Police investigate children's homes after suspensions

By Mark Conrad and Dan Peters | 13 April 2021

Police are investigating the closure of two Doncaster-based children’s homes suspended by Ofsted amid safeguarding concerns, The MJ has learned.

A spokesperson for South Yorkshire Police confirmed officers have spoken to Ofsted about two homes attached to schools for children with special educational needs (SEN) - Fullerton House School home and the Wilsic Hall School children’s home.

Both sites are operated by Hesley Group.

Ofsted has also suspended registration at a third SEN-related facility - the Kisimul School home in Surrey.

Closures across SEN-related homes have led some local government sources to raise wider questions about the quality of care and safety across sites for vulnerable children during COVID-19.

Leo Jones, a director at consultancy IMPOWER, said: ‘Cases like these are a symptom of the broader challenges faced by nearly every local authority in the country.

'Councils not only need to find accommodation for children with additional needs, but they also need to be confident that this provision meets the specific needs of individuals.

‘In some cases councils face a broken market – the lack of local placement options means they are pushed towards expensive independent placements and they feel almost powerless to hold them to account.

‘Given the billions currently spent on SEND the system must do more to secure longer-term outcomes.’

A local government insider added: ‘I think residential schools will be like the next Winterbourne View.

'The parallels can’t be lost.

'It seems that adult commissioning learned some lessons, but maybe these didn’t get to children’s services.

‘It definitely feels the same.

'For example, complex clients, behaviours that challenge in large institutions, and [children being] out of sight and far from home.

'Families sign their children over at the point they can no longer cope, then local authorities, at great expense, warehouse them miles away - betting purely on Ofsted who only go in once a year or so.

‘During COVID-19 … these institutions have been out of sight with lots of challenging kids.

'From families to social workers and commissioners, everyone hasn’t been in for the last year.’

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