We will be carrying out a phased return to routine inspection. Our regulatory work has never stopped but we will now visit more providers to provide assurance about the settings and services we regulate. In this interim phase, we will return to providing assurance about the work of local authorities for the most vulnerable children. We will start making assurance visits from September 2020.
Details about the interim period
What we will do 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.
How we will 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 childrens social care providers started in September 2020.
For local authorities, the interim period will run initially until the end of December 2020. We may extend this if measures for responding to and recovering from COVID-19 carry on into 2021.
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.
National restrictions from 5 November
During the national lockdown we will carry out our work remotely where we can. We will only go on site where it is necessary to do so, or in response to urgent concerns.
We will be pausing all focused visits to local authority childrens services (ILACS). Because of the 10-day notice period, this is likely to mean no further focused visits until the New Year. We are exploring how we keep in touch with local authorities during this period.
We will pause assurance visits to childrens homes, residential special schools and residential family centres. However, we will carry out monitoring visits to any childrens home, residential special school or residential family centre where we risk assess that this is the right thing to do. This could be on site or off site, or a blended approach.
Where possible, we will continue assurance visits to independent fostering agencies, if we assess that the visit can be completed remotely. If serious concerns emerge, inspectors may visit the agency in person.
We will continue to visit settings where we have significant safeguarding concerns. We will continue with registration work and enforcement activity where necessary.
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 will be 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 childrens 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.
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