The government has published its response to a report by the Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel that looked at the experiences of 108 children and young adults living at Fullerton House, Wilsic Hall and Wheatley House, located in Doncaster and operated by the Hesley Group.
The report showed a culture of abuse and harm, including evidence of physical abuse and violence, neglect, emotional abuse and sexual harm. There was also evidence that medication was misused and maladministered, an over-use of restraints, and unsafe and inappropriate use of temporary confinement.
It also wants to set up a new standard on the provision of non-instructed advocacy for children with complex communication needs and exploring proposals for introducing professional registration of the children’s homes workforce.
The government has now written an open letter to providers of residential settings, Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission as well as safeguarding partners, including local authorities, integrated care boards and police chief constables. In it they have asked them to review their working practices and consider any further changes they need to make.
Majority of the recommendations set out by the Safeguarding Review accepted
Amanda Allard, Director of the Council for Disabled Children and Director of Practice and Programmes at the National Children’s Bureau, said: “The disturbing catalogue of abuse and harm that triggered this review, must never be repeated. So, we welcome the government’s acceptance of the overwhelming majority of the recommendations set out by the national review.
“While these reforms will require careful development and implementation, we must also move forward with urgency so that this most vulnerable group of children and young adults are assured the safety and support they deserve. We will be eager to see what concrete progress has been made at the six-month review point.”
In April 2023, the Panel published the Phase 2 report, which set out far-reaching recommendations for central and local government and other agencies, proposing wide-ranging changes to policy and practice to improve the safety, support, and outcomes for disabled children with complex health needs in residential care.
The response states that the events in these homes bring into even sharper focus the importance of reforms in the SEND and alternative provision improvement plan, the government’s strategy for children’s social care and NHS England’s long-term plan to improve the lives of disabled children.
Other actions identified in the response include:
Rolling out two Regional Care Co-operatives, bringing together local authorities with regional health and youth justice partners to improve how care places are provided and commissioned for children looked after. Regional Care Co-operatives will be trialled in two Pathfinder areas.
Considering how information sharing, multi-agency leadership, safeguarding partnerships and cross-government working can be improved to support safeguarding.
Committing to work with local authorities and Ofsted to review what changes need to be made to the responsibilities of Local Authority Designated Officers (LADO).
Asking the Law Commission to carry out a review of the legislation for disabled children, to inform future changes to legislation and/or guidance.
Updated statutory guidance Working Together to Safeguard Children to set out clear roles and responsibilities for safeguarding partners (police, health, and local authorities) to ensure they work more effectively together.