Guidance for children’s social care providers about Ofsted’s phased return to inspection.

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.

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.

The start and end dates of the interim period

Registration and regulatory activities are still taking place, though more of this work is happening remotely.

The interim arrangements will not start before 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.

The social care common inspection framework

In the interim period, we will focus on providing assurance that children are safe and well cared for, and on identifying any serious or widespread concerns.

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.

Registration visits

We continue to register new providers to support sufficiency in the sector.

Regulatory activity

We continue with regulatory and enforcement work as usual.


These will take place from September 2020.

We will prioritise 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

Whenever possible, our methodology will be the same as for social care common inspection framework monitoring visits and interim inspections.

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.

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.

Focused visits

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 inspection of local authority children’s services (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.

Monitoring visits

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.

Published 6 July 2020 Contents