CQC commissioned to review use of restraint, seclusion and segregation for autistic people, and people with a learning disability and/or mental health condition.
On 26th October the Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel published the first of two reports about residential care settings run by the Hesley Group. It focuses on three independent residential settings in the Doncaster area (Fullerton House, Wilsic Hall & Wheatley House) concerning 108 children and young adults, placed from 55 different local authorities. The children had complex needs including learning disabilities with many displaying behaviour that challenges.
A whistleblower reported allegations of abuse in February 2021 and prompted a Complex Abuse Investigation ‘Operation Lemur Alpha’ (OLA) by South Yorkshire Police, which remains ongoing. The Panel reviewed the procedures and practices in place at these settings, and the experiences of the children between 1st January 2018 and March 21st 2021.
The review reports evidence of children experiencing “sustained, significant abuse and harm over an extended period” including:
- Physical and emotional abuse and sexual harm
- Overuse of restrictive practices such as physical restraint and inappropriate use of confinement
- Inappropriate placement of children, and increased vulnerability due to distance from home
- Poor management, lack of staff training and weak compliance with statutory reporting requirements.
Vivien Cooper OBE, CEO of the Challenging Behaviour Foundation, commented:
“Our thoughts are with the children and young people and their families this report is about – we hope they are now receiving the care, education and support they have a right to. These children and young people should have been in safe, nurturing and caring services, where they could thrive and develop. Instead, the report describes their pathways to unsafe and harmful environments that have no place in a civilized society. Multiple parts of “the system” which should protect and advocate for these children have failed them, and it is further evidence that moving children away from their families and local communities to segregated and closed institutions must end. This report must be a turning point – children and families have the right local support in the right place at the right time and this must be delivered.”
The full report can be read here: Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel
The issues exposed in the report are not new, but highlight again the gap between policy, guidance and practice. This reinforces the need for key changes in local support and service provision which have been called for over many years.
The current safeguards in these settings are insufficient, often enabling a ‘closed culture’ where people are not held accountable and the voices of children and young people and their families are diminished, unheard or ignored. The children were on average placed 95 miles away from home.
This must change; we need investment in local services so children and young people with complex needs are supported to live within their local community. Early intervention and evidence-based approaches improve outcomes for children and young people, reducing the likelihood of support and services reaching crisis and breaking down.
The government has committed to introducing mandatory recording of restraint in schools. They must now set out a timetable for introducing these changes in order to safeguard disabled children from avoidable harm at school. Every child has a right to be safe at school.
This review has exposed multiple systemic failings, within the operations of the Hesley Group, the regulators and local and host authorities. These systems are meant to keep children safe and assure quality of services and they did not. The “system” is failing this group of children and their families, and we must address that urgently.
Support from the CBF
Resources on our website
For more information on Transforming Care and Winterbourne View please read:
Family Support Service
If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this statement, you can call the Family Support Service on 0300 666 0126
Or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
We are open at the following times:
Monday – Thursday: 9am – 5pmFriday: 9am – 3pm
We offer information about challenging behaviour to anyone who provides support to a child, young person or adult with a severe learning disability. We can also signpost you to other specialist organisations and sources of information.
Please note we are a small support service so you may not be able to get support straight away. We will support families with urgent concerns as a priority.
Professionals are also welcome to contact the CBF.
Children and adults with a learning disability and/or autism remain in inpatient units during lockdown.