Children’s home run by Rochdale Council barred from taking on any more kids until it proves it can keep them safe
Date published: 18 February 2021
Children at risk of exploitation are regularly missing from home for lengthy periods of time (stock image)
A ‘doss house’ children’s home run by Rochdale Council has been barred from taking on any more kids until it proves it can keep them safe.
The home – which cannot be named for safeguarding reasons – has been served with a ‘restriction notice’ following a visit from Ofsted officials last month.
Rated ‘good’ as recently as March 2020, it provides care for up to six children with emotional or behavioural difficulties, as well as outreach support.
Ofsted carried out an inspection last month after concerns were raised over vulnerable youngsters going missing from the premises and police involvement.
The watchdog has now published a damning report on the home, which finds that staff do not have the ‘skills and knowledge’ to ensure children are kept safe and engaged in their care plans.
It notes that one child who spoke to inspectors described the home as a ‘doss house’.
The home must now take seven separate actions to bring it in line with the law and regulations.
Rochdale Council says it is working hard to make the ‘rapid improvements required’.
The report says the home’s response to missing-from-home incidents is ‘inconsistent and often insufficient’. As a result, children’s whereabouts have regularly been unknown.
It adds: “Children at risk of exploitation are regularly missing from home for lengthy periods of time. One child has only spent two nights in the home during January 2021.
“Although steps have been taken to work with other agencies and share information, staff have not been proactive in engaging children or taking appropriate steps to prevent them from going missing from home.”
The home operates the ‘No Wrong Door’ care model which combines residential and foster care with mental health services and other forms of support.
The report notes that the manager recently applied to register with Ofsted and has ‘clear plans for the home’.
But progress is said to have been limited due to staffing difficulties, while the delay of building work due to the Covid-19 pandemic has ‘increased problems’.
Inspectors found there was no clear strategy to prevent children from going missing and ‘little challenge’ when they left the home without authorisation.
One youngster was seen leaving the home at 11am on the day of the visit, having refused to take part in education.
But no staff member followed her to encourage her to return and engage in activities. She had previously been missing for six days and only returned the day before the inspection.
Managers had failed to notify Ofsted of the missing-from-home incident, which was particularly serious due to its length and ‘additional risk factors’.
Another youngster, known to be at risk of child sexual exploitation, had shown staff ‘significant amounts of money’ gained while away from the home.
When a child goes missing staff are expected to search for them in the local area and places they are known to frequent.
However, it was found this was not happening ‘routinely’ and was often dependent on the number of drivers on duty.
On one occasion, two children asked to be collected after being missing for five days, but were not picked up as transport was not available. They remained missing and at risk of harm until the following day.
The inspection report states: “This fails to safeguard them or help build positive relationships so that children feel they can trust staff to keep them safe.”
And when absent children did return to the home, it was often to a ‘chaotic environment’. Bedrooms were not cleaned and tidied even when they were ‘missing for lengthy periods of time’.
It adds: “This lack of basic care is likely to be a contributing factor to the lack of investment from children in the plans for their care.”
Further concerns identified in the bedrooms included a broken bed, exposed wires from a hanging socket and the fire risk posed by children smoking in their bedrooms.
Rochdale Council says the No Wrong Door approach employed at the home is based on a ‘highly effective model’ adopted by North Yorkshire Council in 2015.
A spokesperson said: “The approach is new to Rochdale, having been launched in April 2020 and has had some early success with young people living in the hub for short periods of time before moving to their longer-term homes.
“North Yorkshire is working with Rochdale to improve the outcomes for children and young people at risk of entering care through the No Wrong Door scheme.”
The authority adds that the scheme is ‘lauded nationally’ and has ‘improved radically the life chances of some of the most vulnerable and troubled young people’.
However, senior officers accept that ‘in this case the standards in the home when Ofsted inspectors visited were unacceptable, and we have taken swift action to remedy this’.
A spokesperson added: “We continue to work closely with North Yorkshire County Council and the Department for Education to strengthen our service.
“We are committed to working with our most vulnerable children locally, and, together with our partners, are developing joint approaches to supporting our children to be safe and reach their full potential.
“We are deeply committed to learning and passionate about getting it right, and are working hard to make the rapid improvements required.”
Ofsted inspectors will return to the home to check the restriction notice is being adhered to and required progress is being made by the set timescales.
Nick Statham, Local Democracy Reporter
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