Confidential reports obtained by the BBC have revealed more appalling abuse at care homes belonging to the Hesley Group.
In January, leaked Hesley Group documents revealed that children in care homes were beaten, underfed and neglected. The homes were subsequently reviewed by the CQC and closed shortly afterwards, but the Group continues to run a school and placements for adults with complex needs.
Now, newly uncovered documents reveal wider safeguarding failings spanning more than a decade (from 2010 onwards) at both children’s homes and placements for vulnerable young adults.
One Hesley Group staff member ordered a taser to use within the home
One report produced by Doncaster Council details 99 “proven” cases of abuse, including physical assaults, peer-on-peer abuse and neglect.
Residents were found in soiled clothing – including one resident who was found wearing a soiled incontinence pad in a bath full of dirty water and faeces – and one staff member had ordered a taser to use in the home. Although it was seized by customs, the staff member has revealed he intended to use it as a ‘last resort’ as he didn’t feel he had enough protection within the home.
Staff reportedly neglected the children and young people in their care, with one staff member reportedly sleeping on shift.
Maria, mother to 19-year-old Oliver, who was placed with Hesley in 2019, told the BBC that she would frequently find her son wearing no underwear with unexplained bruises. One social worker said they once saw Oliver being strangled by a member of staff in a minibus while on a school trip.
Another internal Hesley document, which was written by a social worker, found that staff members who were reported for abuse were not immediately referred to the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).
This means that some of those who faced allegations of abuse or assault were able to go on to work with vulnerable children and adults at different providers, with no repercussions.
Reports of abuse and neglect ‘don’t seem to have had any impact’
The BBC has tried to contact the Hesley Group for comment, but they have declined to be interviewed. However, in a statement, the group said it was aware of six cases where it was “unclear” whether a DBS referral had been made, and these cases have now been followed up.
The Hesley Group says it does not redeploy staff who are facing allegations of abuse, and references – which are ‘factual and agreed by the local authority’ – were always provided when staff members were looking for work elsewhere.
Kevin Stolz, a social worker who ran Doncaster Council’s investigation team, told the BBC that the 2010 report on the Hesley Group “doesn’t seem to have had any impact at all.”
“Local authorities just continue to feed people into this system and Hesley continues to make these massive profits,” he said.
Indeed, Hesley’s accounts suggest the chief executive Chris McSharry has received at least £5m since being made a director in 2006, and the Group as a whole recorded a 16% profit of £12m for all the sites it runs (17% is regarded as “excessive”, according to the CQC).
It is thought Mr McSharry was aware of the ongoing abuse within the homes, as the BBC says it has seen “dozens” of emails from concerned family and staff members that were sent to the chief executive before the homes’ closure.