WillisPalmer has been providing a range of services to residential children's homes for the last 16 years. Our highly trained and experienced professionals provide high quality Regulation 44 visits, set out in The Children’s Homes (England) Regulations 2015.
The Children’s Homes (England) Regulations 2015 stipulates that the registered provider must have quality assurance arrangements in place. The registered manager at the children's home must ensure that an independent person visits the home at least once each month. When the independent person is carrying out a visit, the registered manager must help the independent person carrying out the visit to:
a) interview in private the children, their parents, relatives and persons working at the home, if they consent to being interviewed
b) inspect the premises of the home and the home’s records (except for a child’s case records, unless the child and the child’s placing authority consent)
The visit by the independent person to the home may be unannounced. Following the visit, the independent person must produce a report about the visit, setting out their opinion as to whether children are effectively safeguarded and the conduct of the home promotes children’s well-being.
The report may recommend actions that the registered person may take in relation to the home and timescales within which the registered person must consider whether or not to take those actions.
If the independent person becomes aware of a potential conflict of interest (whether under regulation 43(3) or otherwise) after a visit to the home, the independent person must include in the report details of the conflict of interest and the reasons why the independent person did not notify the registered provider of the conflict of interest before the visit.
The independent person must provide a copy of the independent person’s report to:
- (a)Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Ofsted (HMCI)
- (b) the local authority for the area in which the home is located, upon request
- (c) the placing authorities of children
- (d) the registered provider and, if applicable, the registered manager; and
- (e) the responsible individual (if one is nominated).
The Children's Homes (England) Regulations 2015 states that: "The registered Person should actively seek independent scrutiny of the home and make best use of information from independent and internal monitoring to ensure continuous improvement."
What this means
In essence, the legislation states that residential children's homes need to ensure that an independent person is visiting and inspecting their premises monthly to ensure that children and young people are safeguarded and their well-being is promoted.
Inspections - which can be announced or unannounced - are carried out monthly and the report following the visit is submitted to Ofsted which reviews the content of Regulation 44 reports to inform the next inspection and uses the information to decide if any action should be taken.
Failure to submit any Regulation 44 report will be noted in the lines of enquiry for the next inspection. Findings in this area may impact on the judgement for Leadership and Management.
- Established for more than 16 years
- Unrivaled reputation for robust quality assurance
- Independent organisation with no affiliation
- Highly qualified team of experienced expert social workers
- Our professionals have excellent communication skills and are trained and experienced in speaking to children and young people
- Our social workers are experienced in writing expert reports to meet specific guidelines
What does an 'independent person' mean?
While the regulations do not stipulate the exact requirements of the independent visitor - it states that the person should be independent of the residential children's home and therefore should be undertaken by a person not involved in the day-to-day operation of the home.
While guidance and regulations do not dictate the exact requirements in terms of training and experience of people undertaking the role of Regulation 44 Visitor, it is widely expected that the visitor will have already undertaken a similar role either in a local authority or as part of an independent children’s home network.
The visitor should have an extensive knowledge of children’s home legislation, national minimum standards as well as the guidance and regulations to formulate their opinion and recommendations in the report. Experience of working in a quality assurance and/or management function in relation to children’s residential services is also key.
An independent visitor should have extensive skills in auditing and inspection, good communication and analysis skills and the ability to relate to children and young people. Excellent written skills are also beneficial for the compilation of the report following the visit. Regulation 44 Visitors will also make recommendations on how to improve practice for children and young people.
WillisPalmer Quality Assurance
WillisPalmer has been established for 16 years, providing independent social work and psychology services to residential homes, local authorities, the courts and independent organisations meaning we have a wealth of expertise and knowledge required for Regulation 44 visits.
Because WillisPalmer exists to promote and protect the welfare of children, we take a serious approach to quality assurance and believe that a rigorous quality assurance process is central to this aim. Therefore we invest heavily in a robust system to ensure reports are comprehensive, focused on the needs of the child and provide a detailed response to instructions.
We have developed a strong reputation in the provision of both statutory and expert reports and our quality assurance process helps to ensure we maintain and improve our high standards.
Our process is designed to be an important checking procedure, as well as developing and improving the practice of our contractors.
WillisPalmer has recruited a team of Consultant Social Workers (CSWs) to quality assure all reports before they are filed with the instructing party. The CSWs have been personally selected by the Chief Executive because of their significant experience in both undertaking specialist reports, and managing the quality of reports over many years. The CSWs, therefore, have the full confidence and support of the Chief Executive.
What happens during the Regulation 44 visit?
Prior to carrying out the visit, the independent visitor should read the previous Regulation 44 reports noting who was spoken to and recommendations made. The independent visitor should also read the recommendations of the Ofsted inspection reports.
Visits, which can be announced or unannounced, will take place monthly and the timing of the visits should vary. During an announced visit, the independent visitor should speak to young people, parents, staff and the registered manager - a minimum of one parent should be spoken to during the visit - whereas an unannounced visit should aim to spot check the running of the residential children's home.
One of the benefits of arranging a planned visit is to give young people the opportunity to decide if they wish to meet with the independent person. Children with disabilities should be supported to communicate with the independent person should they wish to do so. These visits also provide an opportunity for parents to decide if they wish to talk to the independent person about their child`s support arrangements. Staff can also speak to the independent person about supervision arrangements, how the home is run and whether they need access to a counsellor or support service.
During the visit, the independent visitor should formulate an opinion on the standard of care provided. The visitor should inspect the physical condition of the home checking the standard of the decor and furnishings, communal areas and personal space available to children and young people. The kitchen should be clean and safe and bathrooms should be well maintained with everything in good working order with locks available to ensure privacy. Individuals should be supported to make their rooms homely with posters/photographs and their belongings while the garden or outside area should be safe and well maintained. The home should be accessible to children and young people with disabilities.
Records such as logs on daily routines, sanctions and restraint should be viewed by the independent visitor. This should help create a picture of how the home is being run and whether the children are safe. Issues to take into consideration include:
- Sanctions imposed and whether they are appropriate to the recorded incident
- Physical intervention
- Fights/incidents between residents
- Physical/mental health of children and young people
- Incidents of self-harm
- Incidents of children missing from care without authority/information from return home interviews
- Ensuring that young people who are placed away from home have the opportunity to maintain relationships with parents, friends and relatives
- Substance misuse issues
- Police attendance at the residential children's home
- Involvement with gangs
In terms of children running away from care, independent visitors should check if there are patterns and try and ascertain whether the child is at risk of exploitation and whether measures are in place to support the young person.
The home should also ensure that a young person's religious, cultural and dietary requirements are respected.
The independent person may want to ensure health and dental checks of the young people are up to date and that healthy eating and exercise is promoted and that there is support in place to meet their emotional needs. Furthermore, the independent person may want to ensure that the young people are being encouraged and supported to engage in regular education, training or employment.
Finally, the independent person may wish to ascertain what practical measures are in place to support young people about to transition from care and whether they are appropriately supported for this change.
Following the visit, the independent person will need to formulate a report and state whether children are being kept safe and their well-being is being promoted and file this with the appropriate authorities.