GREEN HILL LODGE: Damning investigation into children’s home
A damning investigation has revealed further reasons why a children’s residential home was forced to close.
A critical whistleblowing report has now revealed how an assistant manager resigned due to a lack of support after being assaulted by a child, how young people were supplying drugs at the home and how two children that had been drinking escaped the home and fled in a stolen vehicle.
The investigation found that staff did not feel comfortable whistleblowing about their concerns and feared they would not be dealt with properly.
An investigation by Ofsted last year found that one vulnerable child had gone missing, and another had broken out of the children’s home, in Merrimans Hill Road, without staff realising.
Staff were also unable to give basic information to police about the missing child.
The children’s home, which is registered by Worcestershire Children First, had space for up to eight vulnerable children including those who had suffered traumatic experiences and others who had learning disabilities.
Independent investigators Yvette Waide and Ruth Crockett said: “We found relationships within Worcestershire Children First, particularly between the more senior management and the residential staff at Green Hill lodge, did not allow staff and ex-staff to feel able to raise concerns without recourse to the whistleblowing policy.
“They feared their concerns would not be dealt with ‘with dignity and respect’ as set out in the bullying and harassment policy.
“There was a lack of professional curiosity and objectiveness in some of the responses of the more senior managers to the lived experience, of children living and staff working, in Green Hill Lodge.
“We found a lack of trust and open two-way communication.”
Rob Morrison, chair of Worcestershire Children First, said: “We can confirm the investigation was completed in November 2020 and the final report was presented to the then chief executive officer Catherine Driscoll.
“The report and its findings were shared with the relevant staff members and individual parents received outcome letters in January 2021.
“Having been referred to the Worcestershire Safeguarding Children Partnership in July 2020 upon commence of the investigation the final report was presented January 2021.
The Worcestershire Safeguarding Children Partnership concluded: “We accept the findings of their investigation, which showed that there was no evidence that the children at Green Hill Lodge were at immediate risk of significant harm or harmed.
“We have taken on board the findings of the investigation and we have spoken to the parents to reassure them.
“We are reviewing our policies and procedures to make sure that lessons have been learnt, as we work to ensure that we support children and young people, in the best possible way, to be happy, healthy and safe.”
The report also found an assistant manager at the home, who was assaulted by a young person, later resigned over a lack of support. The resignation, which came after concerns were raised over several months, left the home without adequate and “competent” day-to-day management which “probably” led to the closure of the home in June last year.
“We found that WCF had not met all their legal and regulatory requirements in placing this young person in Green Hill Lodge, and the health and safety of the staff had not been adequately considered, particularly staff of one gender given the young person’s needs and behaviour,” the report said.
“We considered the public would expect steps to be taken to ensure sufficient staff were on duty to manage if a young person [expressed challenging behaviour].”
The report said one vulnerable child was ‘unnecessarily’ moved from Green Hill Lodge to accommodate another child, the fallout of which led to Ofsted’s involvement and the forced closure.
The report concluded: “The move of this young person was not in the public interest.
“The events which unfolded associated with this move caused additional work over the next few weeks from other public services such as the police.
“We thought this move was the catalyst, which started the sequence of events which led to Green Hill Lodge having its registration suspended by Ofsted and the other children living there, having to move in an emergency, against their best interests.
“It also put considerable additional financial strain on the publicly funded Worcestershire Children First, again, not in the public interest.”
The reported criticised the lack of leadership around the provision of personal protective equipment (PPE) and staffing during the lockdown brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
“There was no clear understanding of the differing expectations for those members of staff who were shielding and those who were working at home,” the report said.
“There was no coordinated look at staffing to see who was shielding and then mitigation put in place to address any critical gaps, such as the lack of a cook.
“We found [the allegation] partially founded because the health and safety of the children and staff in Green Hill Lodge was compromised by the lack of sufficient staff and staff working a lot of hours to cover the shifts required to run the home.
“There was insufficient curiosity and active support to Green Hill Lodge from more senior management.”
The report also highlighted an incident in November 2019 in which two young people, who had been drinking, stole a vehicle from Green Hill Lodge and fled the home. The two young people were later found by police.
The investigation blamed the lack of staff and reliance on agency workers for the incident.
“This incident was potentially very dangerous and could have had tragic outcomes,” the investigation said. “Fortunately, it did not. Due to sickness and the reliance on agency staff, there were not the skills and leadership on each shift, to care for young people with such complex needs. The legal framework around children in care means the staffing at Oak House should have been sufficient and trained to be able to look after the young people there and prevent this happening.”
Words: Christian Barnett, Local Democracy Reporter
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