14-year-old Ruby Oades was among a number of children moved to new care facilities when Doncaster’s Fullerton House School Children’s Home was ordered to shut earlier this year amid allegations that staff deliberately harmed severely disabled youngsters in their care.
Now mum Nicola has spoken out about her daughter’s treatment at Fullerton, how she was ‘tortured and bullied’ at another care home and how she has now been forced to move to a new home nearly 100 miles away from Doncaster.
Fullerton House in Denaby Main has been shut by Ofsted officials while South Yorkshire Police investigate allegations that children with autism and severe special needs were subjected to ‘abuse’ by staff.
Nicola says that Ruby was dragged by her wrists and pushed into a room while at Fullerton – and now fears what may emerge in the coming months as the probe deepens.
She said: “The member of staff on that occasion was dismissed and we were happy with the action taken at the time. It was dealt with very swiftly.
"But now all this has started to come out, it makes you wonder about the things that we might not know about. How much has been swept under the carpet?
"How much has been going on not only with Ruby but with other children? I’ve totally lost faith in the care system.”
Nicola, a mum of three from Balby, and husband Terry, originally placed Ruby into care in 2016, to deal with her round the clock complex and challenging needs.
She said: “It was mentally and physically exhausting and we looked at every available option before going down that road. It was heartbreaking but we didn’t feel we had another choice.”
She moved into the Kisimul home at Swinderby in Lincolnshire – but in 2018, the home was at the centre of abuse allegations, with Ruby among those subjected to ill treatment by staff.
The family were told their autistic daughter with severe learning difficulties had been routinely manhandled and dragged along the floor by her hands and ankles, punished with loud noises and mocked for ‘the way she talks’.
However, details of her treatment in Swinderby only emerged earlier this year after a lengthy probe, with Kisimul offering an apology to the family. And by this stage, she was already resident at Fullerton, which is run by the Hesley Group.
Said Nicola, a nursery nurse: “We wanted her closer to home so Fullerton was ideal. It was only a few miles down the road.”
Ruby moved into Fullerton in early 2019 – and Nicola says the family were initially happy with the set up.
But before Christmas last year, she was told that Ruby had been dragged by her wrists by a member of staff and slammed inside a room. After a probe, the member of staff responsible was dismissed, said Nicola.
“We were told by Kisimul that lessons would be learnt, yet here we are again, a few months down the line, in the same boat.”
Since Fullerton’s closure, Ruby has been moved to a residential home in Chorley, Lancashire – nearly 100 miles away from the family’s Balby home.
“It’s heartwrenching,” she said. “You have to put all your trust and faith in these people.
"But she seems so far away from us. We have no idea really of how she is or how she’s getting on.”
There are no suggestions of ill treatment at her current home.
Nicola added: “We want to get her back to a reasonable distance from the family home so we can visit her regularly and ensure she is safe.
“At the moment there is nothing else available, nothing locally.”
"After what happened at Kisimul, it is all quite raw,” said Nicola. “It makes you question everything.
"How many homes up and down the country is this sort of thing going on in?
"I am preparing myself for the worst again.”
A spokesman for Kisimul said: “We deeply regret the behaviour of these former staff members – it was clearly abhorrent and unacceptable, and Kisimul fully cooperated with authorities as they investigated all the allegations that were made.
“In addition, Kisimul conducted our own thorough investigation into the matter, which only recently concluded to ensure it was robust and abided by employment legislation.
“As a result, nine people involved in the allegations were dismissed, or would have been dismissed if they had not already resigned, and were referred to the Disclosure and Barring Service.
“We have since been speaking with the families involved to personally discuss the conclusions of the investigation.
“We have introduced a number of changes since 2018 to improve our safeguarding processes, including a new senior management team, increased oversight, and the introduction of an independently chaired oversight board.
“Planning is also underway to transition the home in the near future into a number of smaller homes that will provide even greater management oversight.
“Kisimul is committed to the wellbeing of all the young people in our care and we continue to work with Ofsted and our partners to ensure we are providing the safe and supportive environment these children need.”
Last week, former staff at Fullerton reported they had witnessed ‘awful things’ – but that concerns were not listened to.
The home has been closed while investigations take place, along with Wilsic Hall School Children’s Home, also in Doncaster. Both are run by the Hesley Group.
A spokesman for Hesley has said that it was taking the allegations seriously and would continue to co-operate with the investigation.
A statement said: “The authorities are currently investigating a number of safeguarding allegations, so we are unable to comment any further on these matters at this time.
"However we are working closely with authorities to ensure all concerns are thoroughly examined and we will undertake all actions necessary to address any substantiated failings.”
Last month a damning report by education watchdog Ofsted into standards at Fullerton House said: "Some children have suffered actual physical harm, either through alleged deliberate acts or through neglect of care.
“Not all children are safe in this home.
“Serious allegations have been made from within the service that staff have acted to deliberately harm children.”
Last month, South Yorkshire Police confirmed they were investigating both Fullerton and Wilsic Hall.
Both of the facilties cater for children with autism, learning disabilities and challenging behaviours.
Fullerton House offers care and accommodation for up to 37 people in 16 separate houses and at the time of the inspection in March, there were 26 children and young people living there.