Saturday, 29 August 2015

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Failing Cumbria County Council-run children’s home to close

A children's home is to close after inspectors uncovered a catalogue of failings that included physical assaults, bullying and racist abuse.

Anne Burns: ‘It’s very worthwhile’

Weblink: The full social care inspection report into The Grange

Their damning assessment came to light after youngsters at the Carlisle home contacted The Cumberland News to say that it will close by today.

Ofsted inspectors visited The Grange, Botcherby, in January, assessed it as inadequate, and found staff were failing to protect the children there from risk.

Cumbria County Council has launched an inquiry, and confirmed that the six children living at the home will move to alternative accommodation.

No final decision has been made about the home’s future.

Anne Burns, the county councillor responsible for children’s social care, said she had been surprised by the contents of the Ofsted report.

She said: “Our first priority is to make sure that if children are in our care they should be in the most appropriate care and safeguarded.

“If they are not, then something has gone wrong. These children have already suffered all sorts of things in their short lives. We don’t expect them to be placed somewhere where they are not safe.”

She said the authority’s investigation would carefully examine the inspectors’ findings so that officials could understand what has happened.

In every major category of its service – including leadership, care quality, and safeguarding children – the home failed to meet minimum standards.

Inspectors say the staff had not “actively and consistently” discouraged the children – who are aged between 12 and 17 – from smoking and drinking alcohol, leaving some vulnerable.

“This does not promote young people’s safety and welfare,” says the report. “Staff do not appear to understand the implications of this risk-taking behaviour.”

The report states some children are potential high-achievers and that there are good links with schools but the home has not helped them to be happy and settled.

Some children have assaulted and intimidated staff. The report outlines how negative behaviour has not been challenged, and boundaries have been inconsistent. It says: “Young people have suffered from serious bullying.

“This is in the form of racist and sexist name-calling, physical assault, threats of violence and verbal and cyber bullying. This has significantly impacted on young people’s safety, welfare and emotional and behavioural well-being.”

Though staff have responded to the bullying not all young people have felt listened to and respected, says the report.

“Young people do not benefit from the behaviour management training that staff receive because police intervention is often used as a form of behaviour management.”

This may indicate some staff have insufficient training to handle challenging behaviour, and can lead to some children getting a criminal record.

“Sanctions have no impact on negative behaviours and the record of this does not meet children’s homes regulations,” the report states.

On child safety issues, it adds: “The service is inadequate at keeping children and young people safe and feeling safe.

“Not all young people feel safe at the home all the time. However, they can identify an adult to talk to. Young people’s identified vulnerabilities are not consistently protected.

“Risk assessments are not robust. They do not address all risks to young people and some are out of date.

“The impact has been that young people are exposed to inappropriate peer relationships, unsafe access to social networking and unresolved safeguarding issues... This raises serious concerns about the home’s ability to protect young people’s safety and welfare.”

The report praises home staff for being caring and supportive, and says that an interim manager has been appointed and that some improvements have been made.

It continues: “There is a clear commitment to improve life in the home and staff say the home is improving. However, poor team cohesion, inconsistent practices, and low staff morale, coupled with changes in leadership, have created a dysfunctional environment that is not good for young people.”



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