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

12. Preparing for an inspection

What happens before a full inspection.

12.1 Analysis and planning

Pre-inspection analysis and planning are important parts of all SCCIF inspections. Inspectors are allocated 1 day to prepare for a full inspection and half a day to prepare for an interim inspection. 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 look at the information that Ofsted already holds about the home, including:

  • previous inspection reports
  • completed questionnaires from children, young people, parents and stakeholders and associated summary reports
  • the home’s statement of purpose and children’s guide
  • any concerns and complaints received
  • notifications of serious events
  • reports of monthly visits received under regulation 44
  • quality assurance reports received under regulation 45 (including monitoring by the registered person of any incident when a child accommodated in the home goes missing or is at risk of, or subject to, child sexual exploitation)
  • any changes to registration, including change of manager or the responsible individual
  • any enforcement activity within the last inspection year

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

If information has been received that indicates potential non-compliance with regulatory requirements, Ofsted may use this information as a line of enquiry during a full or interim inspection. The inspector usually outlines the concern to the registered person(s) or person in charge of the home at the time 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 sets out 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.

12.2 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.

12.3 Notifications under regulation 40 and reports under regulations 44 and 45  

Inspectors must regularly review notifications, regulation 44 reports and regulation 45 reports. This is important regulatory activity. Inspectors must focus on both the content and the quality of the reports as part of their evaluation of how well the home monitors its impact on the experiences of children.

Information from any of these sources may result in:

  • further activity, such as speaking to the registered manager and/or responsible individual or other stakeholders
  • a decision to carry out an interim inspection of a home judged outstanding or good at its last full inspection and that Ofsted had previously assessed as only requiring 1 full inspection in that year-long inspection period
  • rescheduling of inspections based on either identified concerns within reports and/or notifications or based 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 40.

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

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 home for ask for more information.

Whenever there are concerns about the safety or welfare of a child, the inspector must contact the home’s manager so that Ofsted is fully aware of the actions being taken by the home, the placing authority and other relevant parties (such as the host authority and police) to promote and safeguard the welfare of the child. 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 placing or host local authority, this is managed in line with the published policy ‘Concerns about children: guidance for all Ofsted staff’. 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 must monitor closely whether Ofsted is informed of the outcome of any child protection enquiry in line with regulations and statutory guidance. If this has not been received promptly, the inspector should contact the home. Inspectors must always follow up any failure to notify Ofsted of the outcome.

Regulation 44 requires that an independent person visits the children’s home at least once a month and that this visit may be unannounced. The regulation also requires that the independent person must write a report and provide a copy for HMCI. Ofsted therefore requires that the independent person or provider sends the report to Ofsted before the end of the month that follows the month in which the visit took place. This requirement still applies when there are no children living in the home.

Regulation 45 requires the registered person to produce a report at least every 6 months, reviewing the quality of the care provided by the home, the experiences of children living there and the impact the care is having on outcomes and improvements for children at the home.

Regulation 44 and 45 reports can be sent to:

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

Providers must include Ofsted’s unique reference number (URN) and the date on which the visit occurred on the report. Regulations 44 and 45 reports can also be submitted electronically to Reports received in this way are processed. However, information sent by email is not secure. Providers should be aware of the associated risks while operating within the information assurance guidelines of their own organisation.