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BBC uncovers ‘worst care scandal since Winterbourne View’

The BBC has revealed widespread abuse across several children’s care homes in Doncaster, which were rated ‘good’ by Ofsted.

Leaked Hesley Group documents, who owned the care homes, reveal that children at the homes were beaten, underfed and neglected.

The documents, which included confidential safeguarding reports and interviews with staff, found that one child received a black eye, others were punched and kicked in the stomach, and another was locked outside naked in freezing temperatures.

Children were also reportedly locked in bathrooms overnight, left in soiled clothes, and not given vital medication for days on end. There were also four allegations of children not being fed properly, with one child having documented weight loss.

The care homes cost local authorities £250,000 a year

One girl, who is autistic, has a learning disability and epilepsy, was dragged across the floor by her wrist, her mother told the BBC.

A council investigation found that Ruby had previously been harmed by eight members of staff at her former care home run by Kisimul.

The staff at the care home would also make Ruby listen to the radio at a high volume as a punishment if she was misbehaving, as it was known she did not like loud noises.

Ruby’s mother, Nicola Oades, described the children’s treatment as “soul destroying”. She told the BBC: “You’d think when they are getting £250,000 a year, [children] would be getting the Rolls Royce of care.”

Homes retained their ‘good’ Ofsted rating until they were closed

Between early 2018 and spring 2021, there were 104 reports of concern made at the homes. In addition to these complaints, Doncaster Council’s safeguarding lead was sent 66 warnings about the Hesley homes and Ofsted received 40 separate alerts.

Despite this, the care homes maintained their ‘good’ Ofsted ratings until their closure was announced. Two former staff members of the homes told the BBC that they reported abuse to the police, but on both occasions, the police said there was insufficient evidence to progress with a criminal investigation.

The abuse seen at the care homes has been described as the worst care scandal since Winterbourne View, according to Dr Mark Kerr, deputy CEO of the Children’s Homes Association.

He says there were clear institutional failings to prevent abuse in the Doncaster homes which he hopes are learned from, but he fears declining standards across the sector.

“We’ve got record numbers of children in care, a workforce crisis and woefully underfunded local authority services and government regulators,” he said.

The Hesley Group declined to be interviewed by the BBC but published a statement saying it was “deeply sorry” for those who had been affected.

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