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

20. Monitoring visits

Information about monitoring visits.

Monitoring visits are carried out according to the general principles of the SCCIF. Monitoring visits are usually undertaken for any of the following reasons:

  • to follow up concerns
  • following an inadequate inspection
  • to monitor compliance with a notice

20.1 Timing and frequency

The decision to carry out a monitoring visit is usually taken at a case review. The frequency of monitoring visits is decided on a case by case basis and may be as frequent as weekly if that is what is needed. Timing and frequency are determined by any dates included in compliance notices and the nature of the concerns.

A compliance notice sets out the actions a provider must take by a certain date to meet the relevant service-specific regulations for children’s social care providers. This is agreed and recorded at the case review.

The inspector will tell the provider that they are the subject of monitoring following enforcement action or an inadequate inspection judgement. Monitoring visits are usually unannounced.

20.2 Compliance notices

Where we establish a number of actions on a statutory notice, or serve multiple statutory notices with different completion dates, then we schedule follow-up visits for each date or notice to ensure that the provider has met each specified action within the prescribed timescale.

We aim to complete follow-up visits the day after the required completion date for each notice or, at the very latest, within 5 working days of that date. In some instances, we may timetable the monitoring visit so that we can assess compliance with more than one notice.

We may decide, in exceptional circumstances, not to carry out a follow-up visit to check that the provider has met a specific requirement in a notice. In these cases, we will accept written confirmation that the provider has taken the required action, if the written confirmation is accompanied by documentary evidence such as a photograph or a copy of a required procedure.

We make a note on the inspection database of the reasons why it was not necessary to visit, for example where a fire officer has conducted a visit and given written confirmation of action taken, copied to Ofsted.

Monitoring visits are also likely to be agreed as part of the plan for the provider once the notice of proposal to cancel has been issued.

Other circumstances where we might undertake monitoring visits include those where a ‘restriction of accommodation’ notice is in place or where we have suspended a provider from continuing to operate.

Following the monitoring visit, we will send a report detailing the outcome of the visit. This report will be published on our website alongside the children’s home inspection reports.

20.3 Preparing for the monitoring visit

When preparing for a monitoring visit, inspectors take into account:

  • the last inspection report
  • requirement(s) set out in the last inspection report
  • requirement(s) set out in any compliance notice
  • letters from previous monitoring inspections
  • any notifications received since the last inspection
  • any action plan provided by the setting
  • any other information recorded on the inspection database, such as information from other agencies or complaints
  • any enforcement action that should be monitored (for example, restriction of accommodation)

20.4 How inspectors carry out monitoring visits

Where the monitoring visit is either conducted following an inadequate judgement or to monitor compliance notices or to determine whether requirements have been completed, it should:

  • determine the impact of any completed requirements on the welfare and outcomes for children, young people and other service users
  • identify whether any additional concerns exist
  • determine the capacity of the registered manager to sustain the changes required
  • consider any further action that may need to be taken
  • review the evidence in order to determine whether a new inspection judgement can be made

Where the monitoring visit is to monitor other concerns or issues, it should:

  • determine whether the effectiveness of the setting has declined or improved
  • determine the impact of any improvement or decline in practice on the welfare and outcomes for children and young people
  • set out any further action that may need to be taken

The inspector must notify either the registered provider or registered manager when they arrive on site.

The inspector should judge how effective the improvement is and how, by tackling the requirements or issues, the setting has improved the experiences and progress of children, young people and other service users.

To demonstrate the necessary improvement, providers and managers need to show that their actions have had a significant impact in achieving clear and sustainable progress. Good intentions and an inspirational outlook or a recent change of manager following a period of poor leadership do not in themselves give enough proof of the ability of the provider to sustain improvement.

If it becomes clear that there are further issues of concern or that in tackling the actions from the last inspection the provider has let other aspects slip so that children and/or vulnerable adults are at risk of harm or are not making sufficient progress, then the inspector should decide what further action needs to be taken. This includes new requirements and/or recommendations and compliance notices or other enforcement action such as restriction of accommodation or imposing of conditions.

If the inspector is concerned or unsure about any aspect of the visit, they can contact their RIM or a social care compliance inspector.

If the inspector thinks that an offence may have been committed, they should contact a social care compliance inspector or RIM immediately to discuss whether the monitoring visit should continue and to take advice.

If during the course of the visit the inspector thinks that an offence has been committed, they have the power to caution the registered provider or registered manager. An inspector can only caution the provider or the registered manager.

If an inspector believes that an offence has been committed and that it is necessary to secure the evidence during the visit, they should contact their RIM, another manager or social care compliance inspector for advice, before administering the caution and carrying out the interview.

However, the preferred way of interviewing under caution is to withdraw and conduct the interview at a later date under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984.

20.5 How inspectors gather evidence in a monitoring visit

The key questions inspectors investigate are:

  • How effective is the action taken by the provider to meet the requirements set at the last inspection?
  • How effective is the action the provider has taken to improve the experiences and progress of children and young people?

Evidence should be recorded in the inspection database. The evidence should reflect the areas for improvement that were identified in the inspection report. This section should include evidence of the most significant strengths and weaknesses and any new areas of improvement or breaches of requirement that need to be taken forward. The inspector must decide whether the setting has let other aspects slip so there is now cause for concern in different areas.

Inspectors must decide whether the provider demonstrates their capacity to sustain any improvements they have made. Inspectors should also decide whether the improvements are having a marked and sustained impact on all areas of weakness.

20.6 Feedback at the end of the monitoring visit

The inspector provides verbal feedback to the provider at the end of the visit. The inspector must:

  • be clear about the evidence base that the judgement of improvement or continued concern is based
  • make clear any new issue(s) to take forward
  • ensure that the provider is clear about the outcome of the visit and what the next step will be, especially if a new issue has arisen or improvement is inadequate
  • be clear with the provider when the next steps will be confirmed if the inspector requires further advice
  • explain that the outcome of a monitoring visit is published in the form of a report on the Ofsted website alongside the last report
  • make clear that the text of the report may differ slightly from the oral feedback, but that the substance of the issues will not change
  • ensure that the provider understands that the overall judgement of inadequate has not changed (where relevant), although progress and improvements may have been made
  • be clear if a new inspection judgement has been made why this is the case and what the new judgement is or why no change to the judgement has been made

After any monitoring visit following an inadequate judgement, the inspector must contact the director of children’s services of the placing authorities (where relevant) to advise them:

  • whether there has been a change of judgement and what that new judgement is and the nature and effectiveness of any improvements or
  • that there has been no change of judgement and either the original concerns remain or new ones have emerged.

20.7 Monitoring report

Ofsted will publish all monitoring reports on its website, although RIMs can decide not to publish monitoring reports in exceptional circumstances.

The summary of the reports should outline the significant developments and evidence of progress that has occurred since the last visit. The summary must clearly explain the action the provider has taken to address the requirements and the impact of any improvement, or not, on the care, experiences and progress of children, young people and any other service users. The report will be a short summary.

The report must:

  • set out the reason for the visit (if the visit is to follow up enforcement activity then the letter should clearly set this out, for example, ‘This home is subject to a restriction of accommodation order. There are concerns that… In order to evaluate the progress the home has made in addressing these concerns a monitoring visit was undertaken on….’; where this relates to compliance notices, there should be a short summary of the number of notices and an overview of the areas for concern)
  • evaluate where progress has been made and where progress has not been made
  • clearly state the impact of continued concerns on children and young people, alongside any action that Ofsted will be taking to notify placing local authorities and/or to protect children
  • set out clearly where and what further action is needed
  • set out why a new judgement has been made or the reasons why the judgement will not be changed (if appropriate)

Inspectors must use clear language to indicate the level of concern; for example, ‘this visit has raised serious concerns about care and practice in the [setting]’. Inspectors can clearly state that the provider is likely to be subject to further enforcement action where this is the case. The details of intended action cannot be included as this may prejudice any action we are likely to take and be seen to impede the provider’s right of appeal, where relevant.

20.8 Review and factual accuracy check of the report

Monitoring toolkits will be reviewed by the RIMs before they are sent to the provider or published. This is to ensure that they accurately reflect the improvement made or support any further enforcement action we may wish to take.

The provider has an opportunity to check the factual accuracy of a monitoring report.

Monitoring reports should usually be published within 10 working days of the visit.