Social care common inspection framework (SCCIF): residential family centres

11. Preparing for an inspection

What happens before an inspection.

11.1 Analysis and planning

Inspectors are allocated 1 day to prepare for a full inspection. This time should be used to review the information held by Ofsted and to make sure fieldwork is focused and effective in collecting first-hand evidence.

The information Ofsted holds includes:

  • previous inspection reports
  • completed questionnaires from parents, staff, social workers and commissioners and partner agencies
  • the residential family centre’s statement of purpose
  • any concerns and complaints received
  • notifications of significant events
  • reports of monthly visits received under regulation 25
  • quality assurance reports received under regulation 23
  • any changes to registration, including change of manager or the responsible individual
  • any enforcement activity that has happened since the last inspection

Some of this information is drawn together in the provider information portal (PIP).

The inspector should always familiarise themselves with relevant background and context information, such as the most recent inspection of the local authority where the centre is situated.

If information has been received that indicates potential non-compliance with regulatory requirements, Ofsted may use the information as a line of enquiry during the inspection. The inspector usually outlines the concern to the registered person(s) or person in charge of the centre at the beginning 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 analyses the evidence and information and records their planning notes on the inspection database.

The plan for the inspection should identify 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.

11.2 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.

11.3 Notifications and reports made under regulation 35 and NMS 25

Inspectors must regularly review notifications, regulation 23 reports and regulation 25 reports. Inspectors must focus on both their content and quality as part of their evaluation of the centre’s monitoring of its impact on children and parents.

Information from any of these sources may result in:

  • further activity, such as speaking to the registered manager or provider or other stakeholders
  • rescheduling of inspections based on concerns within reports or notifications, or based on a failure to submit reports or notifications
  • lines of enquiry for the next inspection of the residential family centre, including:

    • management of issues and concerns
    • quality and effectiveness of leadership
    • oversight of the care and support of children and parents
    • timeliness of notifications to Ofsted and other parties

Any emerging lines of enquiry must be recorded in the inspection database and inform pre-inspection planning.

Registered persons (providers and managers) are required to notify Ofsted about an incident without delay of the matters set out in regulations. Our online forms have further guidance on this.

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 ask the provider for more information.

Whenever there are concerns about the welfare of a child or parent, the inspector must contact the centre’s manager. Ofsted must be fully aware of what is being done by the placing authority and other organisations, such as the host authority and police, to safeguard the child or parent.

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 ‘Management of cross-remit concerns about children’s welfare’.

The director of children’s services must be notified immediately of the concerns so they can review the situation. This information also informs any forthcoming local authority inspection.

Inspectors always monitor closely whether Ofsted is informed of the outcome of any child protection enquiry, in line with regulations and statutory guidance. Where this has not been received promptly, the inspector should contact the residential family centre. Inspectors must follow up any failure to notify Ofsted of the outcome.

Regulation 25 of the Residential family centre regulations 2002 requires that the provider arranges for a person to visit the residential family centre at least once a month and this may be unannounced.

The regulation also requires the visitor to complete a report and provide a copy to Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector (HMCI).

Ofsted requires the person to send the report to Ofsted before the end of each month that follows the month of the visit.

This requirement still applies when there are no children and parents accommodated at the centre.

Regulation 23 requires the registered person to produce a report at appropriate intervals, reviewing the quality of care provided by the centre.

Regulations 23 and 25 reports can be submitted online. This is the best and most secure method.

Regulations 23 and 25 reports can also be emailed to However, information sent by email is not secure.

Providers should be aware of the associated risks while operating within the information guidelines of their own organisation. Providers must include on the report Ofsted’s unique reference number (URN) and the date on which the visit occurred, and submit reports to the document handling manager.

If providers are unable to submit these reports online they can posted to:

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