Shift At Children’s Secure Unit Is Like A Tour Of Duty, Claim Staff

A SECURE unit for children was likened to a “war zone” by furious staff yesterday.

Workers at the centre – where the Record exclusively revealed a riot had to be broken up by police last Saturday – insisted it was a matter of time before someone was seriously injured or worse.

St Mary’s Kenmure houses murderers and rapists among its 12 to 18-year-old residents in Bishopbriggs, near Glasgow.

But the staff came forward in droves to vent their anger at the way the 36-bed unit is run after we revealed last weekend’s mayhem in which one guard had his thigh slashed and another suffered a suspected broken nose.

One worker said: “Each shift in this place feels like a tour of duty.

“Staff have been off left, right and centre with broken noses, ribs and wrists, facial injuries and bite wounds.

“Drugs including valium, cannabis and ecstasy have been brought in regularly by parents, wrapped in clingfilm and hidden in Maltesers bags and even clocks.

“We catch themwith the drugs during searches and march them off the premises all the time but no one gets charged.

“The Care Commission are doing an inspection soon, so no doubt the tins of paint will come out to create a good impression.”

Another source added: “There are too many outside staff, from agencies and prisons, who won’t put their necks on the line.

“I know people who have been disciplined for swearing at the kids, which is ridiculous.”

One former worker, who quit recently, insisted: “As far as the management are concerned, it’s about filling beds because they get around £5000 a week per child from local authorities and the government.”

Another source said: “The management once went crazy at us because we put black bags over the windows in the sex offenders’ unit because the boys were abusing themselves in full view of the girls’ rooms opposite.

“Other things, like kids being groomed by other kids, were reported but these concerns seemed to fall on deaf ears.

“I had a knife held to my throat and had a shoulder muscle torn during an assault but the management would rather give you time off than report these things.

“The sickness rate among staff is horrendous.”

Several staff also sent emails and posted messages on the Record’s websites.

One wrote: “The management refuse to consider care and safety, despite it being a team meeting discussion topic every week.

“Someone is going to be seriously injured or killed in this environment unless management are forced to listen to genuine issues from staff.”

Another wrote: “Management clock off at 5 on a Friday to return fresh faced on Monday morning, demanding to know why young people were ALLOWED to smash their windows and stab people!”

A third wrote: “Is it Beirut? Is it Iraq? No, it’s just everyday life in StMary’s secure unit.”

A spokesman for the board of managers of StMary’s – run by the Cora Foundation, a registered Christian charity – said: “The safety, well-being and training of staff are priorities for the board.

Indeed, it is to prevent staff being overworked that agency staff are sometimes employed.

“And recent Care Commission inspections have highlighted good child-care practice at the school.

“Given the nature of the young people at StMary’s, it is inevitable that injuries sometimes occur.

“If staff wish to report to police they have been hurt, they are welcome to do so.

“If parents are suspected of passing drugs, sanctions are applied to ensure all subsequent visits are closely monitored.”

They denied boys had abused themselves in front of girls.