Ofsted has announced significant changes to the registration process for children’s home providers.  Aimed at providers who operate solo or specialist placements, the new rules will mean one home can consist of four separate buildings, accommodating up to six children under one registered manager.  The term for the new arrangement is a ‘multi-building children’s home’.

A multi-building children’s home should allow providers, in agreement with the placing authority, to make child-centred decisions about where each child lives and to ensure that their individual needs are met within this one registration. It might mean that providers can offer a place to a child who needs somewhere to live quickly or who cannot easily live with other children immediately.

This change in registration comes on the back of new laws which make it illegal for local authorities to place children under 16 in unregulated accommodation. Undoubtedly those restrictions have some bearing on this multi-building decision along with the increasing number of children and young people coming into the care system.

How it Works

Above all, Ofsted says they want children to be safe, so as you’d expect, any providers wishing to register a multi-building children’s home will need to show that they can operate safely and that the service will meet children’s needs. Applications will need to meet all current registration requirements, as well as additional checks.

  • Providers will be able to register up to four buildings caring for up to 6 children. This will be one registered children’s home, one registered manager, and one statement of purpose.
  • Addresses of buildings will be fixed, so providers can’t change which buildings they use without making another application and two existing registrations can’t be brought together without a new application.
  • Ofsted will visit all buildings to check they are suitable and safe and will consider whether the proposed service can be managed effectively. This means that the registration process is likely to take longer than a routine application.
  • Ofsted will offer providers a pre-application conversation to discuss their proposal first, so they can make sure providers fully understand the implications of the application, and Ofsted know the application fits within the guidelines. In the early days of the new scheme, regional decision-makers will be supported by a panel of colleagues across Ofsted to help with consistency and ensure the proper safeguards are in place.
  • Provision will be inspected as a whole, with weakness in one building affecting the overall judgement. Similarly, if Ofsted needs to take enforcement action, this will probably apply to the provision as a whole.
  • Ofsted expects independent persons to visit all buildings (regulation 44 visits) and include all accommodation in their report on children’s safety and well-being.

The new approach will not cover secure children’s homes or residential special schools, which already operate across multiple buildings and sites.

Multi-building children’s homes: creating more capacity in the system

Registering a multi-building children’s home

Main findings: children’s social care in England 2021

The Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2021 (Statutory Instrument 161)

Unregulated – The Children’s Commissioner for England’s September 2020 report