'Staff acted to deliberately harm children:' Damning report exposes shocking care failures at Doncaster children's home

A damning report has said children are not safe at a Doncaster children’s home after it was shut down by government inspectors and says that staff allegedly acted deliberately to harm youngsters.

Monday, 26th April 2021, 2:18 pm

Fullerton House School children’s home was ordered to shut by Ofsted inspectors last month after a member of staff flagged up a number of concerns for children’s safety at the home for youngsters with learning disabilities and challenging behaviours.

Now a damning dossier has revealed a catalogue of failures and ‘serious and widespread concerns’ at the residential home in Denaby Main which is run by the Hesley Group including physical harm to children and allegations of staff deliberately harming youngsters.

Key findings included:

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Fullerton House School Children's Home in Denaby.

Safeguarding arrangements are not effective and do not protect children from exposure to emotional and/or physical harm, including during restraints

Leaders and managers at all levels fail to ensure children receive high-quality care and protection

Staff do not have sufficient knowledge of children’s unique and individual needs, including communication needs

Leaders and managers have not ensured that all staff are trained to meet multiple complex needs of children

Leaders and managers have not ensured that staff have current training in physical intervention

Managers do not support staff with regular high-quality supervision or debrief staff appropriately when incidents take place

Where safeguarding incidents occur, leaders and managers do not develop any learning or take sufficient action to prevent further incidents

The Ofsted report said: “The leadership and management of the service is weak.

"Monitoring of the service is not sufficient, which results in harmful, poor-quality care for children.

It added: “There are serious and widespread concerns in multiple areas of practice relating to the care that children receive. This places children at serious risk of harm.

"Some children have suffered actual physical harm, either through alleged deliberate acts or through neglect of care.

"Children’s care planning documents include information about known triggers for children’s levels of anxiety and distress, and details about how staff should support them.

"However, staff do not consistently follow this guidance. This leads to serious incidents where some children sustain avoidable injuries and suffer significant, prolonged periods of avoidable distress.

“Staff do not always treat children with dignity and respect. This includes a failure to protect children’s privacy and dignity where intimate support is needed, for example while bathing.

“Not all staff have completed training to enable them to be able to communicate with children, understand their needs, seek their wishes and feelings, and understand how to help the children to express themselves. This leaves children unsupported and at risk of harm.

“Children’s personal information, such as a child’s name and first language, is not known by all staff. This means that the individual needs of children and their unique characteristics are not able to be understood, respected, or responded to by those who are caring for them.

“Not all staff have the appropriate level of training and understanding of children’s medication needs, the administration of medication or checks needed.

"This exposes children to a potential risk of harm.

"Staff do not always follow medication protocols where they are in place. This exposes children to further potential risk of harm.

“Not all children are safe in this home. When children have multiple and complex needs, the lack of staff training and understanding of such needs results in inappropriate interventions for some children.

"This results in the children suffering unnecessary harm.

“Not all staff are trained to help children through a behavioural crisis and avoid a physical intervention. Staff do not always follow the behavioural plans that guide staff about how to manage the presenting behaviour in a way that is supportive to the child.

"This increases the anxiety felt by the child and increases the potential risk of harm.

“When physical interventions take place, there are significant gaps in the records.

“This includes whether medical assessment or treatment was required or undertaken when children have sustained injuries. These serious shortfalls mean that there are no assurances that children receive appropriate care and attention when they are hurt or held. There is a lack of debrief for both children and staff. These serious shortfalls mean that some children are exposed to avoidable physical interventions.

“Children are also at risk of harm from staff who do not have sufficient understanding and skills to undertake a physical intervention.

“Serious allegations have been made from within the service that staff have acted to deliberately harm children. While managers appropriately report incidents where children have suffered harm and take action in relation to individual staff members, inappropriate practice continues.

“Staff do not always support children to wear protective items provided by support services, such as head gear, which helps them to avoid injury. This exposes children to a potential risk of harm. Staff have been provided with protective equipment to help them to safely manage behaviour, but this is not worn consistently. This compromises the safety of staff and children.

“These shortfalls demonstrate that there is a systemic inability to safeguard and protect children.”

Fullerton House is registered as a children’s home and offers care and accommodation for up to 37 people in 16 separate houses.

At the time of the inspection in March, there were 26 children and young people living at the home.

The report said that there had been a big turnover of staff at the home in Tickhill Square.

The report added: “The figures provided by the manager show that more staff left the home than were recruited. This raises concerns about the quality of recruitment and induction of staff.

"Many of the staff recruited have very little or no experience of working with children, particularly those who have learning disabilities. Several staff spoken to said that their initial interview and the subsequent induction process did not fully prepare them for their role of caring for the children, especially as they were only offered one week of shadowing other staff before they took up their role.

“There have been several allegations and whistle-blowing concerns about staff practice, which have been raised both historically and more recently. These allegations and concerns show a repeated pattern over time of poor practice.

"The manager takes timely and appropriate action to address each allegation or concern, which includes taking disciplinary action where necessary. However, the same themes and types of allegations and concerns continue to occur.

“There are serious and widespread concerns in multiple areas of practice relating to the care that children receive. This places children at serious risk of harm. Some children have suffered actual physical harm, either through alleged deliberate acts or through neglect of care.

Management at the home have now been ordered to make a string of improvements while the home remains closed.

Following the closure of Fullerton House, Ofsted also closed Wilsic Hall School Children’s Home – also run by Hesley – over safeguarding concerns.

An Ofsted spokesperson said: “We can confirm that we have suspended the registration of Wilsic Hall School Children’s home due to safeguarding concerns. We cannot provide any further details while investigations are being carried out.”