A message from Yvette Stanley, Ofsted's National Director of Social Care (Tuesday 17th March 2020)

Today, the Secretary of State has allowed Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector to temporarily suspend all routine inspections of schools, further education, early years and social care providers. Urgent inspections where specific concerns have been raised can still go ahead. This will allow us to prioritise the immediate safety of children where necessary. Inspections that started yesterday will also stop, unless we have significant concerns about the provision.

As far as we are able, we will continue to undertake our important regulatory work to help maintain social care provision for the most vulnerable children, and the registration of vital childcare services. We will operate as a proportionate and responsible regulator, in what we know are challenging times, focused on children’s safeguarding and wellbeing.

We are in close contact with the Department for Education (DfE). Legislative change will be needed to alter inspection intervals for some of the provision that we regulate and/or inspect. We will update you as soon as there is more certainty about the suspension and reintroduction of inspection intervals.

We fully recognise that the spread of Coronavirus poses unprecedented challenges to all of you, not least the potential impact on staffing and attendance. We are also mindful of the role you and your team will be playing in co-ordinating the additional demands this places on you. We in no way wish to add to this burden.

We do however reserve the ability to inspect in emergency situations, for example where we receive complaints or whistle-blowing information that suggests children may be at risk of harm, or where we might want to visit in order to lift a restriction on the numbers of children who can live in a home. 

We realise that in the current circumstances you will be finding different ways to keep your children’s homes and other social care services operating and to keep contact between children, their families, social workers and others. The best advice we can offer at present is our clear expectation that you continue to work closely with placing authorities and/or parents, to follow advice from Public Health England and, as ever, to keep children’s wellbeing at the centre of decision-making.

Understandably, we are starting to receive a number of enquiries on a range of issues from providers and others.   A number have asked if regulatory requirements, such as the need for regulation 44 visitors, have been lifted. Ofsted does not have the power to lift regulatory requirements - this would require legislative change. We are in close contact with government officials as the situation develops.  However, we expect all providers to continuously risk assess their actions to reflect the risks that COVID-19 poses and follow Public Health England advice. We would expect people to think about other ways to keep in contact and maintain oversight, such as using telephones and Skype, while recognising the limitations of this approach. We are, of course, sensitive to the challenges providers are facing, and will take a balanced and proportionate approach to regulation taking account of how people have tried to meet regulatory requirements in these difficult circumstances.

We recognise that some services may need to amend their statement of purpose to keep services running. If anyone needs to do this please send an amended version to us at the earliest opportunity. We know that staffing arrangements may need to change to keep children safe. We would expect all providers to risk assess any arrangements they are putting into place in an emergency situation. 

Providers should continue to notify Ofsted in line with the regulations. If as a result of Covid-19 there is a significant change to your operating model such as using other premises temporarily or if you need to close your service we would expect you to notify us under the category ‘serious incident’ for children’s homes. We do not need to know if members of staff and/or children are self-isolating.

Lastly, we would expect all providers to follow government guidance with regards to self-isolation. If this becomes necessary for a child in your care then you should take and follow health advice and work with the placing authority to ensure that suitable and safe arrangements are in place. Arrangements for children in these very specific circumstances would not be regarded as unregistered provision.


The next few weeks and months are, of course, likely to prove challenging - not just operationally, but for some, personally. But I know that you will all be working hard to minimise the impact on vital services for children as much as possible. We will provide regular updates as and when we have more information to share.



Yvette Stanley