Steps have been taken to address weaknesses at a Renfrewshire children’s home after an inspection raised serious concerns about the service.
An update has been provided on the council-run Barochan Road facility in Johnstone after an unannounced visit from the care watchdog exposed a number of failings.
The Care Inspectorate graded the residential house as “weak” in October, and highlighted issues around a lack of leadership, staff shortages putting the safety of young people at risk, and response to bullying.
At the time of the inspection, the house had no dedicated manager, but a report to the education and children’s services policy board said the position has since been filled by someone with the “appropriate skills and experience” to tackle the problems identified.
Risk assessments and child plans have been reviewed and additional strategies put in place to address safety concerns, while “constant monitoring and intervention” on the matter of bullying is being led by the new manager.
Challenges around staffing were said to be in keeping with those experienced nationally but levels are being checked monthly.
The report added that a “robust action plan” had been developed in response to the findings of the inspection at Barochan.
John Trainer, the council’s head of childcare and criminal justice services, told elected members that the protection of children is a “number one priority” for the local authority and its social work service on Thursday.
He added: “This is only the second time in Renfrewshire’s history, I think, that we’ve had a ‘weak’ grading of one of our children’s houses and therefore you can anticipate that our response to that has been robust.
“I was extremely disappointed and really regretful that we found the Care Inspectorate came into our children’s house and said to us, ‘the care for these children is weak’, because our ambition is to provide the best possible care.
“Residential children’s houses are incredibly complex and even though our houses are relatively small, the dynamics of six non-related children together with a staff group can be incredibly challenging.
“Barochan did have significant challenges through pandemic, probably more than any of our other three houses.
“There were significant issues in terms of staff wellbeing, we had a number of staff absences, some of the young people did not cope as well in Barochan… we also had the manager moving on, so at the point where the inspection came it was almost the perfect storm.
“That doesn’t excuse it, that’s just some of the reasoning behind it.
“The really important thing then is how we as a service responded and we responded immediately – in fact we’d anticipated some of this so we’d already been putting in place some measures.”
A process of review and shared learning across the houses has also been introduced, so the facilities can learn from one another.
Mr Trainer said he had been in contact with the Care Inspectorate to ensure they were comfortable with the work taken forward as a result and confirmed he had been given assurances that the response was “appropriate”.
Councillor Iain McMillan, a Labour rep for Johnstone South and Elderslie, said he found the results of the inspection “extremely worrying” when he first heard them.
However, he added he has been reassured by the measures the local authority has taken in response.
Councillor McMillan said: “It took me by surprise given the track record we have in children’s homes in this area.
“I was really, really taken aback and having read the report I must admit I was pretty disappointed to be perfectly honest.
“However, I have been reassured that, not only by what I’ve heard today but other reports, things are improving.
“I think we’ve faced the challenge head on and we understand what’s going on.
“You always wonder why you can have such a diverse level of service and it’s basically the same people running it, not on the ground, but it’s the same senior management based here in Paisley, so that worries me slightly.
“I wonder if we maybe just took the eye off the ball in this case. I’m not entirely sure, but I have been reassured.
“That’s our priority. There’s other things that will take up our caseload, potholes and the rest of it, they’re important, they’re important to the people that report them, but this is what it’s all about – this and this alone as far as I’m concerned.”
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