Children's Social Care + Ofsted

Legal references on this page apply to England.


This page began as an exploration of how social workers might become involved in the lives of home educating families. By 2017 1 in 5 local authorities were rated inadequate and had substantial outside intervention measures in place, which I monitor here.

The attitude of some Ofsted personnel continues to be an issue for home educators. I monitor Ofsted inspections of local authority children's services since it seems to have an impact on the way home educating families are treated. Scroll down or click here for home education quotes from Ofsted inspection reports.

My blog also discusses related topics such as posts tagged Serious Case Review; posts tagged Alan Wood; posts tagged LSCB (local safeguarding children boards); posts tagged Michael Wilshaw/illegal schools; posts tagged NSPCC; New Government Advice on Safeguarding and Information Sharing March 2015.

Introduction Law Children's Social Care Professor Luke Clements.

Working Together 2018

Here is the web page for Working Together to Safeguard Children 2018 including links to the transitional guidance, and the statutory framework for the guidance as well as Working Together 2018. The 2018 version replaces the 2015 version. The transitional guidance helps explain how to move to the new arrangements. The GOV.UK press notice can be found here and explains the changes as: placing equal duties on the police, Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) and local authorities to work together on safeguarding decisions and to promote children’s welfare; strengthening expectations on schools and other educational settings that they must co-operate with the multi-agency safeguarding arrangements; extending safeguarding responsibilities to sports clubs and religious organisations; putting new duties on CCGs and councils to carry out reviews of child deaths; and a new Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel chaired by Edward Timpson replacing Serious Case Reviews. Meanwhile, social work perspective can be found here which comments that the new guidance does not require social workers to discuss with their managers the speed at which a referral should be progressed while another change removes the requirement for social workers to have access to their managers to talk through cases, instead replacing it with access to “colleagues”. Meanwhile, the NSPCC briefing can be found here

From July 2018, LAs must start phasing out Local Safeguarding Children Boards. Authorities must begin their transition from LSCBs to safeguarding partner and child death review partner arrangements, and the transition must be completed by 29 September 2019. After the new arrangements are set up, LSCBs have a statutory grace period of up to 12 months to complete and publish outstanding SCRs and up to four months to complete outstanding child death reviews; LSCBs must complete all child death reviews by 29 January 2020 and all SCRs by 29 September 2020 at the latest.

Replacing LSCBs, the three safeguarding partners (local authorities, chief officers of police, and clinical commissioning groups) must make arrangements to work together with relevant agencies (including schools and educational institutions) to safeguard and protect the welfare of children in the area. They must have published their arrangements by 29 June 2019, but may do so at any time before the end of that period. Once the arrangements have been published and implemented, the LSCB for the local area will cease to exist.

Meanwnile, child death review partners (local authorities and clinical commissioning groups) must set up child death review arrangements. From 29 June 2018, local authorities are required, under a new statutory duty, to notify the national Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel of incidents where they know or suspect that a child has been abused or neglected and the child has died or been seriously harmed. From the same date the Panel may commission and publish national reviews of serious child safeguarding cases which they consider are complex or of national importance.

The Government has also announced 17 areas of the country - including 39 local authorities - as ‘early adopters’, which will work with the National Children’s Bureau to implement the new local safeguarding arrangements before they are established across the rest of the country. These are: Tameside; Northumberland, Gateshead, Newcastle on Tyne, North Tyneside, South Tyneside and Sunderland; Calderdale; North Lincolnshire; York; Hertfordshire; Bexley, Greenwich and Lewisham; Brent, Ealing, Hammersmith and Fulham, Harrow, Hillingdon, Hounslow , Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster; Reading, West Berkshire and Wokingham; Devon, Plymouth and Torbay; Wiltshire; Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton; Birmingham; Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire; Solihull; Trafford; and Salford.

Information Sharing 2018

Updated guidance on information sharing for people who provide safeguarding services to children, young people, parents and carers was published July 4th 2018. The guidance says "This guidance has been updated to reflect the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and Data Protection Act 2018, and it supersedes the HM Government Information sharing: guidance for practitioners and managers published in March 2015."

Ofsted New ILACS Inspection Framework 2018

Ofsted's framework, evaluation and and guidance page for inspecting local authority children's services was last updated on December 14th 2018. "Changes made in December 2018: Updated arrangements for monitoring visits to inadequate local authorities to provide more flexible and proportionate timing.; Redrafted guidance on recording evidence to reflect new recording tools; Added new guidance for inspectors when inspecting a local authority being reviewed and/or supported by a children’s services commissioner appointed by the Secretary of State for Education; Added a request for the local authority to share an early draft of their action plan following an area for priority action at a focused visit; A new footnote in Annex A that adds some flexibility in sharing child-level data; Additional guidance in Annex A on the information inspectors request about children who are electively home educated; An additional field for inspectors to complete in Annex B: requests for further information."

Annex A Ofsted home education information

Authorities judged to be ‘good’ or better will be inspected for a one-week short inspection every three years; authorities judge to be ‘requires improvement to be good’ will be inspected for two weeks every three years; authorities rated ‘inadequate’ will be visited quarterly. Authorities rated above ‘inadequate’ will also receive at least one focused visit between their short or standard inspections. Those rated ‘inadequate’ across all or most areas will repeat a full single inspection, while local authorities with only some areas ‘inadequate’ may be subject to a ‘post-monitoring single inspection’, which is a shorter inspection under the single inspection framework.

Home Education and Child Protection

As I explain here, once parents notify the school that they are home educating, this could prompt a review of the family's circumstances which might include prior child protection concerns or outstanding problems with the school.

Once the school has received the appropriate written notification from parents regarding home education, the law does not provide for the school to keep a pupil on roll while "background checks" are carried out. More

Where the child is subject to a Child Protection Plan (formerly known as "being on the Child Protection Register") local authorities are required to exercise their functions with regard to promoting the safety and welfare of the child. There is no provision in law which prevents children on a Child Protection Plan from being home educated. Proposals to change the law to permit this were dropped by the Government in 2010

4.7 The welfare and protection of all children, both those who attend school and those who are educated at home, are of paramount concern and the responsibility of the whole community. Working Together to Safeguard Children states that all agencies and individuals should aim proactively to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. As with school educated children, child protection issues may arise in relation to home educated children. If any child protection concerns come to light in the course of engagement with children and families, or otherwise, these concerns should immediately be referred to the appropriate authorities using established protocols.
Government's Home Education Guidelines

Home Education and Social Services

As with all families, whether a child attends school or is home educated, children's social care services may become involved with a child when the family requests help for a child or where another agency or individual makes a child protection referral to social services.

The Department for Education has taken issue with Hackney for referring a family to social care simply because a child had not been "seen", querying "whether there were any actual current - as opposed to past - concerns about safeguarding (not home education) which justified a s.17 assessment and a home visit based on safeguarding powers". The Minister subsequently wrote that "the home visit was not justified because the authority could have followed the procedure set out in the legislation, which is that if it is not satisfied that a suitable education is being provided, it can serve an order requiring the parent to show that the education is suitable."

Ofsted Home Education Guidance 2015

At the end of March 2015 I received a message from Matthew Brazier (Ofsted’s social care policy team) confirming that Ofsted had provided inspectors with new advice and guidance about elective home education. I was provided with a summary which I put online via my blog and website. The message went on to say that the issue "will be addressed again during training for inspectors this month (and in other meetings). We expect to see an increased, and consistent, clarity in the references to home education in the inspection reports."

Ofsted FOIOfsted Advice NoteOn November 20th 2015 Ofsted released the full unpublished advice note via FOI [Link] I have reproduced it below:

Ofsted Elective home education (EHE) – advice for inspectors

The single inspection framework requires local authorities (LAs), as part of the Annex A return, to provide the number of children who are electively home educated as known to the authority.

The data we receive about home-educated children, alongside a report in respect of children not in full-time education, are important elements of evidence for inspectors to evaluate how effectively local authorities monitor the progress and safety of children who may be vulnerable and/or need support.

However, home-educated children are not, by definition, all in need of protection and help.

It is crucial that inspectors take the following into account during single inspections:

  • Ofsted does not have a mandate to inspect the quality of EHE.
  • The statutory duty on LAs to identify as far as possible those children not receiving a suitable education does not extend to home-educated children; LAs do not have a duty to evaluate the quality of the education provided for home educated children - e.g. through routine visits - although they may intervene if it appears that the education is unsuitable.
  • Home visits may only take place with the consent of the parent, unless there is a safeguarding concern which would justify the use of safeguarding powers to carry out a home visit whatever the child’s mode of education
  • The guidance does, however, encourage LAs as a matter of good practice to build positive relationships with home educators; this is likely to increase access to educational support for children and parents when they need it and provide a sound basis for responding to any concerns that may arise
  • The departmental guidelines on EHE explain that LAs should provide accessible, clear written information that sets out the legal position, roles and responsibilities of LAs and parents in relation to EHE. They can provide advice and support services, and may offer a registration facility but this must be voluntary.

Reports must, as far as possible, avoid any ambiguity which may lead to a misunderstanding of either the extent of local authority duties or Ofsted’s expectations in relation to home educated children.

Contact: (name and contact details removed)

May 2015 / Page 1 of 1

Home Education Quotes from Ofsted Inspections 2015-2017

Inspection Reports in SIF [Single Inspection Framework up to end 2017] between Ofsted's new home education guidance issued in April 2015 and the end of SIF inspections December 2017.

  1. December 2017 to January 2018 Manchester, Norfolk, Doncaster, Sandwell, Cumbria, Somerset, Buckinghamshire, Rotherham
  2. September to December 2017 Blackburn with Darwen, Camden, Poole, Richmond, Shropshire, South Tyneside
  3. September 2017 Croydon, Leicester, North Lincolnshire, Walsall
  4. January to August 2017 Barnet, Bath and North East Somerset, Bedford, Bracknell Forest, Central Bedfordshire, Coventry, East Riding, Gloucestershire, Harrow, Islington, Kent, Knowsley, Leicestershire, Merton, Newcastle, North Somerset, North Tyneside, Redcar and Cleveland, Rutland, South Gloucestershire, Southwark, Stockport, Sutton, Tower Hamlets, Warwickshire, West Berkshire, Wigan, Wolverhampton, Worcestershire, York
  5. January to December 2016 Birmingham, Bromley, Bury, Cheshire West and Chester, City of London, Cornwall, Dorset, Dudley, Durham, Ealing, Gateshead, Greenwich, Hackney, Hammersmith and Fulham, Havering, Isles of Scilly, Kensington and Chelsea, Kirklees, Lewisham, Luton, Middlesbrough, Northamptonshire, Northumberland, Reading, Redbridge, Sefton, Slough, Solihull, Southend, Stockton on Tees, Suffolk, Tameside, Telford and Wrekin, Thurrock, Triborough, Wakefield, Wandsworth, West Sussex, Westminster, Wirral
  6. July August 2017 Central Bedfordshire, North Somerset, Stockport, Merton, Warwickshire, Bracknell Forest, Islington, Newcastle, Bath and North East Somerset, Barnet, West Berkshire
  7. June 2017 Kent, Gloucestershire, Derby, North Tyneside, Southwark, Knowsley, Coventry, Tower Hamlets, Redcar and Cleveland, Bedford
  8. March 2017 Harrow Wigan Wolverhampton
  9. February 2017 South Gloucestershire, Leicestershire, Rutland, East Riding, Worcestershire, Havering, Tameside
  10. November 2016 Birmingham, Redbridge, Milton Keynes, Kirklees
  11. September 2016 Wakefield, Wirral, Hackney, City of London
  12. July August 2016 Solihull, Southend, Greenwich, Reading, Stockton, Ealing, Telford and Wrekin
  13. June 2016 Sefton Bromley Cornwall Isles of Scilly
  14. April May 2016 Northumberland, Northamptonshire, Durham, Bury, Dorset and Thurrock
  15. March 2016 Gateshead, Triborough (Hammersmith Westminster Kensington) Luton, Dudley
  16. January February 2016 Suffolk, Slough, Wandsworth, Cheshire West and Chester, Middlesbrough
  17. January 2016 Lewisham and West Sussex
  18. June 2015 to January 2016 Brighton, Salford, Nottinghamshire, Sunderland, Kingston on Thames, Stoke on Trent, Darlington, Wiltshire, Peterborough, Cheshire East, Norfolk, Hertfordshire, Lancashire, Medway, Brent, Torbay, Wokingham

Joint Targeted Area Inspection

Joint targeted area inspections include a ‘deep dive’ investigation – an evaluation of children and young people’s experiences covering Ofsted, the Care Quality Commission, HMI Constabulary and HMI Probation. All JTAI links are posted here.

Children’s mental health theme: From September 2019, inspectors will evaluate children and young people’s experiences living with mental ill health, with a focus on those aged 10 to 15 years old. It includes a deep dive investigation into how local services respond to children and their families when children are:living with mental ill health;subject to a child in need or child protection plan;a looked-after child. Framework here, published July 17th 2019.

JTAI Child Sexual Abuse in Family Guidance published August 2018.


Ofsted blog on multi-agency arrangements July 10th 2018.

Growing up neglected: a multi-agency response to older children published July 2018. This report considers the most significant learning from six inspections of local authority areas and calls for a greater awareness of the neglect of older children and a focus on trauma-based approaches. It also calls for a greater awareness among professionals in adult services of the risks of neglect of older children who are living with parents with complex needs. NB There is no agreed definition of the age of an older child. This programme of inspections used the term ‘older children’ to include children aged seven to 15. See also Yvette Stanley Ofsted blog.

Prevent, Protect and Repair multi agency response to children living with domestic abuse, September 2017

Time to listen report on sexual exploitation and vulnerable and missing children, September 2016

JTAI reports 2018

  • Dorset multi-agency response to child sexual exploitation, children associated with gangs and at risk of exploitation and children missing from home, care or education
  • Southend multi-agency response to child sexual exploitation, children associated with gangs and at risk of exploitation and children missing from home, care or education
  • Greenwich multi-agency response to child sexual exploitation, children associated with gangs and at risk of exploitation and children missing from home, care or education

The theme from May 2017 to December 2017 was children living with neglect.

  • Haringey More (Parents spoken to by inspectors stated that there is insufficient early help, and that too much onus is put on statutory social work services ... A significant intelligence gap exists in relation to the submission of Merlin reports handled by the police in the MASH due to an absence of police national database (PND) checks being conducted prior to a referral being made. The reason for this is that at the time of the inspection there were no staff trained in the MASH to access this information. Previous backlogs have been managed through a decision to file approximately 600 Merlin reports without sharing them further, on the basis that the child had not come to notice for six weeks following the original Merlin submission. Concerns are compounded as managers and senior leaders were unaware of this gap until it was highlighted by inspectors)
  • Stockton on Tees
  • Bristol
  • Cheshire West and Chester, most children receive timely and appropriate action to reduce the risk and impact of neglect but lack of clear measures for monitoring progress in plans for children experiencing neglect More
  • Wokingham. More
  • Peterborough. Social workers limited time to spend with families More

The theme from September 2016 to March 2017 was domestic abuse

The first theme examined was children at risk of sexual exploitation and those missing from home, school or care.

Working Together 2015

Working Together to Safeguard Children was first published in 2006 and revised extensively in 2010 and 2013. Limited changes were also made in 2015. The 2015 guidance has now been replaced by the 2018 guidance. Click here for my blog post on the new information sharing guidance signposted in the 2015 Working Together. There was no mention of home education in the 2015 guidance (or in the previous 2013 guidance). The 2013 (and subsequent 2015) guidance removed large sections of non-statutory practice guidance. The distinction between initial and core assessments was replaced by ongoing locally developed assessments of need. Local Safeguarding Children Boards were free to use any model for Serious Case Reviews ie the Government drew back from a previous idea that all SCRS should use systems methodology. The focus was on multi-agency co-operation and early intervention. Concerns were expressed at the removal of timescales in the draft guidance and some statutory timescales were reinstated for key elements of a children in need assessment, including a decision about the type of response required within one working day of receiving a referral, and 45 days time limit for assessment. Requirements around the reporting of allegations were also tightened up.

Wood Review LSCBs

The Wood Review mentioned home education but this was not picked up by the Government as a recommendation to take forward. More). Alan Wood was Director of Hackney Children's Services from 2001 to 2015, and President of the Association of Directors of Children's Services from 2014-15. Under Wood, Hackney handed control of education to The Learning Trust, a not-for-profit organisation, many of whose employees now work for the council.

Ofsted Single Inspection Framework

Between November 2013 and the end of 2017, Ofsted operated the Single Inspection Framework (SIF) for local authorities. Local authorities received very little notice of these inspections. The Ofsted SIF Framework said that Ofsted would ask for the number of children who were electively home educated known to the authority. However, despite the handbook and framework clearly stating that the focus was on children for whom a school place cannot be found or who are on roll with a school but not receiving full-time education, the Children Missing Education section of the inspection reports often included irrelevant or inappropriate judgements about the elective home education service. This was recognised and addressed by Ofsted in March 2015, when they told inspectors that 'the statutory duty on local authorities (LAs) to identify as far as possible those children not receiving a suitable education does not extend to home-educated children'

Background: Ofsted FOI 2012 Ofsted memo 2013 Michael Wilshaw at Education Committee February 2013 Ofsted Home Education Exams Support 2013 "We will be asking if local authorities are supporting children at home and funding access to qualifications and examinations".

NB the Ofsted Report on Children Missing Out on Education November 2013 had a disclaimer at the foot of page 7 "This report does not apply to pupils whose parents have taken the decision to electively home educate them."

What Replaced Every Child Matters?

Shortly after the 2010 General Election, a leaked memo revealed that the Government required a change of emphasis in all policy documents, replacing "Five outcomes/ECM" with "Help children achieve more" and replacing "safeguarding" with "child protection" to make it clearer that the new focus was on demonstrable improvements for the most vulnerable children rather than attempting to ensure the safety of every child. The Munro Review made 15 recommendations aimed at shifting the child protection system from bureaucracy/compliance to a system which focuses more on whether children are being effectively helped and protected.

Statutory Guidance Keeping Children Safe in Education

Statutory Guidance Keeping Children Safe in Education was revised in September 2016 to incorporate Prevent duties around radicalisation. (More) Further revisions will take effect in September 2018.

Child Deaths in Birmingham

Ofsted pointed out in 2013 that Birmingham would seem to be a prime example of the need for Serious Case Reviews to focus on systems and shared learning from mistakes rather than on scapegoating or paying a PR consultant to shift the blame elsewhere without addressing underlying issues. The practice of sending the police to home educating families to carry out "safe and well checks" was strongly criticised in the Khyra Ishaq Serious Case Review. Additional recommendations from the Khyra Ishaq Serious Case Review focused on doctors as well as the police. It was stated that GPs should not rely on handwritten notes, that GPs should have safeguarding training, that GPs should have training in domestic abuse (since the GP didn't act on the mother's report of abuse) and also that the police should have safeguarding training. The Serious Case Review was badly written and was prepared free of charge by the NSPCC. It followed the line that the best method of defence was to attack. It is far more about deflecting blame than about a systems-based analysis of how the tragedy could have been predicted or prevented. For a better understanding of the implications of the case for Birmingham Children's Services it is recommended that readers study Mrs Justice King summary When the Khyra Ishaq case was discussed by the Education Committee witnesses were reminded that the education welfare service in Birmingham did not follow basic rules on child protection. The Chair stated that "Social services did not follow the process, though—they did not even know the process. They thought that if a child was home educated, they did not have a welfare role. They thought that that welfare role was the home educated team's job, but it wasn't and it never was. It was quite clear in all the guidelines on home education and on children missing school, yet they were confused about the most basic functions of their role in protecting children."

See also Birmingham SCR October 3rd 2013 Keanu Williams: "We failed as senior managers, individual organisations and collectively as a Board to ensure staff knew what do to and were actually doing it...professionals in the various agencies involved had missed a significant number of opportunities to intervene and take action. They did not meet the standards of basic good practice when they should have reported their concerns, shared and analysed information and followed established procedures for Section 47 Enquiries (child protection investigations) and a range of assessments including medical assessments and Child Protection Conferences"

In 2016 it was confirmed that Birmingham children's services would be taken from council control and placed with a voluntary trust. More

CPS Guidelines on Prosecuting Cases of Child Sexual Abuse

Crown Prosecution Service Guidelines on Prosecuting Cases of Child Sexual Abuse revised July 2017

National Statistics on Social Services Referrals Statistics on children referred to and assessed by children's social services, last updated November 2017

Reporting Serious Incidents to DfE

I received this from DfE March 27th 2015 in response to a query: “The LA are not responsible for reporting serious incidents to DfE. They report them to Ofsted who enter all cases onto a database which we have access to. The same procedures for reporting cases apply to children who are home educated as children who attend school. In other words all serious incidents are notified to Ofsted and we find out about them from there.”

Link Reference

This article is The following links to other websites are contained in the article, displayed as citations to aid you in printing the document.

  1. click here
  2. Introduction Law Children's Social Care
  3. More
  4. dropped by the Government in 2010
  5. taken issue with Hackney
  6. More
  7. More
  8. here
  9. South Tyneside presentation
  10. told inspectors
  11. Ofsted Home Education Exams Support 2013
  12. Ofsted Report on Children Missing Out on Education
  13. Birmingham SCR October 3rd 2013 Keanu Williams
  15. Crown Prosecution Service Guidelines on Prosecuting Cases of Child Sexual Abuse