Our approach to inspection and self-evaluation

In consultation with the social care sector, we have developed a self-evaluation and quality framework model based on the Scottish Government’s Health and Social Care Standards.  We have used this model to develop a suite of quality frameworks for different service types.

Our inspectors use quality frameworks to evaluate the quality of care during inspections and improvement planning. So far, we have published quality frameworks for:

  • care homes for adults
  • care homes for children and young people and school care accommodation (special residential schools)
  • care homes for older people
  • children and young people in need of care and protection
  • fostering, adoption and adult placement services
  • housing support and offender accommodation
  • mainstream boarding school and school hostels
  • secure accommodation
  • support services (care at home, including supported living models of support)
  • support services (not care at home)

We are currently developing quality frameworks for:

  • childcare and nurse agencies
  • early learning and childcare

All our frameworks are available to download from the publications and statistics area.

The frameworks replace our previous practice of inspecting against themes and statements.  Inspectors will look select a number of quality indicators from a number of key questions to look at. There are some service types that will continue to use themes and statements until they are replaced with the new quality frameworks.

Framework structure

The frameworks better reflect the Health and Social Care Standards and provides more transparency about what we expect. 

They set out key questions about the difference a care service makes to people’s wellbeing, and the quality of the elements that contribute to that. These include:

  • How well do we support people’s wellbeing?
  • How good is our leadership
  • How good is our staff team?
  • How good is our setting?
  • How well is our care and support planned?

Under each key question, there are three or four quality indicators, covering specific areas of practice. Each quality indicator has illustrations of what ‘very good’ quality would look like, and what ‘weak’ quality would look like. These illustrations are drawn from the Health and Social Care Standards but are not checklists or definitive descriptions. They are designed to help people understand the level of quality we are looking for.

A sixth question, ‘What is our overall capacity for improvement?’ is included in the framework to help care services in planning their improvement journey.

Each quality indicator includes a scrutiny and improvement toolbox.  This includes examples of how we might evidence the quality of care provided.  It also contains links to practice documents that will help services in their own improvement journey.

Key questions added as a result of Covid-19

In order to robustly assess  arrangements to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic, our inspections are placing particular focus on infection prevention and control, wellbeing and staffing in care settings. 

We have developed a key question to augment our frameworks. We have done this to meet the duties placed on us by the Coronavirus (Scotland) (No. 2) Act and subsequent guidance that we must evaluate infection prevention and control and staffing.  

This means carry out targeted inspections that are short, focused and carried out with colleagues from Health Improvement Scotland and Health Protection Scotland, to assess care and support during the Covid-19 pandemic. We will continue to put the wellbeing for people experiencing care at the heart of our inspections.  

This additional key question has been added to our frameworks for:

  • Care homes for older people
  • Care homes for adults
  • Support services (care at home including supported living services)
  • Secure accommodation

We have also developed ‘Key Question 5’ for early learning and childcare services.  This resource and self-evaluation tool asks you to evaluate how well you are supporting children and families during Covid-19.

The aim of this resource is to enable settings to gather information and continually evaluate their progress in supporting staff, children and families to have confidence in the provision of ELC by specifically evidencing how they have implemented the national guidance for Covid-19, while ensuring positive outcomes for children. 

This is the only Key Question we expect ELC providers (including out of school care and childminders) to compete. This will sit alongside our Quality Framework for Early Learning and Childcare when this is published later this year.


The quality frameworks help services evaluate themselves. Self-evaluation is central to continuous improvement.  It enables care settings to reflect on what they are doing so they can recognise what they do well and identify what they need to do better.  We have published a guide to self-evaluation to support services in their improvement journey. 

Where can I find out more?

The quality frameworks and our inspection leaflet gives more information. 

Alternatively, you can contact your inspector, call us on 0345 600 9527 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..