We know that applying to register a children’s home is a serious step. It is right that there are exacting standards to meet, but we want the process to work well. The following hints and tips should help with a smoother application.
Principles of registration
We currently have over 3,000 registered children’s homes. But, as I blogged about last year, there remains a need for specialist homes that can provide high-quality care for children with multiple and complex needs.
We do not necessarily need more children’s homes; we need the right homes. We need homes that offer suitable care for the most vulnerable children with multiple needs due to their past experiences.
Some providers are trying to find creative solutions. We have been looking at how we can take that into account in our registration process.
We have created some principles to help our inspectors when they are reviewing applications. We are not lowering our standards. We still make decisions based on whether the applicant complies with (and will continue to comply with) the legal requirements. The principles focus our decision-making on children’s best interests, particularly where the application is for a less conventional home.
The principles are that:
- the provider should find and use properties where a new home is needed. The home should be in the best place to provide support and care for the children who will live there
- the location should enable children to safely, and where appropriate independently, access local community resources, schools, public transport, health centres, and other relevant facilities
- the provider should ask the local authority what they think of a new children’s home in the proposed area
- if there are other children’s homes close by, the provider should consider the impact of this
- the provider should identify a manager and enough staff for the number of children they initially intend to accommodate. This should be set out in the business plan and include proposals to recruit staff so that the number of children in the home can safely increase over time
- the provider should offer a stable home, with local resources that can meet any identified need such as medical or educational support
- the provider should have good plans to deal with staff turnover and recruitment. These should include careful plans to help staff meet children’s changing needs. It should be possible to continue to meet the statement of purpose, even when changes in staff are sudden or unexpected
- the provider should take account of their staff’s capacity to support any new children. This should include how they will manage any impact on the children already living there
- the provider should identify and minimise risks to children, including risk of isolation or stigma. Too many children are living in isolation. Children who will live alone should have opportunities to socialise with other children and adults
- management arrangements should include a commitment to listening and responding to children. There should be regular feedback between children, staff, the manager and the provider
- the provider should justify and regularly review any restrictions imposed on children’s rights and privacy. The provider should consider the impact on all children who will live in the home. We have published some guidance that will help you think about this.
Hints and tips
In September 2021, we published a blog ‘Applying to register a children’s home: top tips’.
We wanted to highlight this blog again, and provide some further tips based on some of the frequent asked questions.
We do not expect a full staff team to be in place before you register. But when we carry out the registration visit, we will need to see that you have enough staff and they have the right experience and qualifications to meet the children's needs. They should be able to look after the number of children you intend to accommodate from the start of your registration.
So, if you will only be caring for one child at first, we will only expect you to have sufficient staff to care for one child. But we will be looking for this to be reflected in your business plans. And we will want to see a plan for how you will recruit the staff to care for more children in the future.
Managers and responsible individuals
We know how difficult it is right now, to find the right people with the right skills to manage your new home. Legislation sets out what managers need to demonstrate, to be considered fit and suitable. We cannot register people who do not meet those criteria. You should be confident that your manager can show us that they have the required skills, knowledge and experience. Otherwise, we cannot recommend that your home is registered.
To register you will also need someone to be the responsible individual (RI) who has the skills and experience set out in regulation 26. The RI has a very important role, particularly in the first few months as a home is established. Even experienced managers need support. One of the reasons newly registered homes can be judged inadequate at their first full inspection is because the RI or manager left shortly after registration and was not replaced or replaced quickly enough.
Applying to manage more than one children’s home
For a manager to manage 2 homes, we need to be satisfied that the manager has the required experience, qualifications and skills. We need to be confident that they can manage each home, and the care of the children, effectively and on a daily basis. We usually consider factors including:
- the statement of purpose, the size of the homes, the number and needs of the children to be accommodated, and the services to be provided
- the reasoning 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. This includes the roles and responsibilities of the RI and the registered manager and any deputy manager
- the operational plan that sets out how the homes will be supported when they share a registered manager. This should include what contingencies are in place and what the provider will do if the manager post is vacant
Our introduction to children’s homes guidance gives more detail.
When we visit premises, we are looking for things such as:
- any locks on windows. Window locks are not required in children’s homes unless there is a specific identified risk. We would also expect you to regularly review the need for any locks. Children should live in the least restrictive environment possible - like a normal family home
- the extent of furnishing in the home. At the point of registration, we expect the home to be homely and welcoming. It should be furnished enough for the number of children who will live there at first. For example, if you will initially have some empty bedrooms, they do not need to be completely furnished when we visit
- it is not compulsory to have a garden but it is good for children to be able to access outdoor space. We will not refuse an application for registration without a garden as long as you meet all legal requirements.
Multi-building children’s homes
You may apply to register a children’s home where the care and accommodation is provided in more than one building. You can accommodate up to 6 children in up to 4 buildings within a single registration with one manager. We call this a ‘multi-building children’s home’.
A multi-building children’s home should allow you to make child-centred decisions about where each child lives. It can make it easier to make sure that you meet their individual needs. These decisions should be taken in agreement with the placing authority. It might mean that you can offer a place to a child who needs somewhere to live quickly or who cannot easily live with other children immediately. We have published guidance on registering a multi-building children’s home.
Your location assessment must show the steps you have taken to make sure that:
- the home is needed locally
- the home is in the right place and is safe
- you promote positive opportunities for children
You will also need to consult relevant local bodies and services, and consider their views. Inspectors will ask you for evidence of your contact with the right people in the local authority. They will also ask how your location assessment has informed your plans for the home you want to open.
Planning permission for your property
You will need to show that you either don’t need planning permission, or that you have the right planning permission in place. If you have it at the start of your application, this means that we will have an important piece of your application already to hand.
We do accept applications where you have applied for planning permission, but you have not yet had a response. We know there can be long waits and you may want to challenge decisions. We know that this can be frustrating, but there is nothing we can do except wait for you to get the correct permissions.
Checks on individuals submitting application forms
We know that submitting forms to us can sometimes feel burdensome, particularly if you have done so in the past. We are trying to reduce this burden, but wanted to explain why this is still required in some cases.
- Portability of manager registrations – we know this could help reduce the burden. It would mean registered managers moving to another children’s home would not need to re-register. Unfortunately, legislation currently restricts manager registrations to specific homes. We have suggested, and continue to suggest, changing this to the Department for Education (DfE). We hope that they will change the legislation in the future.
- DBS certificates – applicants must carry out a new DBS check, even if they have got one relatively recently. Providing a DBS check with an application is a requirement of legislation, and so we cannot change this. Requiring a current DBS certificate provides the most up-to-date information about an individual. Three months is the longest gap that we are prepared to accept.
We do accept applications from someone with an older DBS check, providing they have been subscribed to the DBS Update Service ever since. We do not insist on people working in children’s social care being subscribed to the Update Service but we do recommend it. We know it costs £13 a year but it means you will not need another DBS check while you subscribe, and will not need to carry out a new one when applying.
- References - we understand there is often frustration when the need for references delays applications. Again, legislation requires applicants to provide us with them.
It is also really important that applicants make sure that they identify the right referees. The best referees have professional management experience of a person’s work with children, and the last employer is a must. References are vital to our assessment of an applicant, and an important part of assessing their suitability. I appreciate that providers may have already sought references for their managers, but we are still required to seek our own. The provider’s employment process is different to our registration process.
- Health statement from GPs - we know the difficulties that some of you have in receiving an appropriate response from your GP. But it is a legislative requirement. We have also asked DfE to consider changing this. In the meantime, we are looking at what we can do within the existing legal constraints. Applicants can submit a health self-declaration form if they are having difficulty in getting a prompt response from their GP.
We will accept the application with a self-declaration and review the GP’s form when it arrives. At present, we are unable to make a registration decision without something from your GP.
If our application website does not give you the information that you need when trying to submit an application to register, send an email to email@example.com with the subject line ‘Social care application’ and provide your full name and reference number for someone to call you.
We hope that this information is helpful. We want to help you to open the right homes in the right places so that so that more children can live closer to home, nurtured by skilful staff.