Guidance

Tell Ofsted about an incident: children's social care notification

Report incidents at your children's social care service.

Children’s social care providers must notify us of certain events or incidents. In urgent situations, particularly if there is a lot of interest from the press, call Ofsted first on 0300 123 1231.

Who needs to report incidents

Your children’s social care service’s manager or proprietor is responsible for reporting incidents to Ofsted.

Any member of staff can complete the form.

The types of incidents you must tell us about depends on your social care service.

You must tell us about these incidents without delay or we may need to take action against you.

Report an incident

You can use the online form if you are one of the following:

  • children’s home or secure children’s home
  • independent fostering agency
  • voluntary adoption agency
  • adoption support agency
  • residential family centre

Residential holiday schemes for disabled children can only apply using the printable form.

To report an incident you’ll need to have:

  • your unique reference number (URN)
  • the relevant full postal address
  • details of the incident and those involved

There is specific guidance you must follow if you want to update a previous notification. If you are telling us about the conclusion of a child protection enquiry, you will need your notification reference number.

You can find your URN on your registration, your inspection reports, and on your Ofsted reports page.

Report a serious incident

Residential holiday schemes

Providers of residential holiday schemes for disabled children should download the PDF form and post this to us.

Local authorities

If the service is provided by a local authority you will need to inform us.

All local authorities should tell the Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel about incidents.

Sending us documents

Due to COVID-19 (coronavirus), there are currently delays in reviewing incoming post.

If we have previously asked you to post documents to us, please either scan or photograph them and send with your URN to enquiries@ofsted.gov.uk.

Notifying Ofsted without delay

Regulation 40 in the Children’s Homes (England) Regulations 2015 states that ‘the registered person must without delay notify…’.

You should make a notification concerning a child’s death ‘without delay’.

For other incidents you can take some time to collect further information before you consider the incident serious enough for a notification.

You should not receive statutory requirements, following an inspection, when a delay has been appropriate.

During your inspection

The purpose of regulation 40 is to ensure that Ofsted and other agencies are notified of significant events.

The Ofsted inspector should discuss incidents with you during your inspection to gain a shared understanding of the incident and what actions staff took to address the situation.

This conversation should be wider than the process of notifying (or not notifying) Ofsted and should primarily focus on safeguarding practice and outcomes for children.

Quality of notifications

The quality and content of reports under regulation 40 vary considerably. Notifications should be evaluative and not merely a chronology of events. Vital information, especially the action taken, is often missed from the notification.

An inspector needs to know a brief summary of the event, the actions taken by staff and managers at the time, and further actions planned to reduce the likelihood of a similar incident occurring again. This is intended to reassure us, as the regulator, that the matter is being appropriately managed.

Registered managers and providers are responsible for the quality of the reports completed by their staff.

Notification updates

A significant number of the notifications we receive are updates to previous incidents. These are ‘counted’ as new notifications for data purposes. You are not required (by regulation) to send updates to notifications.

The most frequently sent updates are in relation to child protection enquiries. Regulation 40 requires a notification when a child protection enquiry involving a child is instigated or concludes. It does not require several notifications providing updates of the enquiry or allegation.

There may be occasions when an inspector will ask you to send in an update following a serious incident because this would be helpful in understanding what has happened and the action that you have taken. In these situations, the inspector is likely to ask you to communicate by email rather than a series of further notifications.

Updates are not required unless they refer to a significant development. There is no legal requirement to keep notifying Ofsted as a case progresses.

Published 29 March 2014
Last updated 17 June 2020 + show all updates
  1. Replacement online form introduced with outdated paper forms removed.

  2. First published.