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

15. Inadequate judgements: next steps

What happens following inadequate judgements, including urgent case reviews.

15.1 Urgent case reviews

Where a children’s home is judged inadequate for ‘the overall experiences and progress of children and young people’ at a full inspection, this leads to an urgent case review.

If an interim inspection identifies that the home has declined in effectiveness or there is enough cause for concern, this also leads to an urgent case review. The inspector and their manager determine what further action needs to be taken, including the scheduling of future inspections and/or compliance action.

The urgent case review considers whether statutory enforcement action is required in relation to the establishment or agency and, where there is a registered manager, the registered manager. The case review considers all the enforcement options available. The Social care compliance handbook has detailed information about the enforcement options available and the arrangements for following up enforcement activity.

The timing and nature of subsequent inspection and monitoring visits following a judgement of inadequate is set on a case-by-case basis. We always return to undertake some inspection activity within 6 to 8 weeks to ensure that children are safe. This is either a monitoring visit or a full inspection. Where concerns are serious, we are likely to return to undertake a monitoring visit to check that the manager and responsible person have taken adequate steps to safeguard and protect the welfare of children living in the home. A monitoring visit usually results in a published report, although regulatory inspection managers (RIMs) can decide not to publish monitoring reports in exceptional circumstances.

An inspection visit takes place sooner if any further significant concerns arise during this period or if an earlier inspection is necessary to make statutory requirements to safeguard and protect the welfare of children.

All inadequacy is serious and requires immediate action to be taken. However, in some cases, the inadequacy derives from fire risks, health and safety hazards or other environmental factors. While serious and high risk for children and young people, these can be quickly rectified in many instances. Inspectors always seek to understand how and why such serious inadequacy has occurred.

Where the concerns are serious but likely to be rectified relatively quickly, we may in specific circumstances be satisfied at the monitoring visit that the situation has been made safe for children. We seek assurance that leaders and managers can and are acting appropriately in respect of their responsibilities. All requirements that have been made will have had to be met in full. In these instances, the inspector may determine that an improved inspection judgement can be awarded. If this is the case, the monitoring visit results in a new inspection judgement.

Where the situation has not improved enough, the inadequate judgement remains, a report of the monitoring visit is published with the original judgement and we decide what steps to take next.

We consider new inspection judgements in circumstances where:

  • the RIM agrees that the concerns are discrete enough and that without these very specific concerns, the home would have achieved a higher inspection judgement
  • the home has a previous good track record of addressing concerns and issues and there are no concerns about the leadership and management of the home or the protection of children
  • the nature of the concerns means they can be rectified quickly

Therefore, where we have followed up an inadequate judgement with a monitoring visit, the outcome may be to:

  • carry out further monitoring and take steps towards cancellation
  • schedule a full inspection (usually within 16 weeks from the original inspection), which may either support our steps to cancel the home’s registration or give the home the opportunity to show improvement and secure an improved inspection judgement
  • consider whether the monitoring visit provides enough evidence to secure an improved inspection judgement

15.2 Secure children’s homes

Where a secure children’s home is judged inadequate, the Department of Education is informed so that the Secretary of State can take this into account in determining the continued approval of the home.

15.3 Feedback to local authorities

Wherever children are at immediate risk, inspectors must follow Ofsted’s ‘Safeguarding children and young people and vulnerable adults policy’. In addition, whenever a children’s home is judged inadequate at the full inspection, the inspector must alert the placing authority for any child currently placed in the home to the concerns that have been identified. The inspector must also notify the local authority where the home is based because they have a duty to safeguard the welfare of all children and young people living in the local authority area. This also applies where we have judged a decline in effectiveness at the interim inspection and it has been agreed at the case review that the relevant local authorities should be notified.

The inspector sends an email to the directors of children’s services in the relevant local authorities by the end of the next working day following the inspection. Ofsted follows this email up with a telephone call to ensure receipt. Where there are a large number of placing authorities, the inspector should discuss arrangements for contacting them with their manager. The inspector should also ensure that the email to local authorities is forwarded to the provider.

The inspector gives feedback to the relevant local authorities in line with the feedback given to the provider. This must include a summary of the main concerns so that relevant local authorities understand these and can make their own decisions. The inspector must make clear that this is an indication of the likely inspection judgement but that it is subject to confirmation by Ofsted on publication of the report.

The details of the email and any phone calls must be recorded on the inspection database for future reference and the email or letter should be shared with the provider.

We contact placing authorities to follow HMCI’s powers detailed in paragraph 8 of schedule 13 of the Education and Inspections Act 2006, ‘to provide assistance to other public authorities in the exercise of the placing authorities’ functions’.

15.4 Children who are not looked after

Where children who are not looked after are accommodated in a children’s home, the local authority is not the placing authority (as set out in the definition of a placing authority in Regulation 2 of the Children’s Homes (England) Regulations 2015). Inspectors need to ensure that the relevant organisation or people who are the placing authority are alerted to the inadequate judgement; for example, they should send a copy of the inspection report to parents who have placed their children in the home themselves.