If you have been watching news headlines recently or following care-related posts on social media, you can’t miss the voices of concern when an Ofsted Inspection report highlights seriously inadequate children’s residential care. This is rightly so because it is the children and young people who suffer the consequences of poor care and failing standards. In many cases, the problems that eventually come to light could have been identified and rectified earlier.  There should be rigorous and consistent quality systems in every children’s home, and one of these functions falls to the Regulation 44 visitor. In many inspection reports where there has been less than adequate care, the Regulation 44 visitor’s scrutiny hasn’t been robust enough.

Here are 3 Ways Your Regulation 44 Visitor Can Help Sabotage Your Children’s Home

The protection of children is paramount in any residential children’s home, and child protection is the children’s home providers highest priority. Your Regulation 44 visitor should scrutinise your safeguarding approach, your process for risk assessing young people and procedures in practice for keeping them safe. A residential children’s home, which fails to manage safeguarding and child protection in their home, will be failing in their statement of purpose and their compliance with the regulations. The Regulation 44 Visitor should be digging deep enough to unearth concerns you might have missed, support you with suggestions on strategies, and report back to management on concerns arising in the child protection and safeguarding in the home.  Your Regulation 44 visitor should be checking that safeguarding and child protection practice is effective and that action is taken to rectify any concerns. Failing in the protection of children standard will result in you receiving a poor inspection outcome if those failings are putting children at risk.

The Regulation 44 visitor provides a service required by the Children’s Homes Regulations (England) 2015. The Regulations are specific about what the visitor should be reporting on and more importantly holding you accountable for. Particularly in these times with COVID-19 restrictions, visitors must be more not less robust. If your visitor isn’t challenging you to meet your requirements, they are not doing you any favours, especially in these times. The percentage of good and outstanding homes is reducing, according to Ofsted. Your Regulation 44 Visitor should help you avoid a reduction in standards and becoming part of the reducing percentage.  Your visitor should be completely honest with you, even when you might not want to hear what they say. Ofsted has said ‘when we find a children’s home inadequate, it’s usually because of workforce issues, a lack of capacity and staff who aren’t meeting children’s needs.’ Your Regulation 44 Visitor, amongst other quality controls, should be pointing out what is going wrong long before it gets to an inadequate Ofsted inspection.

Ofsted says, ‘Where we’ve required children’s homes to act and improve, it’s often to address weak leadership and management and to improve children’s safety.’ Leadership and management challenges are huge in the sector at the moment. Still, your Regulation 44 visitor should be pointing out areas for improvement before your organisation finds itself at the Ofsted act to improve stage. Your visitor should have a good understanding of the regulations and standards and how they apply to your home. They must also have practice experience to know how the regulations, standards, and guidance should apply in reality on the floor. The visitor must know what resources the home should have and the mechanisms of leadership and management that should direct the path of the home. Someone once told me if the top leadership is weak, then the whole structure is weak. The foundation stone of any children’s home is the management. Regulation 44 visitors should be strong and committed enough to point out weaknesses in the leadership and offer improvement suggestions. Failing to do so is failing the children and young people the visitor is meant to help protect and failing the organisation which relied on independent scrutiny to help keep them out of the inadequate inspection zone.

It can be rough having an independent person scrutinise every inch of your working practice and make recommendations that seem tough. The truth is a robust Regulation 44 process can help save you from endless attention from Ofsted and resulting restrictions on your registration or in the worst cases removal of your registration.  In many reports, the Ofsted inspector comments on things that were missed that shouldn’t have been and over a long period of time.  If your Regulation 44 visitor is not picking up on essential regulatory elements monthly that are not only right with your home but wrong, then they are helping to sabotage your children’s home.