About children’s homes
The Care Standards Act 2000 says that ‘an establishment is a children’s home… if it provides care and accommodation wholly or mainly for children’. Children are defined as people who are aged under 18. Young people aged 18 and over may also live or stay in a children’s home, but they must be in a minority. See guidance on adults living in children’s homes.
About secure children’s homes/schools
A secure children’s home/school is a specific type of children’s home approved by the Secretary of State to provide a locked environment and to restrict children’s liberty.
If you want to open a secure children’s home/school, you must take some extra steps before you apply to register.
If you want to run a children’s home, you must register with us under the Care Standards Act 2000 before you can open it. It is an offence to run a children’s home without the appropriate registration. This requirement to register helps to prevent unsuitable people from owning, operating, managing or working within children’s homes.
You must satisfy us that you meet a number of legal requirements, including those within:
- Care Standards Act 2000
- The Care Standards Act 2000 (Registration)(England) Regulations 2010
- The Children’s Homes (England) Regulations 2015
You must also take account of the guide to the children’s homes regulations including the quality standards. You must have regard to this guide in interpreting and meeting The Children’s Homes (England) Regulations 2015.
Multi-building children’s homes
You can apply to register a children’s home with multiple buildings. This can accommodate up to 6 children in up to 4 buildings within one single registration. If you want to register a multi-building children’s home, please contact email@example.com to discuss this with an inspector before applying. Find out more about multi-building children’s homes.
When to register as a children’s home
Examples of establishments that must register as children’s homes include:
- homes for children who are looked after by a local authority either as a short-term measure or more long term, including those that accommodate disabled children
- secure children’s homes/schools
- homes that provide both care and accommodation for children aged 16 and over in order to prepare them for independent living
- homes that provide short breaks, in which children may not be looked after by a local authority
- homes that are refuges – these must also apply to the Department for Education (DfE) for a certificate to operate as a refuge
- schools that provide accommodation for one child or more, for more than 295 days each year
- schools that provide accommodation for children who are not pupils of the school
Schools that also need to register as children’s homes
As stated above, you must also register your school as a children’s home if you provide accommodation for either:
- one child or more, for more than 295 days each year
- children who are not pupils of the school
This means you will have 2 registrations: your existing one with the DfE as a school and a new one with Ofsted as a children’s home.
If you want to open a new school that also intends to provide accommodation as described above, which would mean it needs to register as a children’s home too, you will need to prepare 2 separate registration applications.
Secure children’s homes/schools
If you want to register a secure children’s home/school, you must first contact the DfE for secure children’s homes or the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) for secure schools. This is to get the Secretary of State’s approval under The Children (Secure Accommodation) Regulations 1991.
If you are planning a new building or to carry out any refurbishment or building works, you must share your plans with the DfE/MoJ. They will get the views of specialist architectural advisers and Ofsted before you carry out any works. The DfE/MoJ will discuss your plans with you.
Ofsted may visit at various stages throughout the building process, with specialist architects, to review any existing building or new development site.
If the DfE/MoJ agree that your building can be approved by the Secretary of State to restrict children’s liberty, they will then direct you to our registration guidance and the memorandum of understanding (MoU) between Ofsted and the DfE.
When you have nearly completed your refurbishment or building work, we will make a final visit with the architects. The architects will provide a written report on whether the building is fit for purpose. This report will also include our views.
If the building is fit to be registered, we will ask you to apply to register. Do not submit your application for registration until the building is almost ready for occupancy. We will agree the timing of your application with you.
When you do not need to register
Some types of accommodation for children do not fall under the definition of children’s homes and therefore do not have to register as one.
- a place where children live with their parents, relatives or foster carers
- approved premises (such as probation hostels)
- hospitals or clinics
- schools, unless they offer accommodation
- further education colleges
- 16 to 19 academies, unless also approved by the Secretary of State to provide accommodation for the purpose of restricting the liberty of children and young people
- a place used to provide day care
- residential holiday schemes for disabled children
- young offender institutions
- secure training centres
- places where children (other than disabled children) are accommodated while on holiday or taking part in leisure, sporting, cultural or educational activities where each individual child stays there for less than 28 days in any 12-month period
- places where children aged 16 or 17 are accommodated while undergoing training or apprenticeships, while on holiday or while taking part in leisure, sporting, cultural or educational activities
- residential family centres
- supported accommodation where you do not provide care
As well as the types of accommodation above that the law specifically says are not children’s homes, some other establishments and types of accommodation are not required to register with Ofsted. These are sometimes known as ‘unregulated settings’. Placing authorities are responsible for ensuring that any placements in an unregulated setting are suitable for the child or young person.
A service where the accommodation is not permanent (such as a tent), is constantly moving (such as a boat, narrowboat or motorised caravan), or has no permanent base is unlikely to meet the definition of a children’s home. Therefore, these are not required to register with Ofsted.
Examples of other arrangements that do not require registration include:
- A provider has a registered children’s home and operates an outreach service at different premises. This is provided solely for the children living in the children’s home. The premises used for the outreach service do not require a separate registration. This is because the children have a permanent bed in the children’s home. They stay in the outreach premises for a fixed amount of time for focused work, for example to help move to independence or to work though specific issues.
- A provider owns a number of establishments, all of which apart from one are registered as children’s homes. The unregistered establishment is used solely for holiday accommodation for children. If the provider then chooses to use the holiday accommodation for care and accommodation other than a holiday, this establishment may require registration.
- A local authority is providing care and accommodation for refugees and asylum seekers. The primary purpose of this is to assess their ages to determine what service the child/adult is entitled to. This will ensure that adults posing as children are not placed with children, and so registration is not required.
We have further guidance on what we may do when we find an establishment that may meet the definition of a children’s home but is not registered.
Before you apply
For your children’s home, you will need:
- to appoint a manager
- a statement of purpose that sets out the overall aims and objectives for the children’s home
If you are an organisation, such as a company, you will also need to appoint a person known as a ‘responsible individual’ who represents the organisation to Ofsted. You do not need to appoint a responsible individual if you are a sole trader or partnership.
If you have been disqualified, you must contact us to apply for written consent before you apply for registration. Anyone else connected to your application who is disqualified must do the same.
It is an offence to knowingly employ a disqualified person in a children’s home without written consent from us. You must also ask us for written consent to employ a disqualified person at a children’s home, including as a volunteer.
If we give consent for anyone to apply for registration, this does not automatically mean that we will grant registration.
You can find a full list of reasons for disqualification in our social care enforcement policy and in the Disqualification from Caring for Children (England) Regulations 2002.
What to provide when you apply
You must submit an SC1 application. As part of this, you must include:
- your details as the provider and, if you are an organisation such as a company, the responsible individual
- details of the manager(s)
- details of any relevant director(s)
- your statement of purpose
- your safeguarding policy
- your missing child policy
- your behaviour management policy (including restraint)
- your prevention of bullying policy
- your location assessment
- your complaints procedure
- your equalities policy
- a copy of a certificate of insurance or written confirmation that insurance will be provided (for example, a letter of intention and an insurance quote)
- your children’s guide
- a copy of planning permission granted, a certificate of lawfulness, a copy of a planning application or evidence that planning permission is not required
- a financial reference
- your business plan
- your cash-flow forecast
- if applicable, your last 2 annual reports, including reports for any holding company and any subsidiaries
- if applicable, your last 2 annual accounts
- if applicable, your charitable objects
- if you are applying to register as a partnership, a copy of the agreement or a document that clearly establishes the partnership as a legal entity
Your location assessment must show the steps you have taken to make sure that the home is appropriately located, that you have mitigated any risks, and that you promote positive opportunities for children. There is no set format for location assessments. There is non-statutory guidance available to help you to think about how to approach this task.
Making your location assessment will involve consulting and considering the views of appropriate local bodies or services, including the police and the local authority children’s services. You must show that you understand the environment, community, risks and services available, and that you can protect and promote children’s safety and welfare.
Your location assessment must address 2 broad issues:
- safeguarding concerns
- accessibility of local services
The assessment should consider the needs of the children who are expected to live there. For example, you should assess whether the location of the home:
- places children at risk of exploitation due to local criminal activity
- is in proximity to other children’s homes
- is in proximity to local criminal ‘hot spots’
- is close to environmental hazards such as reservoirs, busy roads or railway lines
- is in a neighbourhood where children can flourish
- has accessible and available suitable local education, leisure, faith, cultural and healthcare services
Directors of children’s homes
You may need to supply details of any director(s) in your SC1 application.
If your organisation’s sole purpose is to carry on children’s homes, you should supply each director’s details in the SC1 and each director must also submit an SC2 form.
If your organisation does not solely carry on children’s homes, you only need to supply details of directors who are involved in the children’s home in the SC1 and only those directors need to submit an SC2 form. ‘Involved’ could include directors involved in finance, human resources or in some other capacity.
It is your responsibility to identify which directors need to submit an SC2 form. If you are unclear, we recommend that you take legal advice.
We do not require directors to get a DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) certificate.
We may want to interview directors, at our discretion.
If a director is the responsible individual, the requirements for that role apply rather than those for a director.
Applying to manage more than one children’s home
We may consider registering a manager to manage 2 homes. We only do this when we are satisfied that the manager has the experience, qualifications and skills to manage each home and the care of the children effectively and on a daily basis.
To determine whether a manager is suitable to do this, we usually consider factors including:
- the statement of purpose, the size, the number and needs of the children to be accommodated, and the services to be provided, in each of the homes
- the reason for the arrangements for one manager to manage both homes
- the location of the homes and the distance between them
- the suitability of the management and delegation arrangements in place (the roles and responsibilities of the responsible individual and the registered manager, and of any deputy manager)
- the operational plan for how homes will be supported when they share a registered manager and what contingencies are in place to support continuity of care and stability of children’s lives and experiences (including how any vacancy and recruitment to the manager post will be managed)
The manager must complete an SC2 form for each home they are applying to manage. Each registration is separate. We will consider them on their own merits and make separate decisions about the manager’s suitability to manage each home.
Managers must demonstrate in their written application and interview that they have the appropriate experience, qualifications and skills to meet the requirements of each children’s home. This includes telling us about examples that show their skills. They must demonstrate that they have strong management skills and well-developed leadership skills and characteristics, for example:
- a secure knowledge and understanding of any specialisms offered for children
- a proven commitment to individualise approaches to meet the needs of children
- a history of strong management oversight of practice, including performance monitoring, and reviewing and leading improvement
- the ability to work flexibly, respond to unforeseen challenges and maintain resilience
- the ability to create strong and effective relationships with children and staff
If the applicant is suitable to manage one home but does not have the skills and experience to carry out both roles, we will make our decision about whether to grant each registration based on the order of the applications.
If an existing registered manager is applying to register as the manager for an additional home, the decision only relates to that application.
If we decide to refuse the second application, we will issue a notice of proposal. We will explain to the applicant that they can ask to withdraw the second application, and we will accept their request unless there are safeguarding concerns. If the applicant does not withdraw their application, we will proceed to a notice of decision and continue to follow the refusal process. The applicant will become disqualified and will need to apply for written consent to continue to manage the home they are already registered for.
See our social care enforcement policy for more details of what happens if we issue a notice of decision to refuse any application to manage a home.
You will need to pay an application fee for each registration.
Once Ofsted has received everything necessary for your application to register, we usually make a decision within 47 days. We recommend that you allow at least 16 weeks from the start of your application before you intend to open. You cannot operate before you’re registered.
Approval for secure children’s homes/schools
When we are making our decision about the registration of a secure children’s home/school, we will notify the DfE/MoJ so that the Secretary of State can consider approval for you to restrict children’s liberty, under The Children (Secure Accommodation) Regulations 1991.
If we refuse your registration
If we refuse any applications to register a children’s home from individual providers, partnerships or managers, those individuals, the partners who make up the partnership and the managers will become disqualified from fostering a child privately.
Unless they have written consent from Ofsted, disqualified people cannot:
- carry on a children’s home or be employed in one
- manage a children’s home
- have a financial interest in a children’s home
- work at a children’s home
A person who does any of the above while disqualified commits an offence. You may not employ in a children’s home a person who is disqualified unless you have obtained Ofsted’s written consent.
If you are part of an organisation that has had an application to register refused, you will not be disqualified. For more information on disqualification and how to seek our consent, see the social care enforcement policy.
You will receive a certificate of registration.
You need to pay an annual fee for each children’s home you register. We will contact you when any fees are due.
What you need to tell us
You must use the SC3 form to tell us about any changes to registered managers.
You can find further information about changes to registered children’s social care services.
Conditions of registration
Conditions of registration restrict the services that your children’s home is registered to provide. It is an offence not to comply with them.
After registration, you will receive a certificate that details the conditions of your registration. It is an offence to fail, without reasonable excuse, to comply with any condition on your registration. The social care enforcement policy sets out information about actions we may take if you do not follow your conditions.
We always apply a condition that sets out the total number of children that you can accommodate at the home. If you want to provide care and accommodation for a mother and her baby, the baby counts towards the total unless the home is registered as a single-bed home.
We may also apply conditions based on your statement of purpose, such as for:
- single-gender occupancy
- arrangements for short breaks
- specifics to do with categories of registration
If we grant registration with conditions that you have not agreed, you may object by making a ‘written representation’ to us. For information on this, see the social care enforcement policy.
Once registered, if you wish to provide other services, you will need to apply for a variation to your conditions of registration.
Categories of registration
Categories of registration list the types of children’s needs that your home will cater for. These are set out in regulation. They have not been updated to reflect the SEND code of practice. Ofsted is legally obliged to categorise homes in this way.
You can have more than one category of registration or none. You must decide what you will include as categories of registration in your statement of purpose, if any, depending on your services offered.
The categories are:
- children with emotional and/or behavioural difficulties (EBD)
- children with physical disabilities (PD)
- children with learning disabilities (LD)
- children with mental disorders, excluding learning disability (MD)
- children with present drug dependence (D)
- children with present alcohol dependence (A)
- children with sensory impairment (SI)
We do not generally apply any categories of registration to secure children’s homes/schools.
We inspect children’s homes as set out in the social care common inspection framework.
If you are registered between 1 April and 30 September, we will inspect you at least once between 1 October and 31 March in the same financial year. If you are registered between 1 October and 31 March, we will first inspect you between the following 1 April and 30 September.
Complaints and concerns
We may receive complaints or concerns about a children’s home. We will take these seriously and we may take actions as a result, as set out in our guidance about social care concerns.
There is also guidance on how we respond to concerns in our social care enforcement policy.
Our social care enforcement policy provides more information about what will happen if you do not meet the relevant regulations.
List of regulations
- Care Standards Act 2000: legal definitions of all agencies and establishments that we register
- The Care Standards Act 2000 (Registration)(England) Regulations 2010
- The Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Fees and Frequency of Inspections) (Children’s Homes etc.) Regulations 2015
- The Children’s Homes (England) Regulations 2015
- The Children (Secure Accommodation) Regulations 1991
- The Refuges (Children’s Homes and Foster Placements) Regulations 1991
- Residential Holiday Schemes for Disabled Children (England) Regulations 2013
- The Care Standards Act 2000 (Extension of the Application of Part 2 to Holiday Schemes for Disabled Children) (England) Regulations 2013 You should also consult:
- Guide to the children’s homes regulations, including the quality standards
- Children’s homes regulations amendments 2014
Indicators for supported accommodation
This table sets out whether your service falls into the category of a children’s home or ‘supported accommodation’. If your service is the latter, you do not need to register. If your service provides care, it will meet the definition of a children’s home and you will usually need to register, as explained earlier in this guide. These questions are indicative and not exhaustive. If you are unclear, you should seek advice.
|Can young people go out of the establishment without staff’s permission?||Supported accommodation||Care|
|Do young people have full control of their own finances?||Supported accommodation||Care|
|Do young people have control over what they wear and the resources to buy clothes?||Supported accommodation||Care|
|Are young people in charge of meeting all of their health needs, including such things as arranging GP or specialist health care appointments? Are young people in full control of their medication?||Supported accommodation (note that young people may ask for advice and help on their health, but if decisions rest with the young person, the establishment is not providing care)||Care|
|Do staff have any access to any medical records?||Care||Supported accommodation|
|Can young people choose to stay away overnight?||Supported accommodation (note that being expected to tell someone if they are going to be away overnight does not indicate providing care, but needing to ask someone’s permission does)||Care|
|Is there a sanctions policy that goes beyond house rules and legal sanctions that would be imposed on any adult?||Care||Supported accommodation|
|If the establishment accommodates both adults and young people, do those under 18 have any different supervision, support, facilities or restrictions?||Care||Supported accommodation|
|Are there regularly significant periods of time when young people are on the premises with no direct staff supervision?||Supported accommodation||Care|
|Do staff have any responsibility for aftercare once a young person has left?||Care (note that some supported accommodation services will offer some support to help young people get established in their next accommodation − this is not care)||Supported accommodation|
|Does the establishment’s literature promise the provision of care or relate to specific care support provided to all residents?||Care||Supported accommodation|
|Does the establishment provide or commission a specialist support service, which forms part of the main function of the establishment?||Care||Supported accommodation|
Children’s homes that provide care and accommodation for adults
A children’s home may provide care and accommodation for adults as well as children. This guidance gives more information for these children’s homes.
A children’s home is required by law to provide care and accommodation ‘wholly or mainly’ for children. This does not prevent a home from accommodating a young adult or adults, as long as it accommodates more children than adults. A child is defined as a person aged under 18.
We recognise that a children’s home may, at particular times, have larger numbers of young adults aged 18 or over living at the home than children.
Children and young people living at a children’s home are often vulnerable and may be disabled. It is therefore not always right for a young person to leave a children’s home by their 18th birthday and it may be in their best interests to remain there. Other reasons for them staying may include:
- the young person’s moving-on placement has fallen through and the placing authority is seeking alternative arrangements
- the young person is in education and wishes to finish their course
- the young person wishes to remain with siblings who are also accommodated at the home
- there is agreement, including the young person’s, that they are not yet ready to leave and a focused plan is in place to achieve this
Guidelines for judging if a home is meeting the ‘wholly or mainly’ definition
We will apply these principles on a case-by-case basis. As mentioned above, we use the ‘wholly or mainly’ definition. This applies over a reasonable period of time, rather than on any given day.
In the majority of cases, we will determine whether a home is ‘wholly or mainly’ for children over a 12-month period. That is, for the majority of time in any 12-month period, a home must accommodate more children than young adults, even if at times during the 12-month period it does not. We will accept any 12-month period for this definition; it is not restricted to calendar or academic years.
We may, in specific cases, extend the period of time that we will judge ‘wholly or mainly’ over from a 12-month to an 18-month period (after a young person has turned 18) where this aligns with the young adult’s leaving school arrangement. This is to recognise that disabled young adults are entitled to receive secondary education up to the June following their 19th birthday.
We expect you (regardless of whether you are using the flexibility in the ‘wholly or mainly’ policy or not) to identify the risk and impact of every young adult living at the home on any children at the home. We also expect you to minimise the risks and any negative impacts on children.
Every young adult at a home must have a regularly updated and reviewed moving-on plan and care plan, including a transition plan if they will need support from adult social care. This is to ensure that you use the ‘wholly or mainly’ policy in the best interests of young people.
If your establishment meets the definition of a children’s home but is not registered, we will decide what action to take on a case-by-case basis.
Investigations will include assessing the permanency of the placement and the purpose and circumstances of the provision of care and accommodation. Following the investigation, we decide whether to take any regulatory action.
If the establishment requires registration, you must submit a complete application to register as a children’s home as soon as possible or cease operating. It remains an offence to provide or manage a children’s home without registration pending the processing of any application.
If we refuse registration and you continue to operate the establishment, you would be operating an unregistered setting and be liable for prosecution. In any of these circumstances, we will consider on a case-by-case basis what action, if any, it is appropriate to take.