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Wednesday, 16 April 2014

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Closed Carlisle children's home: 'Workers' concerns not acted on'

A worker from a Carlisle children’s home which has closed after inspectors uncovered a catalogue of failings has said managers failed to heed their pleas for help.

Related: Failing Cumbria County Council-run children’s home to close

Just a year ago, the Botcherby home was rated as outstanding for the way in which staff there protected the children from harm.

But after an inspection in January, Ofsted inspectors highlighted a host of failings, concluding that staff were failing to protect the children from risk.

The problems included assaults, bullying, and racist and sexist abuse.

Council bosses have now launched an inquiry, but stress no final decision has been made on the future of The Grange, which cares for children aged 12 to 17. But one worker from the home contacted he News & Star, saying that staff feel that they have been unfairly blamed for the shortcomings of senior managers.

The worker spoke out as union bosses expressed fears that the home may be closed as part of “cost cutting agenda.”

The worker said: “We have been constantly voicing our concern for the children who were placed at The Grange when it was not appropriate for them to be there. There are a lot of dedicated, very caring staff there, who have built up good relationships with the children. We have raised concerns that haven’t been acted on. We have felt like a voice in the wilderness.”

The worker said staff operated within a “culture of secrecy” and “crisis management,” and were often left to care for some children with such complex needs that they needed specialist help of a kind not available at the home.

“We have tried desperately to do the right thing, and done our best to safeguard these young people, but it’s annoying when managers who are paid for having more responsibility don’t seem to take that responsibility. We feel like we have become scapegoats.

“We are all upset by what has happened – but we’re more upset for the young people.”

The worker added: “We know enough to know when a child needs specialist help but we were not employed as mental health professionals. All we could do was report our concerns but we had no control over what happened.

“It’s just unfair.”

Paul Lloyd, a social services convenor with the Unison union, said the home should be treated as a failing school would, and given extra cash and support to rectify its problems.

He said: “It’s regrettable that Cumbria County Council has decided the only way forward for this home is closure. UNISON believes the Ofsted report should be used as reports are used in schools, to support and re-motivate staff and, ensure that in the future the home is fully staffed and that regular high quality training and supervision are provided to the staff team.”

He stressed that the Ofsted report highlighted positive work done with the children, calling the home’s staff caring, and supportive.

He said the community needed to be reminded that the home had been open for over 30 years and done a great deal of positive work.

He added: “UNISON believes the decision to close was hurried and failed to consider the option of rebuilding staff morale and motivation in the home, working positively toward improved practice.

“UNISON is mindful that the council is under severe financial pressure and there is a wider policy of selling off council property.

“It is hoped that the closure will be temporary.”

A Cumbria County Council spokesman said: “The Ofsted Inspection report confirmed that a number of improvements need to be made and that was why the young people currently placed at the home moved to alternative placements. We now have an opportunity of working with the staff and they will have the chance to share any concerns they may have with senior managers.”

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