Skip to main content

Why we might suspend a childcare provider’s registration and what happens next

A man sat at a desk with a laptop and a notepad

Keeping children safe is paramount. That’s why we do everything we can to make sure that childcare provision is safe and secure, and that it meets the needs of children at all times.

Ofsted has various powers to help us keep children safe in early years and childcare. We use these powers to minimise any risk of harm. Suspending a childcare provider’s registration is one way we do this. We suspend registration if we reasonably believe that the continued provision of care by the registered person may expose a child to a risk of harm.

The ‘harm test’

The harm test originates from the Children Act 1989.

Our enforcement policy sets out the definition of harm. The policy identifies the different types of risks to children’s safety. And it explains how we determine whether we need to suspend a childcare registration while we look into any possible concerns.

Childminder agencies also have legal powers to suspend childcare providers registered with them.

Why we might suspend a provider

We suspend a childcare provider’s registration where the ‘harm test’ is met and we believe children’s safety and well-being is at risk.

It is important to note that, when we suspend a childcare provider, it does not always mean that the provider has done something wrong. We are clear that suspending a registration is an interim measure to safeguard children. It does not involve finding out facts or suggesting any fault.

Suspension gives us or other agencies, such as the police or the local authority, time to look into concerns. It also gives us or the provider time to take steps to reduce or remove any risk to children.

We make enquiries very quickly and we take the safety of children very seriously. We do not take the decision to suspend a provider’s registration lightly. Inspectors will be sensitive to any adverse impact on the well-being of children and staff. We use these powers proportionally, with great care and always to minimise any risk of harm to children.

We served 350 suspension notices during the 2022–23 financial year, as stated in our Annual Report and Accounts. There are over 60,000 childcare providers registered with Ofsted. We make this decision rarely, and only when we really need to. It is also important to know that most suspension notices are lifted before the 6-week period has finished, and very few are extended.

How we suspend a childcare provider

Once we have made the decision to suspend a provider, we usually take the following steps:

  1. We ‘serve’ the legal suspension notice by letter or email to let the provider know the registration has been suspended. If we are at the premises, we stay to make sure all children are collected by parents or carers. This is to make sure that there is no risk to children.
  1. We write to all parents of children on roll to let them know the childcare provider is suspended. We also let them know that the local authority can help them to find suitable alternative childcare arrangements.
  1. The suspension notice is served for a set period of 6 weeks. We will of course lift any suspension early if the risk of harm is removed. But we may extend the suspension for a further 6 weeks (to a total of 12 weeks) if we believe the risk of harm to children continues.Occasionally, we will extend the period of suspension beyond 12 weeks. We only do this if it is not possible, for reasons outside our control, to complete our enquiries or for steps to be taken remove the risk of harm to children. The most likely reason for this is that other agencies such as the police are involved and need more time to carry out their own investigations.
  1. If we determine the risk of harm will not be removed, we may also take other enforcement action. This could include cancelling a provider’s registration or prosecuting them under the Childcare Act 2006.
  1. We must end the suspension as soon as we are satisfied that children are no longer at risk. We are proportionate in our approach and want to minimise any risk to children as quickly as possible.

Our guidance on suspending a childcare provider also provides more detail about what happens once we have served a suspension notice. We are unable to share information about our concerns with parents. Please direct parents to this guidance which sets out the steps we will take.

A provider has the right to appeal the suspension notice within 10 working days, or to resign their registration with Ofsted.

We understand that finding alternative childcare arrangements can be disruptive for parents. Rest assured that we do not take suspension decisions lightly. We know that parents and providers understand that our priority is always to do what is right for the safety and well-being of children.

Sharing and comments

Share this page

Leave a comment

We only ask for your email address so we know you're a real person

By submitting a comment you understand it may be published on this public website. Please read our privacy notice to see how the GOV.UK blogging platform handles your information.