Why your annual returns are so important

Every year in January and February, we ask care service providers to complete an annual return. We ask for a great deal of information about your service and the people who use it. It is important that we explain why we ask for this information, and what we do with it. 

First and foremost, we use the information you provide in the annual return to help us understand your service and make sure we are well prepared to inspect it. Here, one of our inspectors explains how she makes use of annual returns to help plan her inspections of adoption and fostering services.  

'I use the annual return at different times of the year. At the start of the year, I use the annual return to check that the information we hold about services is correct so that services pay the right fee and people searching for services on our website get accurate information. I look at staff turnover, any disciplinary issues and complaints made to the service. I think about whether I need to contact the service to ask for more details about how they have handled this. I also update the risk assessment for the year. Risk assessments help us to decide whether we need to inspect this year and what to focus on during the inspection. 

'When I’m preparing for an inspection, I revisit the document. I do a lot of inspections of fostering and adoption services so, for example: for a fostering service, I consider the number of enquiries and applications made by prospective foster carers. I look at whether the service has increased or decreased the number of foster carers as this gives some indication about the success of recruitment during the year. I cross-reference this against the number of children and young people needing and using foster care placements and assess whether the recruitment activity is enough to meet the needs of children in the area. I will also check if there are any private fostering arrangements and will look at records during inspection.

'In the annual returns for adoption services I look at how many children and adopters are waiting for placement and decide whether this needs to be examined at inspection. For example, is the service targeting recruitment of adopters to meet the needs of the children requiring placements?

'For both types of services I look at the information in the annual returns about their panel members. I consider the gender mix and experience of the panel as they are taking very important decisions about whether carers should be approved. If children have experienced disrupted placements, I follow up on this. We expect services to ensure that placements don’t break down as this is not good for the children. I look at staffing information in any service I inspect. I need to know that staff are properly registered with the Scottish Social Services Council and I identify new staff so I can talk with them at inspection about their experiences of recruitment and induction.”

What else do we do with the information in the annual return?

Not only is the annual return important for planning and focusing our inspections, we use the information you give us to get a national picture, which can help us and others in a number of ways.

  • Benchmarks and comparisons for inspectors
    Our inspectors can compare a service they are looking at with national averages to identify potential issues. For example, if the inspector is preparing to inspect a service with higher staff turnover than average, when they inspect, the inspector might look at the impact this could have had on the quality of care and outcomes for people using that service.

  • Publishing statistics
    We publish summaries of some of the annual returns data. Our main statistical publication is the Early Learning and Childcare Statistics which we publish every year. We also use annual return data to inform many of our other publications, such as our Triennial Review last year. 

    National policy makers (the Scottish Government) can use these summaries and publications to shape and evaluate national policies and providers can see how their service compares with other services. For example, we have recently reviewed some questions about the numbers and ages of children receiving funded places in daycare for children and childminding services so that we can measure the impact of changes in the provision of funded entitlement to 600 hours per year under the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014).
  • Reducing duplication and sharing information
    We work with other public bodies to share information and reduce any duplication to reduce the costs of data collection for both the taxpayer and the people providing data. For example, we share anonymised staffing information with Scottish Social Services Council so that they can develop intelligence about the workforce without having to collect additional data from care services.

Annual returns will be available online at eforms.careinspectorate.com between 5 January and 16 February 2018.

Our website has answers for frequently asked questions under ‘Annual returns’ in the ‘Professionals’ section. If an answer to a question can’t be found there, services can call the Contact Centre helpline on 0345 600 9527.

If a service was registered on or after 1 October 2017, they should try to complete an annual return this year. Although it’s not mandatory for these services, any information supplied will be used by the Care Inspectorate and Scottish Government, etc. The information they put in will automatically appear in the 2019 annual return and they will only need to enter any information that has changed.

Please note that inactive services must submit an annual return.

Services can log in to their Care Inspectorate eForms account from any computer connected to the internet. If they need help accessing their annual return, they can call the Contact Centre helpline on 0345 600 9527.