Ofsted To See ‘Shocking’ Report On Portishead Boys’ Home

Campaigners fighting controversial plans to open a home for troubled teenage boys in Portishead are to meet Ofsted chiefs this week.

Residents and Portishead councillor David Pasley will meet with representatives from the education watchdog on Friday. They want to outline their concerns about the plans by Blackpool-based social care provider Northerncare to open a children’s home at Beach Road West.

Worried residents will also hand over a report which reveals police were called 113 times in two years to a similar home run by Northerncare in Withernsea, East Yorkshire. Seventy of the calls related to children going missing from the property.

The report also reveals that 187 calls were made to police by staff at another Northerncare home at Hornsea, East Yorkshire, over a four-year period between November 2004 and August 2008 – an average of 45 a year. A total of 110 of the calls from the Hornsea home were to report a missing person.

Other calls to the homes followed reports of criminal damage, anti-social behaviour, checks and breaches of bail and curfews and drugs and violence offences.
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The report has been put together by an action group set up to fight the children’s home plan. The group gained the data through Freedom of Information requests to Humberside Police, asking about homes with the same category residents as the unit planned for Portishead.

A spokesman for the group said: “The figures in the report emphasise that these youngsters abscond frequently from these homes.

“The proposed location of the Portishead home, so near to the Bristol Channel and coast path, poses a real risk to the safety of these young people. It is also likely that these young people may get involved in anti-social activities at the Lake Grounds.

“The figures in the report come from homes which are used for the same category of young people which they intend to bring to Portishead.

“Ofsted need to make a judgement on the facts in respect of the risks to the young people and the local community.”

Councillor Pasley said: “The contents of the report make shocking reading and we will be raising our concerns with representatives from Ofsted.

“It is clear that the main problem at these two homes is the absconding of the teenagers, which I feel will not only pose a risk to the young people and the community, but also be a drain on local police resources.”

“I will also be questioning Ofsted on its procedures as it seems operators of these homes have to commit a lot of money and employ staff before they can apply for a licence.

“Surely this makes it difficult for Ofsted to turn down an application, even if there are serious concerns about such a home opening in the local community.”

Plans by Northerncare to open the home came to light last autumn and prompted an outcry from residents in the area.

The 10-bedroom home, just a few yards away from the town’s Lake Grounds, is in a quiet residential area populated by elderly people and young families.

Residents fear the teens will run amok in the neighbourhood and cause problems in the local community.

They claim it will lead to an increase in anti-social behaviour in the Lake Grounds area – already a hot spot for teenagers who meet there at weekends to drink alcohol until the early hours.

The home would house six boys, aged between 11 and 17, with challenging behaviour and be staffed 24 hours a day by 11 workers, with the boys staying at the centre for anything from six months to up to two years.

Northerncare does not need planning permission to open the home because the property – Beach Park – was once a care home for the elderly.

But it does needs to register with Ofsted, meet a number of criteria and undergo a series of checks before a licence to operate can be issued.

It is understood that Northerncare will run the home under a ‘framework contract’ set up by Swindon Borough Council on behalf of a consortium of local authorities including North Somerset Council.

It is understood that teenagers will come from right across the South West, with local authorities such as Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Bath and North East Somerset, Bristol and North Somerset using the home.

Northerncare has 25 homes across the country.