place to address them or they are less serious and there is capacity to take the necessary action.

Inadequate

The judgement on the effectiveness of leaders and managers is inadequate if there is evidence of the following.

The experiences, progress or protection of children are inadequate and leaders and managers do not know the strengths and weaknesses of the home. They have been ineffective in prioritising, challenging and making improvements.

The agency fails to work effectively in partnership with others in the best interests of children and adults.

Outstanding

The effectiveness of leaders and managers is likely to be judged outstanding if, in addition to meeting the requirements of a good judgement, there is evidence of the following.

Leaders and managers are inspirational, confident, and ambitious for children and adult service users.

They create a culture of high aspiration and positivity and have high expectations of their staff.

They lead by example and innovate and generate creative ideas to sustain the highest quality care for children and adult service users.

They know their strengths and weaknesses well and can provide evidence of improvement over a sustained period.

They develop and maintain professional relationships between the agency and partner agencies that ensure the best possible care, experiences and futures for children and adults.