A. Background

The Guide is aimed at community planning partners and staff participating in joint inspections. It is complementary to a quality framework for children and young people in need of care and protection 2019 (revised) (QIF) which supports joint self-evaluation and continuous improvement. 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.

At the request of Scottish Ministers, the Care Inspectorate is leading joint inspections of services for children and young people in need of care and protection. Our inspection teams include representatives from Healthcare Improvement Scotland (HIS), Education Scotland (ES) and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS). We also work with young inspection volunteers and associate assessors.

Joint inspections 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. We look at the impact of staff in recognising child protection concerns and providing the right help at the right time. We seek to understand the experiences of services from the perspective of children and young people in need of care and protection as well as their families and carers. We examine how well leaders fulfil their collective responsibilities for child protection and corporate parenting. We consider the extent to which CPPs make a difference to the wellbeing and life chances of children and young people in need of care and protection and reduce outcome gaps.

The methodology for joint inspections is informed by the European Foundation of Quality Management (EFQM) Excellence Model and evaluations are reached using quality indicators published in the QIF. The inspection process begins with a joint self-evaluation submitted by the CPP and includes meetings at set intervals throughout the process with community planning partners and senior managers to discuss findings as these emerge. Through discussion these are tested out, reviewed and refined with any further scrutiny activity identified and agreed to clarify outstanding areas of uncertainty. Key messages and evaluations on the six-point scale of four selected quality indicators are shared with partners prior to publication of the inspection report.

Embedded in our approach is a strong emphasis on listening to, and taking account of, the views of children and young people in need of care and protection 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 in need of care and protection and seek to assist partnerships in continuous improvement.

B. Inspections: what’s involved?


The approach to these joint inspections of services for children and young people in need of care and protection is based on the EFQM Excellence model and 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. Evidence gathered under these indicators enables inspectors to answer the following five questions which form the focus of these inspections:

  • How good is the partnership at recognising and responding when children and young people need protection?
  • How good is the partnership at helping children and young people who have experienced abuse and neglect stay safe, healthy and recover from their experiences?
  • How good is the partnership at maximising the wellbeing of children and young people who are looked after?
  • How good is the partnership at enabling care experienced young people to succeed in their transition to adulthood?
  • How good is collaborative leadership?


Inspection reports subsequently address each of the five questions and include key messages, strengths and areas for development for the partnership.

They also evaluate the following quality indicators:

  • 1.1 : improvements in the safety, wellbeing and life chances of vulnerable children and young people
  • 2.1 : impact on children and young people
  • 2.2 : impact on families
  • 9.1 - 9.4 : the domain of leadership and direction.

For more information on how we use the quality indicators in relation to the inspection questions, see evaluating quality indicators.


Although inspectors carry out on-site activity for a total of 10 days, our scrutiny work spans a period of approx. 35 weeks from notification being issued to publication of the inspection report. As noted below, the inspection process is broken down into three phases. These are:


Clicking on the links above takes you straight to the relevant phase.

The purpose of each phase is to conduct essential activity to support confident evaluations about the quality of services and outcomes for children and young people in need of care and protection. Scrutiny will be carried out proportionately to clarify areas of uncertainty.

We will share information about the scope of the inspection and the rationale for this, during scheduled meetings with partnership representatives at the start of the process and at the end of each phase. We will discuss which scrutiny activities will best help us to clarify any areas of uncertainty.

C. 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. One of the strategic inspectors on the team is designated as the Care Inspectorarte participation lead and they will work alongside a participation co-ordinator identified by the CPP.

We will work closely with trained young inspection volunteers who themselves have had some experience of services for children and young people. They will lead much of our direct contacts with children and young people during the inspection. We have also developed a survey specifically to hear feedback from children and young people, as well as a separate survey for parents and carers.

What will we do? 

The diagram below outlines the process for participation and involvement during the three phases of the inspection:


What information do we want?

During the inspection we are keen to hear the views of children and young people about:

  • Their personal wellbeing and outcomes

Perceived wellbeing 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; keep children and young people safe and well; maximise the wellbeing of looked after children; and enable care experienced young people to succeed in their transition to adulthood.

  • How well services have involved them

We are interested in not only 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 section below.