General Introduction


Who is this Guide for?
The Regulatory Framework and Legal Status of this Guide
Who is accountable for meeting the Regulations and Information contained in the Guide?
Principles for Residential Child Care
The Diversity of Children’s Homes Settings
About the Quality Standards
How this Guide works
Other Matters



Children’s homes provide support and care for some of our most vulnerable children and young people. We want each child in care to be provided with the right placement at the right time, and for residential child care to be a positive and beneficial choice for the children and young people living in children’s homes.


This Guide accompanies the Children’s Homes (England) Regulations 2015 (“the Regulations”). It provides further explanation and information for everyone providing residential child care. The Regulations include Quality Standards which set out the aspirational and positive outcomes that we expect homes[1] to achieve. They also set out the underpinning requirements that homes must meet in order to achieve those overarching outcomes.


Many children placed in residential child care will have highly complex and challenging needs. Their abilities and individual stage of development will determine their starting point when they arrive at the children’s home and the home may need to support them through a complex and extended period of transition before they are able to positively engage and develop. This should not limit the home’s ambitions for each child. The requirements within the Regulations and the information in this Guide should be interpreted and applied in the context of childrens’ individual needs.

[1] The term ‘home’ or ‘homes’ is used in the widest sense and includes, but is not limited to, those working in the children’s home, and the organisation who runs the children’s home.

Who is this Guide for?


This Guide is for all those involved with the care of children (and in some cases those aged 18 or over (regulation 1(2)(b))) in children’s homes and particularly those who are subject to the Regulations.


Key settings subject to the Regulations are:

  • Children’s homes;

  • Children’s homes that provide short break care;

  • Secure children’s homes; and

  • Residential special schools or boarding schools who accommodate children for more than 295 days per year.


Some regulations have been modified or do not apply to children’s homes that provide short break care or secure children’s homes. Detail about any modifications to the Regulations, or regulations that do not apply, appear at the end of the relevant section in this Guide and are set out in regulation 52 and schedule 5 of the Regulations.

The Regulatory Framework and Legal Status of this Guide


This Guide is a statement published pursuant to section 23 of the Care Standards Act 2000 (“the 2000 Act”). It explains and supplements the Regulations (see section 23(1A) of the 2000 Act). It provides explanations of: terms used in the Regulations; what is expected for the various requirements of the Regulations to be met and signposts some of the relevant statutory and non-statutory guidance.


The registered person (see paragraph 1.9) must have regard to this Guide in interpreting and meeting the Regulations (regulation 15). Ofsted must also have regard to this Guide in regulating children’s homes.

Who is accountable for meeting the Regulations and Information contained in the Guide?


Most of the Regulations are drafted to make the “registered person” accountable – this means the registered provider or registered manager depending on how the home is organised, run and managed. The language of the Guide follows this approach.

Principles for Residential Child Care


The principles upon which residential child care is delivered are important elements that underpin the Regulations and this Guide. The principles below, originally drafted by NCERRC[2], have been amended for use in this document following contributions before and during our consultation period by the residential child care sector. We would expect all homes to apply the principles below, and to ensure that residential child care is a positive choice for children and young people where a children’s home is the best placement to meet their individual needs.

Residential Child Care - Key Principles

Children in residential child care should be loved, happy, healthy, safe from harm and able to develop, thrive and fulfil their potential. Residential child care should value and nurture each child as an individual with talents, strengths and capabilities that can develop over time. Residential child care should foster positive relationships, encouraging strong bonds between children and staff in the home on the basis of jointly undertaken activities, shared daily life, domestic and non-domestic routines and established boundaries of acceptable behaviour. Residential child care should be ambitious, nurturing children’s school learning and out- of-school learning and their ambitions for their future. Residential child care should be attentive to children’s need, supporting emotional, mental and physical health needs, including repairing earlier damage to self-esteem and encouraging friendships. Residential child care should be outward facing, working with the wider system of professionals for each child, and with children’s families and communities of origin to sustain links and understand past problems. Residential child care should have high expectations of staff as committed members of a team, as decision makers and as activity leaders. In support of this, children’s homes should ensure all staff and managers are engaged in on-going learning about their role and the children and families they work with. Residential child care should provide a safe and stimulating environment in high-quality buildings, with spaces that support nurture and allow privacy as well as common spaces and spaces to be active.

[2] National Centre for Excellence in Residential Child Care

The Diversity of Children’s Homes Settings


Children’s homes provide care for children and young people with a wide range of needs in a diverse range of settings. The regulatory framework sets out high ambitions for all children living in children’s homes, but recognises the acute differences between vulnerable adolescents who have had traumatic life experiences and children with complex special educational needs.


With this in mind, it is important that registered persons meet the Regulations having regard to the needs of children placed in the home and the role and aims of the home as set out in their Statement of Purpose. This Guide identifies specific regulations where a home’s approach may need to be different because of the purpose of the home and/or the needs of the children they care for.

About the Quality Standards


The Regulations set out standards (“the Quality Standards”) that must be met by homes. The Quality Standards describe outcomes that each child must be supported to achieve while living in the children’s home. Each contains an over-arching, aspirational, child-focused outcome statement, followed by a non-exhaustive set of underpinning, measurable requirements that homes must achieve in meeting each standard.



Collectively these nine standards are the Quality Standards. They are referred to individually in this Guide as “the education standard”, and so on.


Regulation 5 is overarching; meaning is it relevant across all the Quality Standards. It sets out the requirement that children’s homes must seek to work with those in the wider system to ensure that each child’s needs are met.


The Quality Standards contained within the Children’s Homes Regulations, should not be confused with quality standards developed by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). Quality standards prepared by NICE are provided for by the Health and Social Care Act 2012. The Secretary of State and NHS England (The National Health Service Commissioning Board) must have regard to quality standards prepared by NICE in discharging their respective duties as to improvement in the quality of services provided in the health service.


The NICE, Quality standards for the health and wellbeing of looked-after children and young people define best practice in health and wellbeing for looked after children from birth to 18 years and care leavers. They apply to all settings and services working with and caring for looked-after children and young people, and care leavers. The NICE quality standards will have relevance across the Quality Standards set out in the Children’s Homes Regulations.

How this Guide works


This Guide is divided into two sections. Section 1 covers the Quality Standards. For each standard it provides:

  1. The text of the relevant regulation;

  2. An explanation of specific terms in the regulation; and

  3. Guidance that supplements the regulation.

Section 2 provides guidance to supplement matters relating to the management and administrative regulations (Parts 3 to 7 of the Regulations).


The Guide is not a comprehensive and exhaustive set of instructions for those carrying on or managing a children’s home and has intentionally been kept to a minimum. Many of the regulations speak for themselves and so the Guide does not provide further information on them. The presence or absence of a reference to any provision of the regulations in the Guide does not have any bearing on the regulation’s status – the registered person of the home is required to meet all of the Regulations.


Similarly the Guide attempts to signpost to publications, research and guidance of interest. Such references are not intended to be exhaustive. It remains the responsibility of those running children’s homes to seek out the relevant material to ensure that they comply with the law and provide children with the best possible care.



HMCI (Ofsted) is the registration authority for children’s homes and as registration authority regulates and inspects children’s homes.


The purpose of Ofsted’s inspection of children’s homes is to assess the quality of care being provided for children. Inspection focuses on the outcomes that children are being supported to achieve. It tests compliance with the relevant regulations, and has regard to this Guide. [3]


Ofsted are required to inspect each children’s home at least twice per year. At least one of these inspections will be a full inspection. Following a full inspection, inspectors will make a number of judgements, including a judgement on the overall progress and experiences of children living in the home. The other inspection will usually be an interim inspection. From April 2015 if inspectors identify a failure to meet a regulation, Ofsted will set requirements that the registered person must meet. In determining whether a regulation has been met, Ofsted will take into account how the registered person is following this Guide. Any failure to meet regulations may lead to consideration of enforcement action. Inspectors will also make recommendations for improvement.

[3] Ofsted framework for inspection of children's homes

Other Matters


Regulation 3(1)(d) sets out that childcare consisting only of day care (e.g. children’s nurseries with daytime sleeping accommodation) are not children’s homes.


If a non-looked after child is placed in a private children’s home other than by a voluntary organisation, the person carrying on the home (i.e. the registered provider) must prepare a placement plan for that child in accordance with regulations 4 and 5 of the Arrangements for Placement of Children by Voluntary Organisations and Others (England) Regulations 2011.