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How we inspect local authority social services and CAFCASS Cymru

Information and guidance about how we inspect children’s and adult social services.

Our aims

As part of our work with local authorities, we aim to:

  • provide independent assurance about the quality and availability of social care in Wales
  • safeguard adults and children, making sure that their rights are protected
  • improve care by encouraging and promoting improvements in the safety and quality of social care services
  • inform policy, standards and provide independent professional advice to the people developing policy, the public and social care sector.

We achieve this by:

  • carrying out functions on behalf of Welsh Ministers
  • deciding who can provide services
  • inspecting and driving improvement of regulated services, local authority social services and CAFCASS Cymru
  • undertaking thematic reviews of social care services
  • taking action to ensure services meet legislative and regulatory requirements
  • following-up on concerns about services.

Our principles

  • Putting people first: the voice and well-being of people are at the heart of our work underpinned by a rights-based approach.
  • Being intelligence-led: our work is informed by data and intelligence.
  • Being risk based and responsive: we take a planned, risk based, proportionate and timely approach to our work.
  • Working collaboratively: we to listen, share information and work collaboratively.
  • Supporting improvement and innovation: we use our knowledge and powers to support social care and childcare services to improve and encourage new ways of working.
  • Reflecting and learning: we take time to reflect and learn from all aspects of our work, and to adjust our approach where necessary.

Reviewing social services functions

We aim to work in collaboration with local authorities to support learning and improvement. Our starting point is to identify positive practice that delivers good outcomes for people. We share what we find including strengths, areas for development and areas for priority action where improvement is required. We will share positive practice to support improvement across Wales.

Our work is grounded in first-hand evidence. Inspectors may observe practice, talk to people about their experiences, interview frontline staff and hold meetings with key stakeholders. Our findings are based on the professional judgement of experienced inspectors who have been practitioners.

Our work is also informed by information and intelligence about social care services and the impact they have on people’s lives from our inspection of regulated services.

We will share the themes arising from our review of local authorities with Welsh Government policy colleagues to inform national policy. We will also examine how well policy intentions actually work in practice.

The focus of performance review

The four key principles of the 2014 Act form the foundation of our inspection and performance review activity:

Descriptive image of key principles, Well-being, People, Partnership and Intergration, prevention

We will consider how local authority social services are delivering these principles at three levels:

Individual – focused on people’s experience and their personal outcomes

Operational – focused on frontline practice and delivery

Strategic – focused on leadership, planning and governance

As well as considering a local authority’s capacity to continuously improve its own social services functions, the inspection will focus on the experiences and personal outcomes for people as captured in their social care records and as described by people who use services/carers and staff from the local authority; and the extent to which this is consistent with the evidence from our wider engagement activity.

We consider the quality of the leadership and governance for local authority social services and how this supports the delivery of positive outcomes and improvement in the care and support provided.

Types of inspection

We carry out three main types of local authority inspection:

  • Performance evaluation inspection
  • Assurance check
  • Improvement check

Resources permitting, we may undertake a thematic review. We may lead and/or contribute to thematic reviews either independently or with other inspection bodies.

Working with other inspectorates

We work with other inspectorates as part of our inspection. This includes Inspection Wales, a programme of joint working between us, Auditor General and Wales Audit OfficeEstyn and Healthcare Inspectorate Wales (External links). We also work closely with UK inspectorates, including inspectorates of Constabulary, Prisons and Probation.


We have produced the below guidance about our framework for inspecting local authority social services and CAFCASS Cymru.