South Gloucestershire Council says it is confident of “rapid improvement’ at Vinney Green Secure Children’s Home at Emersons Green following the publication last week of a deeply critical Ofsted report.
Five inspectors visited in April and the education watchdog has since revisited the unit in Emersons Green Lane, which accommodates up to 24 young people aged between 10 and 17.
The council says that Ofsted has yet to publish its formal report following the latest visit but that inspectors were “positive about the work undertaken and the improvements made so far”.
The initial report highlighted “repeated failures in leadership” over a number of years that have impacted on vulnerable children’s rights, care and wellbeing.
The inspectors said that children have been subjected to inappropriate use of physical restraint, techniques that have caused them pain, and unjustified use of single separation. Staff have not consistently respected children’s privacy and dignity.
The council says it has been conducting a formal investigation into the management actions in relation to unlawful restraints and single separation to determine the facts: “While this is under way the registered manager is not on site or overseeing the home. We share Ofsted’s concerns about the culture in the home and have worked closely with Ofsted and Youth Custody Service at all stages since the inspection to put things right.”
In a statement the council said it takes the criticism “incredibly seriously because our role first and foremost is to protect the young people who live at Vinney Green, to give them the environment they need to turn their lives around”.
The council said it shares Ofsted’s concern that children in its care have been subjected to inappropriate use of physical restraint and unjustified use of single separation, which has led to the Inadequate overall.
“Following the inspection, we have already taken a number of immediate steps to improve the situation, including providing additional training and support for staff to make it clear what is and isn’t acceptable in relation to restraint and separation. We face challenging situations where we must make split-second decisions, but the guidelines are clear.
“This does not mean that we cannot use restraints or single separation. Young people are with us for good reason and there will be situations when restraint and physical intervention is appropriate and necessary. But we must adopt a different approach to some situations where we may have previously used these techniques. And we must reflect on and learn from these scenarios to limit future flashpoints; supporting staff to adopt new techniques through additional training.
“We are also making some improvements to the building and adapting some of our processes to reduce the likelihood of issues occurring. We are working with other secure children’s homes so that we can implement best practice on the use of restraint and making sure that we operate within the guidance.
“In order to achieve this, we have brought in additional, expert, management capacity to help staff build on our strengths and address weaknesses.
“We are confident that the measures in place will ensure a very rapid improvement for both the young people in our care and our staff who very clearly want to provide the best support possible for them.
“While we are not diminishing the areas where we have been very clearly told that we much improve, there is a great deal in the report which staff can be proud of. Specifically, inspectors said we are doing a ‘Good’ job in ensuring children’s education and that learning is supported. They saw first-hand the ‘progress children were making in developing new knowledge, skills, and positive behaviours’. They also observed ‘caring relationships between staff and young people’ and reported greatly improved education provision since they were with us last. They also noted excellent attendance levels and very good behaviour in classes. The health team also received positive feedback for their work with young people and they recognised the close relationships between health, education and care that contributes to this achievement.”
Read the report in full at https://files.ofsted.gov.uk/v1/file/50185328