INSPECTORS have condemned ‘widespread failures’ at a Barnsley Council-run children’s home - just a year after local authority bosses vowed to put things right after the £600,000-a-year service was judged inadequate.
The home, which the Chronicle cannot name but is permitted to care for five children, was ranked ‘inadequate’ for a second time by Ofsted following a two-day inspection in July.
Due to the findings, a restriction of accommodation notice - which prevents other children being admitted to the home - has been served on the council and will not lift until improvements are noted.
A report, released this week, condemned staff for failing to act on the watchdog’s previous concerns - issued to the council a year ago just months after the local authority approved an estimated £1m for its creation, which included dirty bedrooms and broken beds - with ‘significant risks’ still being posed to children.
“There are widespread failures that mean the care and experiences of children and young people are poor,” it said.
“Steps to follow to reduce risks such as arson and knife crime do not consider the seriousness of the risks - this means that staff are not equipped to help protect children.
“Staff have made unhelpful decisions, such as allowing a child access to lighters when there has been an incident of attempted arson.
“Managers have failed to ensure that the steps to follow when children go missing from the home are clear, leading to inconsistencies in how staff respond when they go out looking for children and when they report them as missing to the police.
“Due to insufficient action from staff, there has been one incident which has led to a child being at risk of harm in the community.”
The home had been without a registered manager since June 15, but an acting manager was in place before the role was taken over permanently on July 22.
A lack of night-time supervision was also questioned, as well as staff members’ use of restraint and how such occurrences have not been properly recorded.
“In one case, records show inconsistent information about how a child was held and it is unclear if the child was held by the wrist or if they were lowered to the floor,” it added.
“Records lack evidence of any debrief with staff and children - this puts children at risk of reoccurring incidents of restraint.
“Senior leaders and managers moved a child into the home despite an assessment, carried out by the acting manager, which found that this was an unsuitable match with other children already living in the home.
“This, combined with ineffective oversight by the acting manager, has had a detrimental effect on the experiences of the child and on other children living in the home.
“The quality of care that children experience has also declined - staff have not received training to manage all known risks to children shared at the point of admission.
“Documents such as incident records, risk assessments, including those involving criminal activity, use of knives to threaten, and missing-from-home reports lack monitoring and evaluation to prevent further occurrences and improve practice.
“Leaders and the acting manager have failed to report incidents considered serious to Ofsted.
‘We have issued a restriction of accommodation notice to prevent other children being admitted to the home while the provider improves the experiences of children.”
Last year, service bosses at the council said they were ‘wholly committed’ and accepted ‘full responsibility’ for the failings.
Coun Trevor Cave, cabinet spokesperson for children’s services, told the Chronicle this week the findings were ‘unacceptable’.
“We want young people in our care to feel safe and have opportunities to live fulfilling lives - this is our priority.
“A second inadequate Ofsted judgement is both unacceptable and disappointing.
“Significant improvements have been made at the home, but conditions for maintaining and building on this haven't been in place.
“The action plan focuses on making sure that the home is a good place for young people to live in the future. We'll have a structure in place to, wherever possible, make sure that this does not happen again.
“We'll track performance with review meetings and cabinet member briefings, as well as undertake unannounced visits to the home.”