Children removed from Lancashire's Mountwood Academy after Ofsted visits

Young residents have been removed from a privately-run special needs Lancashire children’s home at short notice following repeated visits by Government watchdog Ofsted.


In a critical report, Ofsted revealed that in the past year several residents had been harmed both physically and emotionally at the children’s home based at the residential special needs school Mountwood Academy, near Longridge.

Entrance to Mountwood Academy

Entrance to Mountwood Academy

The Academy is for young people with autistic spectrum conditions.

While the school itself is judged to be “good”, in April the on-site residential children’s home was rated as “requires improvement to be good”.

After a visit in September, Ofsted said it had found “an ongoing failure to safeguard children and protect them from harm”.

Two of the young people removed from the premises at short notice had been placed at the Academy by Lancashire County Council (LCC).

Buildings on the Mountwood Academy site

Buildings on the Mountwood Academy site

An LCC spokesman said: “We’re happy that both pupils are now in suitable placements.”He added: “Within our safeguarding role, we are working with Ofsted and other agencies to establish whether further investigations are required. The welfare of children in our county is always our top priority.”

One mother whose child has been removed from the facility described the care provided as “an awful situation”.

She said her child had been “so happy and really well cared for” since being given a new placement.

Following a monitoring visit to Mountwood in August by Ofsted, three compliance notices were issued and restrictions were placed on the number of children who could reside at the home.

Ofsted says it was then told of further ”serious concerns relating to significant events that potentially placed children at risk from harmful practice.”

It is now taking further compliance action, and advised in September that just 10 young people could remain in residence and warned: “Ofsted will continue to monitor the provider closely and will consider further action if the necessary improvements to protect children from harm and provide them with safe care are not achieved.”

The Academy, operated by ROC Northwest Ltd, provided care and accommodation for up to 29 children with disabilities and/or behavioural needs. Some young residents have remained at the site.

A ROC Northwest spokesman said: “We have taken immediate action to resolve the issues highlighted in the Ofsted report and we are working closely with our stakeholders, including the regulator and commissioning authorities, to implement improvements.”

The new report said:
* Youngsters were not protected against ”inappropriate or excessive restraints”;
* In one incident a child suffered a serious injury requiring medical attention;
* In another incident a member of staff had been injured;
* There were training, management and administrative failures at the home.

Ofsted said: “Poor risk management and unsafe practice had placed children at unnecessary risk” and noted the provider had ”failed to ensure that effective arrangements are in place to protect children’s safety and wellbeing”.

ROC Northwest's website says it provides “person-centred residential care and education.”

An Ofsted spokesman added: “We have reported our findings to the local authority designated officer.”

A spokesman for Lancashire Constabulary said: “We have been called to reports at Mountwood Academy but have been satisfied that no criminal offences have taken place.”

FAILURES TO SAFEGUARD

A monitoring visit was made by Ofsted in August because of “a worrying increase in the number of significant notifiable events” including several incidents when children were harmed.
During the August visit, Ofsted found that regulations relating to safeguarding, risk management and leadership in the home had been breached.

Ofsted reported: “It was found that there had been a number of adverse incidents at the home, some of which had resulted in further incidents of physical and emotional harm to children.”The incidents included:
* A child being physically injured by staff “who carried out an unsafe physical intervention.”
* Staff had used inappropriate language to children
* There had been six separate allegations that staff caused harm to children.

After a September visit, Ofsted noted in its report: “In one incident, a child sustained a serious injury that required medical attention. The record of this incident questions the ability of the staff member involved to manage a child’s behaviour effectively. This is exacerbated by the fact that the staff member had not received the training identified by the provider to manage complex behaviours.”

Another agency had previously contacted Ofsted with concerns about an injury to a member of staff. Ofsted said it found: “Although managers were aware of the incident, there was no written report and no investigation had taken place. This means that the opportunities to understand the circumstances of the incident or identify learning were lost.”

It continued: “Recording and monitoring of physical interventions continues to be inadequate. Records of incidents are often unclear and fail to provide an accurate account of what has occurred.”

The inspectors said some records were “inconsistent” and included information which should have alerted managers that further enquiry was needed. The report warned: “Failure to record and monitor physical interventions effectively means that children are not protected against inappropriate or excessive restraints.”

TIMELINE

April 8/9 2019
Full Ofsted inspection. Inspectors judged “requires improvement to be good” and demanded improvements to safeguarding, risk management, leadership and management.

August 21/22 2019
Monitoring inspection – three compliance notices served and restrictions imposed limiting the number of children accommodated at the home

September 9 2019
Further monitoring visit. Ofsted announces it will take “further compliance action”, will monitor closely and will consider further action if improvements to protect children from harm and provide safe care are not achieved.