Thornhill Road Children’s Home in Cardiff has been closed just seven months after it was opened at a cost of almost £2m.
The Cardiff council run home in Rhiwbina was shut down following a damning report by the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales (CSSIW).
The social services watchdog found:
:: The manager was on long-term absence two months after the home opened;
:: most staff felt “let down” by managers within the home and at the council;
:: there was an equivalent of seven and a half full-time vacancies out of a complement of 17 and a half;
:: staff said they had been left “understaffed, overwhelmed and unable to work”;
:: authorities were alerted to “significant incidents” related to the children;
:: children had “no confidence” their concerns would be dealt with; and
:: the premises appeared “institutional rather than homely”.
The report, published on December 23, said “very few” aspects of the service had been delivered in “a manner suitable to adequately safeguard or promote the welfare of the young people”.
The inspector found the behaviour of some young people had a “considerable and unacceptable impact on the quality of life, well-being and positive development of others”.
“The quality of life observed at the time of the inspection was not one that would support the positive personal development of young people. It may be likely to have the opposite effect,” the report adds.
The home, at 150 Thornhill Road – previously the site of another council-run children’s care home, John Kane House – opened in May last year.
The purpose-built facility cost £1.92m and was designed to look after a maximum of eight children, aged between 11 and 18, at any one time.
It provided care to young people who, due to the nature of their “complex and challenging behaviour”, were unable to be placed with foster families.
The CSSIW raised their concerns to the authority after an inspector made an unannounced visit to the home in mid-October.
Shortly after the inspection, the council stopped accepting new referrals and started finding new homes for the children.
By late November, all of the youngsters had either been rehomed with foster families, set up to live independently or placed in care homes outside of Cardiff.
The home was officially closed in December and has since been de-registered by the CSSIW. The council is now considering what to do with the building. One option is to reopen it as a care home.
A council spokeswoman said 10 children were cared for at the home while it was open, but there were not more than six living there at any one time.
“Managers became concerned about the well-being of the young people due to the extreme disruptive behaviour of one or two of the looked-after children,” she said.
“Such was the level of concern that the decision was taken to close the home in December to enable the children to be moved to alternative accommodation.”
The relocation of the children, the spokeswoman added, was “timely and consistent” with their care plans. The staff have also been temporarily transferred elsewhere in the council.
“The council regrets that the home had to close so quickly but the action was taken to ensure the well-being of children who display very challenging behaviour,” she said.
The opposition Labour group said the closure was “further indication of the crisis of leadership and management” in social services at the Liberal Democrat/Plaid Cymru-run council.
Labour’s Canton councillor Richard Cook, chairman of the Corporate Parenting Panel, said: “They have failed vulnerable young people who themselves had tried to flag up problems at the home, only to be ignored.
“The closure of Thornhill children’s home has meant that hundreds of thousands of pounds has had to be spent on purchasing external placements, rather than on direct services for vulnerable children.”
The Echo asked South Wales Police whether it had investigated any incidents linked to the home.
A force spokeswoman refused to answer the question and said the Echo would need to submit a Freedom of Information request.
Councillor Kirsty Davies, executive member for social care, said: “Our upmost priority in all of this has always been to the children concerned and ensuring that their personal safety and well-being needs are met.
“That is why the decision was made to close the home and move the children to a new environment that would better cater for their individual needs and personal wellbeing.