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How we use the children’s social care point-in-time surveys results

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Six young students sit, chatting and socialising with mobile phones and digital tablets.

UPDATE - 01/02/24

This blog post was originally published in February 2023 but the information on how we use the survey results, and why it is important, remains relevant.

The 2024 survey runs from Monday 5 February 2024 and closes on Sunday 24 March 2024.

Earlier this month, we launched our 2023 Children’s social care point-in-time surveys. We run these questionnaires every year for about 6 weeks in February and March. This year, the surveys will close on 26 March 2023.

If you are asked to share or complete a survey, please do so if you can. The responses help us in deciding who and when to inspect. The information also helps us to decide what to focus on and ask about when we’re inspecting.

What are the surveys?

We use the online surveys to gather views about:

  • children’s homes
  • secure children’s homes
  • adoption services
  • fostering services
  • residential family centres
  • boarding schools
  • residential special schools
  • further education colleges.

We try to get responses from everyone in or connected to children’s social care, including:

  • children
  • learners
  • parents
  • foster carers
  • staff
  • social workers
  • other professionals.

Deciding when to inspect

As mentioned above, the surveys help us in several ways.

First, your responses help us to decide when to inspect services.  Inspectors may prioritise inspecting a service where answers were less positive or flagged certain issues. For example, if several responses about a service mention high staff turnover, we might bring its inspection forward. This is because high staff turnover can indicate a lack of stability for children.

If a service receives very few responses or blank surveys, we may well prioritise that service’s inspection. This would be because the low or no response rate could indicate a closed culture or a manager not sharing the survey with children, staff, parents and professionals.

Of course, if any responses raise serious concerns, we follow them up immediately.

Deciding what to focus on when inspecting

As well as helping us to decide when to inspect, the survey responses help us decide what to focus on when we do inspect.

Inspectors will review responses while they prepare an inspection. This can help them decide what their lines of enquiry will be, what they need more information about, and what concerns they want to look in to. The survey responses help them identify potential risks and problems or things that could develop into bigger issues if left unchecked.

It’s not just negatives. The responses can also help inspectors look for positives and good practice. They might see things they want to check on inspection that could contribute to a good or outstanding judgement or be shared as an example of how to do things for other providers to consider or adopt.

The bigger picture

As well as helping with individual inspections, the survey responses help us build a bigger and better picture of how children in care are supported across England. Last year, we received over 40,000 responses including nearly 6,000 from children. The responses helped us raise concerns about issues including children’s mental health in secure homes. But we were also able to highlight good news like the fact that most children said their relationships with the adults and children where they lived or stayed were positive.

We have published a full analysis of the findings from last year’s survey responses.

What you can do

If you are a provider registered with and/or inspected by Ofsted, you should have received an email containing a set of links that are unique to your service. The email will outline which audiences should receive each unique link, for example children, staff or parents. You should send out these links to the relevant audience types for that provider. We have published more guidance should you need it.

If you are a child or parent and have received the survey from your school, college, agency or centre, please do complete it if you can. Your response will help us and could make a real difference. If you haven’t received a survey, ask the provider.

You can also call Ofsted on 0300 123 1231 or email We won’t be able to record your comments in this way but can answer any questions you may have about the survey or how we will use your responses.

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