Concern At Staff-Vetting At Children’s Home

A Welsh children’s home has face a string of criticisms by inspectors, including that of failing to carry out criminal records checks on its staff. Concerned neighbours of the T Chwarae home in Machen, near Caerphilly, said they were shocked it has been allowed to continue to operate despite failing to meet four quality standards monitored by the Care Standards Inspectorate for Wales (CSIW). The home was supposed to house children with learning disabilities for short periods, but was found to have broken the conditions imposed on it by keeping them longer than the three weeks allowed.

Now, the company that owns the home and runs several others in the area, wants the restrictions lifted.

Local resident Sebastian Brealey, one of the organisers of a petition against T Chwarae, recently obtained copies of two inspection reports on the home produced by the CSIW. He said, “We are very concerned at these criticisms, and hope Caerphilly Council takes them on board when deciding whether to lift the present restrictions.”

The first report, based on an inspection in March 2005, made serious criticisms. It said:
– The home has had a difficult beginning with the manager leaving in November 2004 and since Christmas a very difficult placement that has taken a heavy toll on the home, by way of staff injuries, and the premises;
– Staff need behaviour management training and the written guidance needs revision;
– Records relating to incidents, restraint and sanctions were in place but indicated concern about the work practices in place in the home. The recording arrangements need to reflect regulatory requirements;
– A sample of staff recruitment files were viewed. Observation of these records indicated that recruitment practice is not satisfactory. While efforts have been made to reflect good practice in some areas, examples were found that indicated inadequate checking of staff, including one staff member who has been employed since November 2004 and has not been CRB-checked;
– The staff team is made up of people who for the most part do not have any previous experience of working with children with learning disabilities. This was reflected in the apparent lack of awareness indicated in some of the records maintained;
– Staff do not receive adequate support. In particular supervision arrangements were not in place to meet requirements although staff meetings did take place regularly;
– Monitoring arrangements by the registered provider and manager have not met requirements;
– The company have not yet provided adequate staffing and management support to enable the home to provide a quality service that meets regulatory requirements.

The home failed to meet four standards – behaviour management, vetting of staff and visitors, experience and qualification of staffing, and staff support.

“Samples of four staff records were viewed that broadly reflected inadequate recruitment practices. Examples: references accepted from friends, quality of other referees poor, employment history not provided with months and years, no reason for leaving employment, gaps in employment history not clarified, CRB not taken up – form completed but no evidence it was sent – been in employment since November 2004, lack of medical attention – medical questions in application not answered, not addressed and no exploration of depression etc, interview records not properly completed.”

The second inspection report, published in June, says, “At the unannounced inspection in October 2005, the home was found to be operating outside its conditions of registration … The examples (of referrals) viewed indicated inadequate information, no risk assessment, no section on communication and the quality of the assessment was not adequate.”

John Miles, Newport-based area manager for Community Care Enterprises, said, “Obviously we have addressed all the issues raised by the CSIW. I wasn’t working for the company at the time the first report was produced, and things have moved on since then. All our staff are now subject to appropriate CRB checks.”

“I wasn’t completely aware of the C2 planning permission [restricting stays to three weeks]. We are now applying to have the restriction lifted.”