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

5. Evaluation criteria

The criteria that inspectors use to make judgements, including benchmarks of what good looks like.

5.1 The overall experiences and progress of children and parents

Areas of required evidence are:

  • the quality of individualised care and support provided and the influence and impact of the centre on the progress and experiences of children and parents
  • the quality of relationships between staff, parents and children
  • how well children’s and parents’ views are understood and taken into account, and how their rights and entitlements are met
  • the quality of children’s and parents’ experiences on a day-to-day basis
  • how well the centre supports transitions
  • the quality of assessments of parental capacity to meet their children’s needs and promote their welfare

Good

Children and parents are able to build trusted and secure relationships with staff at the centre. Staff know the children and parents well, listen to them and promote their welfare.

Children and parents, including those who can’t communicate verbally, are supported to take active involvement in day-to-day and complex decisions about their lives, as appropriate. They are sensitively helped to understand where it may not be possible to act on their wishes, and to understand where other action is taken that is in children’s best interests.

Children and parents know how to complain. The centre’s complaints policy is easy to understand and accessible. Children and parents understand what has happened as a result of their complaint. Their complaints are treated seriously and are responded to clearly. Urgent action is taken and improvements happen accordingly.

Children and parents are supported to attend education or employment where appropriate.

Children and parents have access to a range of social, educational and recreational opportunities, including activities in the local community, as appropriate. They are supported to engage in faith-based activities if they wish.

The centre challenges the local authority effectively when it has concerns about the future plans for children and parents.

Children and parents are being helped to improve their health or manage lifelong conditions. Their health needs are identified (including sexual and mental health, as appropriate to age and understanding). They have access to local health services when they need them. Arrangements for managing medication are safe and effective and promote independence wherever possible. Managers and staff develop effective relationships with health professionals to promote good health.

Specialist help is made available according to the individual needs of children and parents and in line with the statement of purpose. The help is available as soon as it is needed, at the intensity required and for as long as required. Where services are not available or where children are waiting for a long time for help, the centre challenges and escalates concerns with the placing authority or other partners.

Any specific type or model of care, specialist help or support delivered or commissioned by the centre is provided by staff who are trained, experienced, qualified and supervised. The benefits of this to children and parents are clearly evident. The care and support are reviewed regularly.

Children and parents who are new to the centre are welcomed sensitively and with careful and considered planning. When children and parents leave the centre, staff promote positive endings. When endings are unplanned, the welfare and well-being of children and parents remain paramount. The needs of other children and parents at the centre are taken into account.

Parents and (when appropriate) children are supported to develop skills and strategies to manage their own conflicts and difficult feelings through developing positive relationships with staff. There are clear, consistent and appropriate boundaries for children and parents.

Children and parents are treated with dignity and respect. They experience care or help that is sensitive and responsive to their identity and family history, including age, disability, ethnicity, faith or belief, gender, gender identity, language, race and sexual orientation.

Staff place the well-being of individual children and parents at the centre of their practice, irrespective of the challenges they may present. Their day-to-day needs are met, such as routine, privacy, personal space, nutritious meals and enjoyable mealtimes.

Children and parents have appropriate, carefully assessed, supported contact (direct or indirect) with their family, friends and other people who are important to them. There are no unnecessary restrictions in place.

Staff support good relations between families living at the centre.

Parents and (where appropriate) children are clear about what parenting skills are being assessed and how the assessment process works. They feel fully engaged in the assessment process and feel able to challenge the views of the assessors. They also receive regular feedback on the progress of the assessment.

Assessments focus on children’s needs and take account of parents’ views. Assessments are individualised and realistic about what parents can achieve and the support required if children are to continue living with their parents. The assessment is conducted in line with statutory guidance.

Final assessment reports are evaluative and analytical, succinctly describing parents’ strengths and weaknesses, their capacity for change and the extent to which they understand the impact of their actions on their children.

Requires improvement to be good

The experiences and progress of children and parents are likely to require improvement when the centre is not yet delivering good help and care for children and their parents. The weaknesses identified need to be addressed to fully support children and parents’ progress and to mitigate risk in the medium and long term. There are no serious or widespread failures that mean children’s welfare is not safeguarded and promoted.

Inadequate

The experiences and progress of children and parents are likely to be judged inadequate if there are serious or widespread failures that mean children are not protected, or their welfare is not promoted or safeguarded, or that progress and experiences of children and parents are poor.

Outstanding

The experiences and progress of children and parents are likely to be judged outstanding if, in addition to the requirements of a good judgement, there is evidence of the following.

Professional practice, including the quality of assessments and assessment reports, consistently exceeds the standard of good.

There is significant evidence of change and improvement for children and parents because of the actions of the staff working at the centre.

The experience of children and parents at the centre enhances their life opportunities. There are examples of excellent practice that are worthy of wider dissemination.

5.2 How well children and young people are helped and protected

Areas of required evidence are:

  • how well risks are identified, understood and managed and whether the support and care provided help parents to help their children to become increasingly safe
  • the response to parents and children who may go missing or may be at risk of harm, including exploitation, neglect, abuse, self-harm, bullying and radicalisation
  • how well staff manage situations and behaviour and whether clear and consistent boundaries contribute to a feeling of well-being and security for children and parents
  • whether safeguarding arrangements to protect children and parents meet all statutory and other government requirements and promote their welfare

Good

Children are protected from harm, including neglect, abuse, sexual exploitation, accidents, bullying and radicalisation. There is a strong, robust and proactive response from all those working with children that reduces harm or risk of harm to them, including from self-harm. That response includes regular and effective contact and planning with the child’s allocated social worker and their family, if this is appropriate and in accordance with plans for their future.

Children and parents report that staff listen to them, take their concerns seriously and respond appropriately.

Any risks associated with children and parents offending, misusing drugs or alcohol, self-harming, going missing or being sexually exploited are known and understood by staff. Individual, up-to-date risk assessments address effectively any known vulnerabilities for each child and set out what action should be taken. There are plans and help in place that are reducing harm or the risk of harm and there is evidence that these risks are being minimised.

Children and parents who go missing experience well co-ordinated responses that reduce the harm or risk of harm to them. Risks are well understood and minimised. There is a clear plan of urgent action in place to protect them and to reduce the risk of further harm. The centre is aware of and implements, as appropriate, the requirements of the statutory guidance for children who are missing. The centre responds effectively to children and parents who are missing.

Parents are helped to keep themselves and their children safe from bullying, homophobic behaviour, racism, sexism, radicalisation and other forms of discrimination. Any discriminatory behaviours are challenged. Help and support are given to parents and children about how to treat others with respect.

Parents receive help and support to manage their own and their children’s behaviours and feelings safely. Staff respond with clear boundaries about what is safe and acceptable and seek to understand the triggers for behaviour.

Positive behaviour is promoted consistently. Staff use effective de-escalation techniques and creative alternative strategies that are specific to the needs of each child or parent and designed in consultation with them where possible.

Conflict management is effective and includes the appropriate use of restorative practices that improve relationships, increase parents’ sense of personal responsibility and reduce the need for formal police intervention.

Proactive and effective working relationships with the police help to support and protect children and parents. Staff work with the police to protect families at the centre from any unnecessary involvement in the criminal justice system.

Staff understand the risks that use of the internet may pose for children and parents, such as bullying, grooming or abuse. They have well-developed strategies in place to keep children and parents safe, and to support parents to keep themselves and their children safe.

Careful recruitment and regular monitoring of staff and volunteers prevent unsuitable people from being recruited and having the opportunity to harm children and parents, or to place them at risk. The relevant authorities are informed of any concerns about inappropriate adults.

Staff working within the centre know and follow procedures for responding to concerns about the safety of a child or parent. Any child or adult protection concerns are immediately shared with the placing or host local authority as required, and a record of that referral is retained. There is evidence that staff follow up the outcome of the referral quickly and that appropriate action has been taken to protect the child or parent from further harm. Where the centre is not satisfied with the response from either the local authority where the centre is situated or the placing authority, it escalates its concerns appropriately, including by writing to the director of children’s services in the local authority placing the family.

Investigations into allegations or suspicion of harm are shared with the appropriate agencies and are handled fairly, quickly and in accordance with statutory guidance. Children and, where relevant, parents are supported and protected. Support is given both to the person making the allegation and the person who is the subject of the allegation.

The centre has effective links with local authorities, designated officers and other safeguarding agencies. There is good communication about safeguarding issues, such as allegations against staff. The centre has good relationships with relevant local voluntary sector organisations that may be able to offer specialist support to children and parents in keeping themselves safe.

The physical environment for children and parents is safe and secure and protects them from harm or the risk of harm. Risk assessments for the physical environment are regularly reviewed and updated and comply with statutory requirements.

Surveillance and electronic monitoring are used appropriately to minimise risk of harm to children. Their use is recorded and regularly reviewed with families and the placing authority.

Requires improvement to be good

The help and protection offered to children and parents are likely to require improvement if they are not yet receiving good help and protection, but there are no serious failures that leave them either harmed or at risk of harm.

Inadequate

The help and protection offered to children and parents are likely to be inadequate if there are serious or widespread failures that leave children being harmed, at risk of harm or with their welfare not being safeguarded.

Outstanding

The help and protection offered to children and parents are likely to be judged outstanding if, in addition to the requirements of a good judgement, there is evidence of the following.

Professional practice results in sustained improvement to the lives of children. Highly effective planning manages and minimises risks inside and outside the centre.

Proactive and creative safeguarding practice means that all children and parents, including the most vulnerable, have a strong sense of safety and well-being. Parents are involved in creating ways to de-escalate situations and finding creative alternative strategies that are effective.

Research-informed practice, some of which may be innovative, continues to develop from a strong and confident base, making an exceptional difference to the lives and experiences of children and parents.

5.3 The effectiveness of leaders and managers

Areas of required evidence are:

  • whether leaders and managers show an ambitious vision, have high expectations for what all children and parents can achieve and ensure high standards of care
  • the extent to which leaders and managers have a clear understanding of the progress that children and parents are making in respect of the plan for them
  • whether leaders and managers provide the right supportive environment for staff and volunteers through effective supervision and appraisal and high quality induction and training programmes that are tailored to the specific needs of the children and parents
  • how well leaders and managers know and understand the centre’s strengths and weaknesses, prevent shortfalls, identify weaknesses and take decisive and effective action to rectify them
  • whether the centre is achieving its stated aims and objectives
  • the quality of professional relationships to ensure the best possible all-round support to children and parents in all areas of their development
  • whether leaders and managers actively challenge when the responses from other services are not effective
  • the extent to which leaders and managers actively promote equality and diversity

Good

The centre is managed effectively and efficiently by a permanent, suitably experienced and qualified registered manager. Urgent action is taken to address any vacancy of the registered manager post.

The centre is properly staffed and resourced to meet the needs of the children and parents at the centre. The staff team is suitably vetted and able to deliver high quality services. Arrangements for recruitment and appraisals are robust.

Leaders and managers regularly monitor the quality of assessment, care and help provided. They use learning from practice and feedback to improve assessments and the experiences and care of children and parents. This includes, for example, direct testimony from children, parents, other professionals and other stakeholders.

Leaders and managers learn from complaints, staff feedback, placement successes and breakdowns, and any serious events. They identify strengths and areas for improvement and implement clear development plans that continually improve the experiences and care of children and parents.

Action is taken to address all issues of concern, including concerns or complaints from children, parents, local residents and placing authorities. Placing and host authorities are engaged as necessary. Effective action has been taken to address all requirements and recommendations from previous inspections.

Leaders and managers take steps to ensure that assessments and plans for individual children and parents comprehensively address their needs.

Leaders and staff work proactively and positively with other agencies and professionals. They seek to build effective working relationships to secure positive outcomes for children and parents.

Where children and parents are not settling into the centre, leaders and managers take steps to ensure that the plan is reviewed with the placing authority and the family (where this is appropriate) to consider the best steps to take next. They effectively challenge and take action when they are concerned that placing authorities are not making decisions that are in children’s best interests, when the statutory requirements for looked-after children are not met, or when they cannot keep children and parents safe.

Leaders and managers understand the assessment and care plans for children and parents, and actively drive the achievement of important milestones and goals. Leaders and managers monitor the progress that individual parents and children make and can demonstrate the positive impact that living at the centre has had on individual children’s life chances.

Managers and staff, including volunteers, receive regular and effective supervision that is focused on children and parents’ experiences, needs, plans and feedback. Supervision is recorded effectively.

There is effective support and challenge, including through team and management meetings, to ensure that the professional development of staff and leaders results in the right environment for good practice to thrive. The emotional impact on staff of the work is recognised and managed well by leaders and managers.

Training, development and induction activities are effective. They are focused on ensuring that staff can meet the specific needs of families at the centre. Activities are evaluated to ensure that they lead to effective practice. Leaders, managers and staff are up to date with current practice in their specialist area.

The staff team works collaboratively to provide consistency and stability. There are clear responsibilities and accountabilities and the staff team has a sense of shared ownership about its practice. Staff report that they are well led and managed and there is other evidence to support this.

Leaders and managers make child-centred decisions about families coming to live at the centre. They give priority to the safety and stability of the group environment and new admissions take account of the likely impact of new families joining the group.

The statement of purpose, which is kept under review, clearly sets out the ethos and objectives of the centre.

Leaders and managers ensure that the physical environment is maintained to a high standard and meets the needs of the children and parents. Any damage or wear and tear is quickly and regularly repaired.

The registered provider is financially viable and can deliver high quality help and care for children and parents.

Case records reflect children and parents’ everyday lives and the work that is undertaken with them. The records reflect children and parents’ experiences and clearly relate to the assessments being undertaken. The style and clarity of records increases the understanding that children and parents have about their histories, background and experiences. The records are available to parents and, where appropriate, children. They are able to see or contribute to them as they wish, with appropriate support.

The registered person ensures that notifications of all significant events that relate to the welfare and protection of children placed at the centre are made to the appropriate authorities. The registered person takes the necessary action following the incident to ensure that the child’s needs are met and that they are safe and protected.

The culture of the centre is characterised by high expectations and aspirations for all children and parents. The ethos and objectives of the centre are demonstrated in practice.

Leaders and managers regularly review and act on any known risks to children, taking advice and guidance from local partners and agencies.

Requires improvement to be good

The effectiveness of leaders and managers is likely to require improvement if the characteristics of good leadership and management are not in place. Where there are weaknesses in practice, leaders and managers have identified the issues and have plans in place to address them or they are less serious and there is capacity to take the necessary action.

Inadequate

The judgement on the effectiveness of leaders and managers will be inadequate if there is evidence of the following.

There has been no registered manager for more than 26 weeks.

The experiences, progress or protection of children are inadequate and leaders and managers do not know the strengths and weaknesses of the centre. They have been ineffective in prioritising, challenging and making improvements.

Leaders and managers fail to work effectively in partnership with others in the best interests of children.

Outstanding

The effectiveness of leaders and managers is likely to be judged outstanding if, in addition to meeting the requirements of a good judgement, there is evidence of the following.

Leaders and managers are inspirational, confident, ambitious for children and parents, and influential in changing the lives of those in their care.

They create a culture of aspiration and positivity and have high expectations of their staff to change and improve the lives of the children and parents they are responsible for.

They lead by example, innovate and generate creative ideas to sustain the highest quality care and support for children and parents.

They know their strengths and weaknesses well and can provide evidence of improvement over a sustained period.

They maintain relationships between the centre and partner agencies that ensure the best possible care, experiences and futures for children and parents.