12. The on-site inspection
What happens during an inspection.
12.1 The start of the inspection
At the start of all inspections, the inspector confirms their identity by producing their Ofsted inspector authorisation, identification card and identity badge. They don’t need to carry paper copies of Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks.
The inspector always meets with the registered manager or person in charge at the beginning of the inspection to:
- outline the plan for the inspection and confirm whether it is a full inspection or a monitoring visit
- make arrangements to interview the registered manager during the course of the inspection; if the registered manager is not available and the registered provider is not able to attend the inspection, the provider should identify someone to be their representative during the inspection
- outline identified lines of enquiry for the inspection, including those generated through the reading of the statement of purpose
- provide the person in charge with the opportunity to share any current information or personal issues relating to any of the children attending the scheme that the inspector needs to be aware of, such as information about recent incidents or activities occurring during the site visit
- ensure that Ofsted holds the correct details on the inspection database (as required by regulations), including email address and contact phone numbers for the manager, registered provider and/or responsible individual, any other partners, or directors or trustees (see Annex A)
- arrange the approximate time that verbal feedback at the end of the inspection will be given and who is to receive this; feedback will normally be given to the registered manager or senior member of staff present and the responsible individual; additional senior staff linked to the agency may also attend at the discretion of the inspector if agreed in advance
12.2 Case tracking and sampling
Evaluating the experiences and progress of children is a core inspection activity. This is largely based on evidence from case tracking and sampling.
For tracked cases, inspectors take an in-depth look at the quality of the help, care and protection that individual children and young people have experienced. For sampled cases, inspectors look at elements of practice within individual cases, usually to follow lines of enquiry.
Inspectors take into account the specific nature of residential holiday schemes for disabled children to ensure that case tracking and sampling activity is proportionate and does not unnecessarily distract children from enjoying their holidays.
We take into account individuals’ starting points and circumstances during inspections. We recognise that even slight progress in a particular aspect of their lives may represent a significant improvement for some children.
There is likely to be a greater emphasis on experiences for children than on progress, although the scheme should still focus on supporting progress where it can. The impact of the scheme on children’s progress is likely to be influenced by the time-limited nature of the holiday. Children should be supported to enjoy experiences that may not be available to them otherwise.
Children’s overall experiences and progress are, in part, a result of how well they are helped and protected and the effectiveness of leaders and managers. Inspectors consider the ‘help and protection’ and ‘leadership and management’ judgements first so that they can take these into consideration when reaching the ‘overall experiences and progress’ judgement.
Inspectors also sample elements of other cases to follow specific lines of enquiry. The size of the scheme and the nature of any lines of enquiry determines how many cases are sampled.
Tracked and sampled cases should be selected by the inspector from the case list provided and usually include (where relevant):
- a child who has complex needs
- a child who is attending the scheme for the first time
- a child who requires more than one-to-one support at all times
- a looked-after child, or a child who is subject to a child protection or a child in need plan
Inspections also assess the management of a recent serious incident (where relevant) so they can understand how the staff team respond to complex and difficult circumstances and whether the actions and responses of leaders, managers, staff and volunteers are focused on promoting and safeguarding the welfare of children and young people.
Inspectors increase their understanding of the child’s experience through observation of activities and from the young person themselves, their parents/carers and other professionals involved in their care. Inspectors should spend the majority of their time on site with children, staff and volunteers.
When tracking the case of a looked after child, wherever possible the independent reviewing officer, the placing social worker and the foster carer (or key worker, if the child lives in a children’s home) should be consulted.
Inspectors examine, discuss and evaluate cases in line with the evaluation criteria. Inspectors look for evidence that attending the scheme has had a positive impact on the experiences and progress of children and that managers and staff know they are making a difference to children’s lives.
The detail of activities undertaken and discussions held varies depending on the lines of enquiry for each individual inspection.
12.3 Listening and talking to children and young people
The views of children who attend the scheme provide important evidence of their experiences and progress.
Inspectors assess how well the scheme consults with children. The children’s views gathered by the scheme are taken into account as part of the inspection evidence.
Inspectors always try to meet with children during the inspection.
Inspectors must take into account the specific communication skills of individual children. For some children, the inspectors may request the assistance of staff or carers who know and understand the child’s preferred means of communication, particularly if this is unique to the child. In other instances, it may also be appropriate for inspectors to spend time observing children and how they interact with staff and respond to their environment.
Inspectors can request the services of an interpreter to join the inspection. This is helpful when the children and young people are fluent in British Sign Language. Inspectors request this service via the inspection support team and give 2 weeks’ notice where possible.
Inspectors should involve children in inspection activity wherever they can. Opportunities to gather the views and experiences of children and young people may include:
- asking children and young people to show inspectors around the premises
- having individual conversations
- joining in activities
- preparing snacks or drinks
- spending mealtimes with young people
Children, including those who communicate non-verbally, may wish to share their views in their preferred way to the inspector.
Inspectors will demonstrate safe and sensitive practice by:
- telling staff where conversations with children are taking place and who is involved
- being sensitive to the fact that some children may not want to be involved in the inspection
- explaining to children that they will not include comments that will identify them in the inspection report or in feedback to staff without their permission
- ensuring that staff are aware of any arranged meetings with children and that children may leave the meeting at any time
- where appropriate, explaining to children that information suggesting that they or another child is at risk of harm will be passed by the inspector to an appropriate person able to take necessary action
12.4 Observation of activities
Inspectors can use the scheme’s scheduled activities as opportunities for observing and following lines of enquiry. These activities could include:
- recreational activities
- staff/volunteer handover
- the provider’s regulation 29 visits
- staff/volunteer meetings or briefings
The privacy and confidentiality of personal information are respected at all times by inspectors. The inspector always involves the scheme in any decisions about children’s involvement in the inspection.
Inspectors always try to strike a balance between the time it takes to observe an activity and the significance of the likely evidence to be gained.
12.5 Gathering views of other professionals
Inspectors consult with professionals to inform the inspection findings. This is usually by telephone during the inspection. Professionals may include social workers, local police, the placing local authority quality assurance officer and the designated officer. Inspectors ask managers or staff for the relevant contact details via Annex A.
Inspectors should always take account of privacy and confidentiality when talking to stakeholders on the phone during the inspection.
12.6 Discussions with managers and staff
Individual interviews are always held with the registered manager (or, if they are not available, a nominated person in charge) and other staff and volunteers. The number interviewed depends on the size of the holiday scheme, but includes a sample of permanent staff and volunteers working at the scheme at the time of inspection.
Where the registered manager is not available, the inspector usually asks to interview the responsible individual.
The inspector always asks to interview the responsible individual where any of the following apply:
- there is no registered manager in post
- there are concerns about the quality of care and support, or the effectiveness of monitoring arrangements, or the quality of leadership and management of the scheme
- evidence indicates that the scheme is failing to protect children and young people
- there are concerns about staffing, the premises or resources to manage and run the holiday scheme
The manager’s interview usually includes:
- issues that the inspector wishes to explore with the manager that have arisen from pre-inspection information and considering early lines of enquiry
- a discussion about the ethos of the scheme as described in the statement of purpose and any specific lines of enquiry arising
- the manager’s evidence of the effectiveness of the scheme on the experiences of children and young people who attend their holiday events; this includes how the scheme works with individual children, young people and their parents to meet their needs appropriately
- questions about the theoretical and professional understanding and approach to working with vulnerable children and young people
- their knowledge and understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the scheme and plans for future development; how they effectively lead the scheme and promote a culture of continuous improvement
- follow-up progress in response to any previous requirements and recommendations
- the quality and effectiveness of practice-related support and challenge they receive and the induction and guidance they give to staff and volunteers
- challenge and enquiry about the relationship of the scheme with other professionals and services
- any other evidence they may wish to highlight to the inspector
During the inspection, the inspector must share emerging findings about the scheme’s strengths and weaknesses with the manager so that they fully understand the issues. As a minimum, the inspector usually speaks with the registered manager during the inspection to share emerging findings. They normally set out what they intend to consider later in the inspection so the manager can prepare or direct inspectors to any specific information or evidence required.
Shortfalls that could have an immediate impact on the safety of staff, children or young people are brought to the attention of the manager, or the senior member of staff on duty, as soon as the inspector has identified the problem.
Inspectors want to establish whether the scheme’s monitoring systems are sufficiently robust to identify strengths and weaknesses in practice. Inspectors do not spend time routinely counting medication or petty cash, undertaking vehicle checks, checking water temperatures or contents of fridges, freezers and food storage areas unless there is a specific line of enquiry.
Inspectors should be prepared to alter interview arrangements if staff have to attend to the needs of children.
12.7 Examination of records, policies and procedures
Inspectors do not routinely examine all policies and procedures. Documents are examined where they are a line of enquiry for that individual inspection.
Some records are required to provide information about all events the scheme has operated since its last inspection, such as recruitment records; others relate to the event at the time of inspection, such as evidence of health and safety checks.
Inspectors focus on the impact of documents such as risk assessments and how they work in practice, rather than on the format. What matters is that they are fit for purpose and provide enough information to staff for them to be able to care for and support children safely. Where paper or electronic personnel records are maintained, the inspector may ask to see those records if they are included within the lines of enquiry for the inspection. Schemes can maintain electronic records if these:
- meet the requirements of regulation
- are appropriately accessible to children, young people and their parents if they want to access their records
- staff have access to the information they need to assess, care and support children and young people
Inspectors look at electronic recruitment records that summarise the vetting and recruitment checks for staff and volunteers. These records could be maintained within checklists or spreadsheets. The manager and provider must be able to supply evidence they are satisfied that all staff and volunteers working at any scheme they have run in the last year are fit to do so and that recruitment and selection arrangements comply with regulations 21 and 22 of the Residential holiday schemes for disabled children (England) regulations 2013.
Where the provider uses the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) update service to check the status of an individual’s DBS certificate, the provider should be able to demonstrate how it manages and records details of any check it carries out. If any lines of enquiry require additional information, the inspector may request that a small sample of full personnel records are made available at the inspection visit.
12.10 Implications of the Equality Act
The Equality Act 2010 came into effect on 1 October 2010. The Act makes it unlawful for an employer to ask a potential employee questions about their health or disability before they are offered employment, whether on a conditional or unconditional basis.
Social care providers must comply with both the Equality Act and the remit-specific regulations that require them to employ people who are fit, both physically and mentally, for the work. In order to comply with both laws, this means that providers may give conditional offers of employment to potential employees after the recruitment process, subject to appropriate medical and health checks. However, there are a number of exemptions to the provisions in the Act. If a provider believes that an exemption applies to their recruitment of staff, they should take their own legal advice on the matter.
Inspectors will assess whether providers have a rigorous recruitment and vetting process in place, including ensuring that their employees are mentally and physically fit before they commence work as part of their inspection.
12.11 How inspectors record the evidence
Inspectors must analyse the information they gather on inspection and use their professional judgement to assess the impact on the experiences and progress of children and other service users.
Inspectors’ evidence should be clear, evaluative and sufficient to support the judgements.
The evidence should tell the story of the experiences and progress of children and other service users, as appropriate. Evidence should not include information that could identify individuals unless it is necessary to protect a child or to support further action. In these instances, inspectors can use individuals’ initials.
Inspectors can record direct quotes from children, adult service users and other interested parties in evidence to support judgements.
The record should clearly indicate the source of the evidence (for instance, whether the evidence is from observation, a written record or a face-to-face interview). If evidence comes from an interview, the record must indicate the time of the interview and the interviewee’s job title or relationship to the child.
Throughout the inspection, inspectors maintain a record of their evidence. Electronic evidence is recorded within the inspection database. Summarised evidence must be sufficient to support the judgements and any recommendations or requirements. Inspectors must ensure that the provider understands the evidence that the judgements are based on and any requirements that stem from the judgements.
After the summarised evidence has been placed in the inspection database, any duplicate handwritten evidence should not be destroyed by the inspector until at least 10 days after the inspection. In some circumstances, inspectors will be required to keep any handwritten notes they have made during the inspection for longer. This may, for example, be necessary when legal action or a complaint about the judgement is being considered.
All handwritten evidence should be legible and dated. Handwritten evidence that has not been summarised forms part of the inspection evidence base, and should therefore be scanned and added into the inspection database within 5 working days of the end of the on-site visit.
Evidence may be scrutinised for quality assurance and will be considered in the event of any complaint.
12.12 Feedback at the end of the inspection
At the end of the inspection, the inspector will give verbal feedback of the main findings and provisional judgements. This feedback will usually be given to the responsible individual. Additional senior staff from the provider may also attend, if agreed in advance with the inspector. In some circumstances, an inspector may need extra time after the inspection fieldwork to take advice before giving feedback. The day of feedback is counted as the last day of the inspection.
The inspector should:
- cover the main findings of the inspection, including both strengths and weaknesses
- clearly communicate the likely judgements
- indicate likely recommendations, with clear reference to the relevant national minimum standard or quality standard (where relevant), providing a clear direction for improvement
- use the grade descriptors and the evidence to clearly indicate how the judgements have been reached
- confirm when the report will be sent to the manager for comments on factual accuracy (see ’timeframe‘)
Inspectors will not provide a written summary of the inspection or written feedback in advance of the inspection report being sent. Providers may choose to take their own notes at feedback.