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Inclusion & SEND — 25 Oct 2022
Today, Thursday 20 April, The Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel published the phase two report on safeguarding children and young people with disabilities and complex health needs in residential settings. This follows the phase one report which was published in October 2022.
The phase one report highlighted appalling standards of care and failings in oversight in three Doncaster residential homes: Fullerton House, Wilsic Hall and Wheatley House - operated by the Hesley Group.
The catalogue of abuse suffered by the disabled children and young people living in these homes has been harrowing for even the most experienced social care professionals to review.
Today, we have the second report from the Panel which draws on the learning from what happened to those children and sets out a case for change in the quality, oversight and regulation of all residential settings for children with disabilities and complex health needs.
With an ongoing criminal investigation still underway, the Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel has revealed:
The leadership and management in the three settings was inadequate and actively concealed incidents of abuse from authorities. When there were complaints and concerns about the settings from whistle-blowers and parents, these were not sufficiently brought together by authorities. Therefore, the safety net that should have protected the children was ineffective.
The recommendations urge government departments to work together to transform the education, health and care offer so that children with disabilities and complex health needs thrive and are supported to achieve.
“The appalling harm these children suffered was a result of grievous failures in both their day-to-day care, and within the system of oversight that should have guaranteed their welfare.
“We’ve been here before. Earlier reports have catalogued how disabled children with a complex mix of autism and health needs can be locked away behind closed doors, often in placements far from their families, with little concern for their quality of life or futures.
“These recommendations set out a roadmap to more humane treatment of these children. But without the wholehearted commitment to implement these measures fully, these failings will come back to haunt us when the next group of disabled children fall foul of services that cost the taxpayer dearly but rob vulnerable children of their basic humanity.”
Dame Christine Lenehan, Director at the National Children’s Bureau and Council for Disabled Children, and one of the Review’s leading members
“There was widespread public shock and distress when we published our initial findings about the extremely disturbing neglect, abuse and harm experienced by a large number of children with disabilities and complex health needs living in residential settings run by the Hesley Group in Doncaster.
“However, despair and shock are never enough and will not address the fundamental and systemic problems that contributed to the children’s unspeakably distressing experiences, over an extended period, in environments that should have kept them safe.
“Today’s report draws on the learning from what happened to those children to make national recommendations that must be secured so that this very vulnerable group of children thrive, are safe and enjoy the rights that every child should be able to enjoy.”
Panel Chair, Annie Hudson
“The stories of the abuse that children at Hesley-Doncaster suffered are dreadful and harrowing.
“This review has highlighted an acute need to do things differently, not only to prevent this repugnant story from being retold in another setting, but also to transform the education, health and care offer for children with disabilities and complex health needs.
“We are recommending measures to ensure the care of children with disabilities and complex health needs is more joined up across education, health and social care.
“Additionally, we are urging Government, Ofsted and the CQC to ensure there is a major overhaul of the arrangements for quality assurance and regulation of residential settings to help prevent abuse but also that when there are complaints or concerns, action is swift and purposeful.”
Lead Panel Member for the Review, Dr Susan Tranter
The Panel is making nine recommendations for government departments, inspectorates and NHS England that aim at ensuring children with learning disabilities, autism and complex health needs have the support they need to thrive.
If you suspect or know that abuse of disabled children and/or young people has taken place please visit the Council for Disabled Children’s dedicated webpage developed in partnership with the Challenging Behaviour Foundation here.