Reporting serious incidents in a children’s social care service to Ofsted

What social care providers need to know when notifying Ofsted of a serious incident.

Applies to England

Report a serious incident in your service

Children’s social care providers must report serious incidents (sometimes called ‘notifiable events’) to Ofsted.

Serious incident reports

What you need to report depends on what service you work in and how serious the incident is.

Ofsted inspectors will use the information provided by serious incident reports as part of their inspections under the Social Care Common Inspection Framework.

Ofsted may also take enforcement action if necessary under their Social care enforcement policy.

Your Ofsted record will automatically update when you report an incident to us.

Who can report a serious incident

Any member of staff can use the serious incident reporting form to tell Ofsted about an incident.

However, registered managers and providers are responsible for:

  • making sure incidents are reported to Ofsted
  • the quality of reports completed by their staff

What to include in your report

Your report needs to be more than a list of times and events. An inspector needs to know:

  • the type of incident and a summary of what happened
  • when and where the incident happened
  • your contact details and the details for your service and members of staff
  • what other organisations have been told
  • details of any children involved
  • initials and job titles of any staff and people involved
  • actions taken by staff and managers at the time and planned prevention measures

Updating a serious incident report

The only time you should use the form to send an update is to tell us about the conclusion of a child protection enquiry. All other incidents only need one report. Do not use the form to update Ofsted about any other incident, including any updates to child protection enquiries that have not been concluded.

If you have already reported an incident to us and you want to provide a further update, send an email to your inspector.

Sending updates about a child protection enquiry

You must use the form to tell us:

  • if a child protection enquiry has started or concluded
  • the outcome of the child protection enquiry.

When you report the conclusion of an enquiry, you need to include the incident reference number that Ofsted gave you when you reported the start of the enquiry. Provide this number when the form prompts you to.

You will need to provide some of the same information again, as well as information about the conclusion of the enquiry.

What Ofsted will do with your report

Ofsted may talk to you about reports you have made at your next inspection and could also:

  • look for records of previous serious incidents and how you assessed risk
  • contact you to discuss the incident, request additional information or ask you to send updates to your inspector
  • write to you asking for a comprehensive report on the steps you have taken (which may be in the form of an action plan) in response to the incident
  • carry out an inspection or monitoring visit
  • gather further information and evidence before making a decision about taking enforcement action

You can read more about what action we may take in our Social care enforcement policy: How we act on information.

Ofsted’s inspector may discuss serious incidents with you during your inspection to gain an understanding of incidents and what actions staff have taken to address them.

This conversation is likely to be wider than the process of reporting (or not reporting) a serious incident. It will focus on safeguarding practices and outcomes for children. This is intended to reassure Ofsted that the matter is being appropriately managed.

Regulations governing what services must report to Ofsted

Independent fostering agencies

Under the Fostering Regulations 2011, independent fostering homes must tell Ofsted about certain incidents.

Residential holiday schemes for disabled children

Under the Residential Holiday Schemes for Disabled Children (England) Regulations 2013, residential holiday schemes must tell Ofsted about certain incidents.

Residential family centres

Under the Residential Family Centre Regulations 2002, residential family centres must tell Ofsted about certain incidents.

Adoption agencies and adoption support agencies

Adoption agencies and adoption support agencies need to report some incidents to Ofsted under the:

Children’s homes and secure children’s homes

Under Children’s Homes (England) Regulations 2015 and Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006 children’s homes and secure children’s homes must tell Ofsted about certain incidents.

Supported accommodation

Supported accommodation services need to report some incidents to Ofsted under the The Supported Accommodation (England) Regulations 2023.

Published 29 March 2014
Last updated 26 October 2023 + show all updates
  1. Updated to make it easier for people to choose specific guidance for their children’s social care services.

  2. Replacement online form introduced with outdated paper forms removed.

  3. First published.