Ofsted recently published a blog which set out recommendations and tips for completing a successful application to register a children’s home, which can be found here. Currently, Ofsted confirm that the average processing time to register a children’s home is 17 weeks. Ofsted advises it is important to take time to complete the application. It’s vital that providers ensure the make sure the information is accurate before submitting their application, as any errors or discrepancies can result in delay.
Ofsted provides a general guide, and an ‘Introduction to children’s homes’ guide. It is important you familiarise yourself with this information. It includes checklists of the information Ofsted want you to provide, which is an excellent tool to ensure that your application is correct and complete.
How to prevent delays
Be organised. Have all the documents you may be asked for ready before you apply. Ensure the information you include is up to date, and be open and honest in everything you include. Check the application progress on the application website, as any issues will be flagged up.
Note any changes. If an individual who is part of the application changes, then the application will be paused until this person has had the necessary checks and ‘caught up’ with every other individual in the process.
At the time of your application, the home needs to be ready for children to live in. It needs to have enough furniture for children to live in. There can be no outstanding planning permission, or ongoing building work. The application process will be faster if everything is ready.
Ofsted confirm in their guidance that one of the most common reasons for delay is discrepancies in information provided as a part of the application. Within the guidance, Ofsted provide some focused advice on the key areas of the application, such as the statement of purpose, children’s guide and local area risk assessments.
Refusal of registration
If Ofsted are not satisfied that your application demonstrates that you can meet the regulations, they will issue a ‘notice of proposal’ to refuse registration. You will be afforded 28 days to make written representations in response to the notice, which is an opportunity to seek to persuade Ofsted not to proceed with the refusal. If you ask to withdraw the application after Ofsted have issued a ‘notice of proposal’, they may not allow the withdrawal if they have safeguarding, or other serious concerns.
If Ofsted do not uphold the representations, they will proceed to issue a ‘notice of decision’ to refuse registration. You will have a right of appeal against this notice to the first-tier tribunal.
It’s important to be aware that there are significant consequences in the event Ofsted proceed to issue a ‘notice of decision’ to refuse registration. If your application is refused, you will become disqualified from private fostering. This means that you cannot carry on, or be concerned with, or have a financial interest in a children’s home without written consent from Ofsted. In the event you appeal against ‘notice of decision’ to refuse registration, you will remain disqualified pending appeal.
We are seeing a high number of notices of proposal’s to refuse registration. The most common reasons for refusal are:
- Quality of policies and procedures
- Risks not being identified / risk assessments not being robust enough
- Configuration of the property
- Safer recruitment procedures not being robust enough
It is vital that you seek specialist legal advice in the event you are issued with a ‘notice of proposal’ to refuse registration. We can advise on your options and approach to the proposal and assist with the preparation of the representations. We also advise on and represent providers in appeals before the first-tier tribunal, in respect of decisions to refuse registration.
If you have recently received a notice of proposal to refuse registration, or are having issues registering with Ofsted, it is important to seek specialist advice. For a confidential discussion with one of our specialist Ofsted lawyers, please call us on 0161 696 6250 or complete our online enquiry form and a member of the team will contact you directly.
By solicitor Francesca Snape and graduate paralegal Molly McMurtry from the regulatory department