Childcare providers have a legal requirement to notify Ofsted of ‘significant events’ that may affect their suitability to care for children.
A failure to notify Ofsted of a significant event as soon as possible, and in any event within 14 days, is a criminal offence. Ofsted have recently updated their guidance to provide greater clarity as to what might be considered a ‘significant event’.
It’s important to note that the requirement relates to the registered person, as well as people connected with the registration, including:
- Anyone aged 16 or over who lives, or works during childcare hours, in a childminder’s home or childcare on domestic premises
- Everyone that Ofsted checked when you registered your childcare setting, such as the nominated individual, directors, partners, committee members and others associated with registered childcare
Ofsted have provided examples of what may amount to a significant event. However, it is important to note that the examples are not exhaustive and Ofsted expect providers to use their judgement to determine whether Ofsted should be notified.
The examples provided by Ofsted are as follows:
- Involvement with safeguarding partners and statutory agencies about incidents or concerns that might affect someone’s suitability, for instance child protection, welfare or safety investigations
- A device containing children’s information being stolen
- An incident where children may have been at risk of harm, for example:
- A care accident when transporting children and the police are investigating a possible offence
- A child was able to leave a setting or was missing for any period
- A child was not adequately supervised (such as being left unattended in a car)
- An unauthorised person gained access to the childcare premises
- You have been the victim of a crime that occurred on the childcare premises, such as assault, harassment or vandalism
- Incidents of domestic abuse
- Incidents of self-harm or overdose
- One off or ongoing incidents on or around the premises that may affect children, such as violence, criminal or sexual exploitation and gangs
- The disqualification of an employee or any person who lives or works on the premises
- Changes to health
To add to the guidance issued by Ofsted, below are some further examples we are aware of that warranted notification to Ofsted:
- A childminder’s own child being referred to CAHMS and social services for mental health concerns
- A deterioration in the condition of, or increase in challenging behaviour from a childminder’s own child with SEN
Changes to health
The guidance makes clear that any change to health that may affect a provider’s ability to care for children should be notified to Ofsted. This also extends to the health of anyone connected with their registration, whether or not they have given Ofsted their health information previously – you can read more about who this includes on the Ofsted website here.
The guidance outlines that changes to health may include:
- Any long-term condition that affects the physical ability to walk, balance, bend, kneel or lift a child
- Any alcohol or drug dependency or misuse
- Any other medical concerns, degenerative conditions or mental health conditions/disorders that may affect the individual’s suitability to care for, or be in regular contact with, children
Outlined below are further examples we are aware of that have warranted notification to Ofsted:
- Unexplained one-off seizures
- Changes in health warranting disability payments
- Deterioration in mental health conditions, including the prescribing of anti-depressants
What happens after notification has been made?
Ofsted will carry out a risk assessment based on the information provided. They may contact providers to discuss the information, or seek information from other agencies involved. They will consider whether any new suitability checks are required. The notification may prompt a telephone interview, or regulatory visit or inspection. For notifications involving health, Ofsted may seek an independent medical assessment.
Often the biggest issue is the failure to notify Ofsted of the significant event, rather than the significant event itself. Previous guidance issued by Ofsted has been unclear, or lacking in detail and this has often meant that providers did not realise that certain events are notifiable. Providers have only 14 days to notify Ofsted of an event, which means that if they are unaware the event should be notified, they are quite often already out of time at the point they do become aware. By this point, the offence has already been committed. Although Ofsted do not appear to have a strong appetite to pursue prosecutions for these offences, they are often used as a basis for cancellation of registration.
It is vital that providers familiarise themselves with the updated guidance and are aware of any changes - however insignificant they may seem - in order to satisfy themselves that they are making any relevant notifications. In cases we have dealt with, providers will often remark that they did not believe an event was notifiable because it related to their private life, or the private life of their children or family members. The notification requirements have been criticised by some organisations as being too far reaching and impacting on the private life of providers.
It’s important to note that not every event will be notifiable, but it is good practice for providers to consider the guidance in any event and make a record of their judgement as to whether a notification should be made or not. This may offer some protection in the event Ofsted subsequently challenge them for a failure to notify. To fully protect their position and in circumstances where the guidance is not clear, legal advice should be sought on whether a notification is required.
Finally, if Ofsted look to arrange a health assessment following a notification of changes to health, it is important that providers keep a record of what the assessment involved, including what they were asked, how it was conducted and how long it lasted. There have been a number of issues with the robustness and reliability of health assessments in recent cases. If a provider is concerned about a health assessment conducted by Ofsted’s chosen assessor, they should seek legal advice and look to obtain their own health report from their GP, or a suitably qualified professional.