We are committed to carrying out our inspections of regulated care services on an unannounced basis for all care service types, including childminders, unless there are practical reasons why we need to announce a particular inspection. Inspections will also take place at any time of the day or night that the care service is operational.

Unannounced inspections provide members of the public with greater reassurance that we are inspecting on outcomes for people in services that are operating as they usually would. When services receive unannounced inspections, it is important to remind you that all Care Inspectorate staff carry identification and you should ask to see this. If you are not sure if the person who has called or visited your service is genuine, you should call us on 0345 600 9527 to verify their identity.

Quality Grades

The grades awarded to services at inspections describe how well those services are performing against our quality themes and statements. Inspectors use their professional knowledge and experience, along with the National Care Standards, to determine the most appropriate grades. 

We also take account of information and intelligence that we receive on the performance of care services: from people who use them, our complaints process, and from notifications received from services about significant events that happen or any major change that affect the service delivered.

It is not uncommon for care services to see their grades change over time, both upwards and downwards. Just like the people who use care services and their carers, we – as a regulator – expect continual improvement and constantly need to raise the bar.

In many areas of work, practice and approaches that may have been acceptable even a small number of years ago are now considered out-dated or are not acceptable today. Practice that was once cutting-edge may now be routine. We constantly seek to improve practice across all the services we regulate, knowing that the expectations placed on caring professionals are constantly evolving.

All inspections are carried out by inspectors whose own practice background and areas of expertise match the type of service under inspection. We believe this will help to drive forward continual improvement and assist in the sharing of good practice.

We are also reviewing our methodology at the moment to determine how to strengthen our inspections and how we report on our findings. The aim is to ensure we are clearly focused on assessing and reporting how it feels to receive care services and the difference those services are making to people’s lives.

How to involve people who use your service

An important part your service is actively involving people who use it.  

For providers this means that during your inspection you must show us evidence that people have had opportunities to have their say about their quality of care. You should show us that you involve people, not only in their own care arrangements, but also in assessing and improving all aspects of the service. 

We expect that

  • people have the opportunity to be actively involved
  • you evidence the opportunities that you provide
  • you will provide evidence that you have taken into account the views of people who use your service, and their carers.

Visit The Hub for information and good practice guides on how to involve people using your service.

We also want to hear from you so we can highlight the good practice that is out there. Tell us how you involve people in delivering your service. Email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and share your best practice stories. 

Our policies

How the Care Inspectorate uses requirements and recommendations to help regulated care services improve

How the Care Inspectorate uses self-assessment when assessing quality

How the Care Inspectorate re-evaluates (re-grades) services