Urgent inspections where specific concerns have been raised can still go ahead. This will allow us to prioritise the immediate safety of children where necessary.

As far as we are able, we will continue to carry out our important regulatory work to help maintain social care provision for the most vulnerable children. We will operate as a proportionate and responsible regulator, in what we know are challenging times, focused on children’s safeguarding and well-being.

We are in daily contact with the Department for Education (DfE) to discuss the COVID-19 outbreak and its impact across education and social care.

Closures of schools, further education and early years providers

The DfE has announced that schools, further education and early years providers, including nurseries and childminders will close from Monday, except for children of key workers and vulnerable children.

The DfE is asking schools, colleges, nurseries, childminders and other registered childcare settings to remain open for children of critical workers and vulnerable children where they can.

The DfE has defined vulnerable children and the children of key workers.

There is guidance for educational settings from the DfE and Public Health England.

Children’s social care

All routine inspections have been suspended until further notice.

Emergency inspections

We reserve the right to inspect in emergency situations, for example when we receive complaints or whistle-blowing information that suggests children may be at risk of harm, or when we might want to visit in order to lift a restriction on the numbers of children who can live in a children’s home.

Regulation 44 inspections

We do not have the power to lift regulatory requirements. Legislative change is a matter for central government and, ultimately, parliament. We are in close contact with government officials as the situation develops.

We expect all providers to continuously risk assess their actions to reflect the risks that COVID-19 poses and to follow Public Health England’s advice. We expect people to think about alternative ways to keep in contact, supervise provision and maintain oversight, such as using telephone and Skype, while recognising the limitations of this approach.

We are, of course, sensitive to the challenges that all providers are facing. We will take a balanced and proportionate approach to regulation, taking account of how people have tried to satisfy regulatory requirements in these difficult circumstances.