A. Background

The Guide is aimed at community planning partners (CPP) and staff participating in joint inspections.  It is complementary to a quality framework for children and young people in need of care and protection (QIF) which supports joint self-evaluation and continuous improvement.

Joint inspections include representatives from Healthcare Improvement Scotland (HIS), Education Scotland (ES) and His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS), as well as young inspection volunteers.  They take account of the full range of work within a CPP area including services provided by social workers, health visitors, police officers, teachers and the third sector.

Whilst details of the approach to each joint inspection may vary in response to local circumstances, the core elements of the process remain consistent and comparable.

Embedded in our approach is a strong emphasis on listening to, and taking account of, the views of children and young people as well as their parents and carers.  The young inspection volunteers, who have relevant experience of services and are trained and supported to be members of joint inspection teams, play a key role in this.  These inspections provide public assurance on the quality and effectiveness of services for children and young people and seek to assist partnerships in continuous improvement.

The methodology for joint inspections, as well as our quality framework, is informed by the European Foundation of Quality Management (EFQM) Excellence Model. It looks at:

  • key outcomes
  • stakeholder’s needs
  • delivery of services
  • management
  • leadership
  • capacity for improvement.

Our quality framework outlined in the diagram below contains 22 quality indicators.


B. Joint inspection focus

In light of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Care Inspectorate, along with its scrutiny partners, has agreed a revised programme of joint inspections focussed on children at risk of harm.  Starting in August 2021, these inspections take account of the experiences and outcomes for children and young people at risk of harm.

Looking ahead to the implementation of The Promise and the changes that will be required in both practice and scrutiny, the intention of these inspections is to achieve assurance about how children and young people at risk of harm are being kept safe.  We are keen to establish how well protection processes to identify, assess and plan for the management of risk are enabling children and young people to experience sustained loving and nurturing relationships, to keep them safe from further harm and promote their well-being.

We will take account of the impact of Covid-19 and how partnerships have continued to deliver services throughout the pandemic.  We will consider the extent to which children and young people are safer because they have received the right help at the right time to reduce risks.  We will consider how the partnership has prioritised nurturing relationships to ensure children and young people experience a loving and stable home environment. We will seek to understand the experiences of services from the perspective of children and young people at risk of harm as well as their families and carers.  We will examine how well leaders fulfil their collective responsibilities for child protection.  We will consider the extent to which CPPs make a difference to the well-being and life chances of children and young people at risk of harm and reduce outcome gaps.

Evidence gathered under the quality indicators of our quality framework for children and young people in need of care and protection (QIF) will enable inspectors to address the four following aims:

  • Children and young people are safer because risks have been identified early and responded to effectively.
  • Children and young people’s lives improve with high quality planning and support, ensuring they experience sustained loving and nurturing relationships to keep them safe from further harm.  
  • Children, young people, and families are meaningfully and appropriately involved in decisions about their lives. They influence service planning, delivery and improvement.
  • Collaborative strategic leadership, planning and operational management ensure high standards of service delivery.

These will, in turn, form the basis of the published report, which will include key messages, strengths and areas for development for the partnership.

In addition, we will evaluate Indicator 2.1 (Impact on children and young people) using the six point scale.

For more information on how we use the quality indicators in relation to the inspection, see evaluating quality indicators in the resources and documents section.

C. Joint inspection process

Each joint inspection begins with a position statement submitted by the CPP.  The position statement outlines partners joint practice relating to children at risk of harm.  The information it includes will provide the inspection team with valuable evidence and will be used to identify and prioritise areas of practice which would benefit from further scrutiny.  This is a key document and will inform the focus of the initial meeting with the senior leaders in the partnership.  For more information refer to the position statement guidance in the resources and documents section.

Other meetings will be held with partners at set intervals throughout the inspection process at which we will share information about the scope of the inspection and the rationale for this. We will also discuss which scrutiny activities will best help us to clarify any areas of uncertainty.  Key messages and an evaluation on the six-point scale of one selected quality indicator, as outlined above, will be shared with partners prior to publication of the inspection report.

Due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic restrictions, inspections are likely to involve a combination of remote on-line activity and some on-site activity.  Record reading will be undertaken remotely, whilst engagement with children and young people and focus groups with staff and leaders is likely to be a blend of approaches.  Although these activities are likely to be over 10 days in total, each joint inspection spans a period of approx.  Eighteen weeks’ worth of activity from notification being issued to publication of the inspection report.  However, these may not be consecutive weeks and inspection leads will advise local areas of the actual time frame for their inspection.  Our partnership key dates guide in the resources and documents section gives more information about what to expect.

All the activities during the inspection will be carried out proportionately to clarify areas of uncertainty and to support confident evaluations about the quality of services and outcomes for children and young people at risk of harm.

D. Children and young people’s participation and involvement

During the inspection it is important that we hear as much as possible from children and young people using services.  Consequently, we have developed our methodology to enable their views to be prominent.  We have produced a survey specifically to hear feedback from children and young people, as well as a separate survey for parents and carers.

We want to hear about how children and young people are involved in all the stages of protection process and the impact that this has had.  We are interested to see how children and young people are enabled to take part in discussions about service delivery and improvement and how partners respond to their views.  We want to know about information sharing and complaints processes and will be seeking assurance that these are accessible and actively promoted.  We will be looking at how partners comply with the broader remit of the UNCRC and their response to children’s rights issues.

We will work closely with trained young inspection volunteers who themselves have had experience of services for children and young people.  They will lead much of our direct contact with children and young people during the inspection.

We are particularly keen to hear the views of children and young people about:

  • Their personal well-being and outcomes.  Perceived well-being is increasingly viewed as the most important element of feedback from service users and can be used for: identifying the needs of groups; evaluating the impact of a specific intervention; or obtaining a snapshot of needs and strengths in communities.
  • The staff working with them and their families.  We know the importance of children and young people being enabled to experience sincere human contact and enduring relationships. We will therefore explore the extent to which they have confidence in the people who support and care for them.
  • Their experiences of the processes that they have encountered – assessment, planning, intervention, review.  We are interested in the experience that children and young people have of the processes which are designed to recognise and respond to child protection concerns and keep them safe and well.
  • How well services have involved them.  We are not only interested in the headline care standard “I am involved in all decisions about my care and support”, but also in the ways that services are involving children and young people in reviewing and improving the work that they do.  We want to know how services have sought their views and hear how these views have been used to make changes as necessary.

For more information, see our approach to engagement in the resources and documents.