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(UK) Review: Residential child care: 'CULTURE OF ABUSE AND HARM'

An independent safeguarding review has revealed “serious abuse and neglect” suffered by children and young adults with disabilities and complex needs while living at three children’s homes in Doncaster.

The review of three settings are residential special schools, which are all registered as children’s homes and operated by the Hesley Group, has been carried out by the Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel.

It examines the experiences of 108 children at Fullerton House, Wilsic Hall and Wheatley House, in south Yorkshire, following allegations of abuse.

Lead panel member, Dr Susan Tranter said children were “living far away from home, often with limited communication skills, trapped in settings where systemic and sustained abuse was inflicted with no respite”.

The report highlights “a culture of abuse and harm including sexual harm, misuse of medication, over-use of restraints and inappropriate use of temporary confinement” towards children placed in the homes from 55 local authorities across England.

It adds that while Ofsted had received several complaints around suspected abuse, concerns over staffing levels and staff conduct, dating back to 2015, all three homes were rated “good” by the inspectorate during recent inspections.

In light of the most recent allegations, Ofsted conducted emergency inspections of the settings in March 2021 and notices of suspension of the service were served, according to the report.

Panel chair Annie Hudson said: “Our evidence shows that the system of checks and balances which should have detected that things were going wrong simply did not work…. The panel has issued local authorities in England with an urgent action notice to “review complaints and concerns relating to the workforce in each individual residential special school registered as a children’s home over the last three years, and ensure these have been appropriately actioned” by end of November 2022.

Ofsted should also “conduct an immediate analysis of their evidence around workforce sufficiency focusing on suitability, training and support” in the same timeframe, the panel has said.

A second phase of the review will be published in early 2023, setting out the progress against the urgent actions and providing recommendations to government to improve safeguarding in the residential special school and care system….

Responding to the panel’s report, Steve Crocker, president of Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) said the report highlights a “dangerously dysfunctional” culture and added that the undertaking of, “an urgent exercise to assure the safety of children placed in similar settings is well underway”….

Wilsic Hall, near Doncaster, is one of three settings included in the investigation. Picture: Google Maps


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