Guidance for children's social care providers about Ofsted’s phased return to inspection.
Applies to England
Plans from January 2021
From January, we will resume focused visits to local authority children’s services. These visits will not result in a graded judgement.
Routine inspection under the inspection of local authority children’s services (ILACS) framework will begin from April. We will prioritise inadequate local authorities that are ready for re-inspection, and authorities where there are concerns.
We will continue with assurance visits under the social care common inspection framework (SCCIF) until April, when routine inspections will resume.
September to December 2020: the interim period
What we are doing in the interim period
Our goal is to give helpful feedback to providers and reassurance to children, families, commissioners and other stakeholders.
We will prioritise the things that matter most to the lives of children and young people. We will focus on their safety and well-being, the key decisions made about them, plans to support them as restrictions are eased, and the effectiveness and impact of leaders and managers.
We began making assurance visits from September 2020.
How we report our findings
We will not give graded judgements. We will set out our findings in a report/letter to the provider/local authority. We will publish these on our reports website.
We will make it clear if we have any serious concerns about practice and/or the experiences of children.
When necessary, we will make requirements and recommendations for improvement.
Interim period start and end dates
Registration and regulatory activities are still taking place, though more of this work is happening remotely.
Our assurance visits for children’s social care providers started in September 2020.
For regulated providers, the interim period will run until March 2021 (the end of the regulatory year) so that we can visit as many providers as possible under these arrangements.
The social care common inspection framework
We will use both off site and on site activity, based on an assessment of risks for individuals and taking into account government guidance at the time of the visit.
Ofsted is not currently carrying out inspections under the social care common inspection framework. However, we began carrying out assurance visits from September 2020. View the assurance visits guidance for different types of provider.
We will arrange visits based on the most recent inspection judgements, other information we hold about the provider, the amount of time since the last inspection and whether the provider is newly registered and therefore not yet been inspected.
We will evaluate:
- the experiences and progress of children and young people, taking into account the COVID-19 context
- how well children and young people are helped and protected
- the effectiveness of leadership and management, including arrangements to meet the needs of children as restrictions are eased
We will publish a report after the visit. It will not include a graded judgement. Each report will clearly state whether inspectors found any serious or widespread concerns for the welfare of children. When they do so, the report will clearly identify and describe those concerns. The report will make requirements and recommendations for improvement, as necessary.
We will use our enforcement powers if we need to.
We continue to register new providers to support sufficiency in the sector.
We continue with regulatory and enforcement work as usual.
Inspection of local authority children’s services
In the interim period, we will focus on the key decisions made for children in need of help and protection, for children in care and for care leavers. We will also look at the impact of leaders.
We will use a mix of on-site and off-site activity. Inspectors will go on site when it is necessary and safe to do so. The decision will be based on an assessment of risks for individuals and taking into account government guidance at the time of the visit.
These will take place from late September or early October 2020.
We will take account of the following when prioritising local authorities to visit:
- those judged inadequate at their last inspection
- those with an area for priority action
- those we have concerns about following information received since their last inspection/visit
- those that have not yet had a standard or short inspection under the ILACS framework
- timing of other activity
We also plan to include a sample of local authorities judged good or outstanding at their last inspection to identify practice that will help others to improve their plans for recovery and help maintain confidence in this essential work.
The focused visits will follow the methodology already set out in the ILACS framework. The visit will include a slightly larger team and longer fieldwork so we can provide assurance across a wider range of issues than would usually be the case for a focused visit.
We will publish a letter after the visit. It will not include a graded judgement. It will set out strengths and areas for improvement. Inspectors will identify areas for priority action if they identify widespread or serious failures.
We are still looking at how we can best respond to local authorities judged inadequate at their most recent inspection but that have not yet had their first monitoring visit. We will confirm our plans later in July.
These local authorities may still receive an assurance visit in the remainder of the interim period.
Annual engagement meetings
Annual engagement meetings have continued. We do not require local authorities to hold an annual engagement meeting with us in the interim period but we will agree with local areas the right approach.