A Department for Education consultation ,published this month, proposes changes to Ofsted inspection cycles for children’s homes and other children’s social care providers. The changes proposed would be effective from 1 October 2021.
The frequency with which Ofsted has a duty to inspect children’s homes and other providers are set out in Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Education, Services and Skills (Fees and Frequency of Inspections) (Children’s Homes etc.) Regulations 2015 which set out the role and responsibilities of Ofsted under the Care Standards Act 2000.
Ofsted’s inspections of children’s social care providers operate on an annual cycle (e.g. to children’s homes) or on a three-year cycle (e.g. to independent fostering agencies).
Currently, the minimum frequencies of inspection cycles for all children’s social care provision are suspended until 30 September 2021 due to the ongoing impact of the pandemic – and is in accordance with The Adoption and Children (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2021. The Regulations do not suspend Ofsted’s powers, nor their inspection activity. They only suspend the mandatory minimum frequency with which inspections need to happen.
The Department proposes that from the period 1 October 2021 to 31 March 2022 would be caveated such that Ofsted should comply with the minimum frequency of inspections “as far as is reasonably practicable”.
If no changes were made to the Regulations, Ofsted would be required to inspect all remaining registered children’s social care provision due an inspection by 31 March 2022.
The proposals aim to give Ofsted more flexibility to deploy resources to priorities inspections on a more risk-assessed basis by using up-to-date judgments, evidence and intelligence. The consultation document explains that this was the approach adopted during assurance visits during the autumn term 2020, when Ofsted routine graded inspections were suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Have your say by 20 August
The Department are keen to receive comments on the proposals from across the spectrum of children’s social care provision. So, if you are a children’s home operator or a run a residential special school do share your views on the proposals – there are 11 consultation questions.
You can respond online by completing the survey here or by email to: FeesandFrequency.CONSULTATION@education.gov.uk
If you would like to discuss a regulatory issue, please do give one of our friendly team a call.