Social care common inspection framework (SCCIF): children’s homes, including secure children’s homes

10. Scheduling and the inspection team

How an inspection is scheduled and who makes up the team.

10.1 Frequency and type of inspections

We have a duty to inspect children’s homes as set out in Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Education, Children’s Services and Skills (fees and frequency of inspections) (children’s homes, etc.) regulations 2015 as amended.

We inspect children’s homes that were judged inadequate or require improvement to be good at their last full inspection at least twice in each year-long inspection period (from 1 April to 31 March).

We inspect all secure children’s homes at least twice in the year-long cycle regardless of inspection outcomes.

In most instances where a home is inspected twice during the year, 1 inspection is a full inspection and the other is an interim inspection. Different patterns of inspection may occur if a home has been judged inadequate or if a home is not operating at the time of inspection.

We carry out at least 1 full inspection of homes that were judged as outstanding or good during a year-long inspection period. We conduct an initial risk assessment for every children’s home judged as good or outstanding at the start of the inspection year to inform an initial decision of whether these homes will be subject to a second inspection (an interim inspection) in addition to a full inspection.

This takes into account:

  • the most recent interim inspection
  • reports received under regulations 44 and 45
  • notifications received under regulation 40
  • information from complaints, whistleblowers and local authorities
  • changes to the home’s management
  • any other relevant information

The initial risk assessment will be reviewed regularly in light of further information received during the year (see Notifications under regulation 40 and regulations 44 and 45 reports).

If a home is judged to have declined in effectiveness at an interim inspection after being judged outstanding or good at a full inspection, we then decide when to inspect it again. (See Inadequate judgements: next steps for more information.)

Where the children’s home provides education, we inspect its educational provision once every 3 years. We do this at the same time as the full inspection where it is sensible and practical to do so, but we always publish a separate report. This is known as an aligned inspection.

If there is an incident, complaint or concern, we may conduct a monitoring inspection. We may also carry out monitoring inspections to review any new building work, to ensure that the design and layout remains suitable for achieving the aims and objectives set out in the children’s home’s statement of purpose or, where we wish to gather information on a particular aspect of care or service provision, to monitor specific issues or compliance with a notice.

10.2 Scheduling

The scheduling of inspections takes account of:

  • legal requirements
  • previous inspection findings
  • complaints and concerns about the service
  • returned questionnaires from children, young people, social workers and other stakeholders
  • notifications
  • monitoring reports given to Ofsted by children’s homes under regulations 44 and 45 of the Children’s homes (England) regulations 2015

10.3 Length of inspection

Children’s homes are usually inspected by a single social care inspector. Where the children’s home provides education or is also registered with the DfE as a school, one of Her Majesty’s Inspectors (HMI) (Education) inspects the educational provision.

For a full inspection of a children’s home, an inspector usually spends a maximum of 2 days on site.

For interim inspections, the inspector is usually on site for a maximum of 1 day.

The inspector and the regulatory inspection manager (RIM) should determine how best to allocate resources for inspections. In some circumstances, it may be necessary for more inspectors to be involved in the inspection. The nature of some inspections, such as the inspection of secure children’s homes, residential special schools that are also registered as children’s homes or homes with satellite sites, may require extra inspector time on site to:

  • give due consideration to the issues relating to the evaluation criteria that are specific to that provision, such as navigating the security systems on site in secure accommodation
  • find opportunities to talk to staff who are in direct supervision of children at all times

Inspectors should consider whether the length of time on site should be reduced in certain circumstances, such as for inspections of homes with a very small number of children.

Inspectors should consider:

  • a risk assessment that takes into account previous inspection judgements, notifications and any serious incidents
  • the number of children who live in the home
  • the size of the establishment, including the number of separate homes on site
  • whether there have been significant building development or changes to the management or operation of the setting (for secure children’s homes)

For full inspections of secure children’s homes, an inspector from the Care Quality Commission will be part of the inspection team. For interim inspections of secure children’s homes, Ofsted may request the assistance of a CQC inspector if there are health related matters where the inspection would benefit from CQC’s input. The CQC inspector will assist Ofsted in its evaluation of the timeliness, quality and impact of health services provided for children.

10.4 Deferrals

Inspections will not normally be deferred. Absence or unavailability of important staff (unless the provider is a single person) or accommodation issues such as refurbishment will not usually be reasons for deferral. If no staff are available, the inspector should contact the responsible individual or person in charge to arrange access.

An inspection will only be deferred when it might place children or others at risk if it goes ahead or if the ability to gather secure evidence is severely restricted. These conditions might include:

  • serious weather conditions that make access to sites difficult or dangerous or both
  • a serious incident where the presence of an inspector would have an adverse impact on the safety and well-being of children, young people or adults

Decisions about deferrals are agreed by the regulatory inspection manager (RIM).