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How we inspect childcare and play services

Information and guidance about how we inspect childcare and play services.

Reference to ‘Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales’ (CSSIW) in the documents on this page should be read as ‘Care Inspectorate Wales'.

What we check and report

When our inspectors visit a care service, they will consider four core themes:

  • Well-being
  • Care and Development
  • Environment
  • Leadership and Management

How often we inspect

We have two types of inspections: full and focused.

Full inspections

These are routine inspections, planned as part of our inspection schedule. Full inspections take place approximately six months after a newly registered service becomes operational. After that, we inspect:

  • Full day care services at least once in every two years
  • Other childcare services  for example, child minders, sessional day care, open access play, crèches and out of school care - at least once in every three years

Focused inspections

These normally happen when concerns are raised or to follow up on areas of improvement identified at previous inspections. These inspections may only look at some aspects of a service.

All our inspections are unannounced, however for child minders and open access play, we will normally telephone you one week before we intend to inspect. This is to check your availability and operating times. This means we avoid missing visits.

If we have tried to contact you but have not been able to speak to anyone, then the inspection will go ahead without prior discussion. However, it is your responsibility to let us know of any changes in your days and/or hours of operating. We will inspect any service at any time, especially where concerns have been raised.

Self Assessment of Service Statement (SASS)

Each year you will be required to send us:

  • a Self Assessment of Service Statement (SASS) and,
  • a review of the quality of care at the service.

More information is available from our SASS page.

Ratings in childcare and play inspections

From April 2019, all reports of our full inspections of childcare and play services will include a rating for each of the four themes considered during the inspection. This means a rating of Excellent; Good; Adequate; or Poor will be published in respect of the themes of Wellbeing; Care and Development; Environment; and Leadership and Management.

Newly registered services will receive a full inspection approximately six months after becoming operational, the ratings awarded will be published.

Our inspection report template has been revised to show ratings at the front of the inspection report and alongside each theme. It is our intention to publish ratings on our web directory in the future.

Help for providers

We have produced an inspection guide for child minders and daycare and play providers. We have also produced a tool for open access play providers when assessing staff ratios.

Joint inspections with Estyn

For joint inspections, we have published the guidance handbook for inspecting care and education in regulated non-school settings eligible for funding for part-time education. This sets out how judgements are used to describe the quality of a service. 

Focused inspections

Where we have issued a non-compliance notice, we will usually undertake a second inspection, which specifically focuses on assessing the actions taken by the provider to address the non-compliance. All services with a ‘poor’ rating and non-compliance, will have the rating reviewed. There are no other circumstances where we will change ratings.

Focused inspections following a concern will not receive ratings. This is because focused inspections usually concentrate on very specific areas of practice.

Important – read our reports in full.

We are responsible for regulating over 4,000 childcare and play services. This means that it will take several years for all services to have ratings published in their inspection reports. With or without ratings it is always advisable to read the report in full.

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