19th Oct, 2018

Coventry children's home facing inquiry after serious allegations

Felix Nobes 13th Apr, 2018 Updated: 13th Apr, 2018

A COVENTRY children’s home run by a charity for the blind could lose its license to continue care after an inquiry was launched into an allegation of a ‘potentially abusive practice’ and multiple severe ‘safeguarding’ incidents.

The Pears Centre children’s home on Wheelwright Lane, run by the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), and is facing having its license to run the home withdrawn after being branded ‘inadequate’.

Pears Centre is made up of RNIB Pears School and RNIB Pears children’s home.

On March 29, the Charity Commission launched an independent inquiry into the charity which runs the centre, saying it has “consistently failed to comply with regulations designed to safeguard and protect vulnerable children.”

The inquiry is a reaction to accusations of serious safeguarding failures.

An Ofsted report was also published on January 15 into the children’s home.

The report states ‘safeguarding is ineffective’, staff are ‘not trained sufficiently’ and the school has ‘no record of involvement’ by external safeguarding agencies.

The home achieved ‘inadequate’ three times and ‘requires improvement’ twice in each of the five categories of assessment.

A total of 31 students aged between four and 19 are taught at the school while 18 are part of the children’s home.

The children’s home has been told that if considerable improvements are not implemented by the middle of this month, its license will be withdrawn.

According to the RNIB, the school was recently placed in special measures and a new leadership team has been put in place.

A more recent inspection of the school found ‘effective action had been taken’.

The centre’s failures have been attributed largely to the RNIB Charity – a subsidiary charity of the RNIB.

The former chief executive of RNIB, Sally Harvey, stood down from her position following the allegations.

The Charity Commission’s official press release on the inquiry stated there had been a ‘single serious safeguarding incident’ among many other issues.

The RNIB has confirmed there was an allegation of a ‘potentially abusive practice’ at the children’s home.

But no further action has been taken by police following an investigation.

It said: “The class inquiry was triggered by serious concerns about the oversight and management of a residential setting for children and young people in Coventry run by the subsidiary charity.

“On March 2, the trustees of the charities reported a single serious safeguarding incident.

“On March 16 the subsidiary charity also reported to the Commission the occurrence of several serious incidents over the course of last year.

The centre will now enter into a multi-agency and independent review of management practices and oversight of safeguarding arrangements.

Harvey Grenville, head of investigations and enforcement at the Charity Commission said: “The incidents and shortcomings at the Pears Centre are deeply concerning. The public rightly expects all charities to be places of safety, especially for vulnerable children and young people with complex needs.

“The first priority of the trustees of both charities must now be to ensure that the vulnerable young people cared for at the centre are protected from harm.

“The charities have already taken some immediate steps in order to do so.

“We now want to see that the charities continue to deal with this as a matter of urgency and will monitor their progress very closely.”

Eleanor Southwood, chair of RNIB said with specific reference to the children’s home: “A few weeks ago we received a notice from Ofsted, which regulates our children’s services, proposing to cancel our registration to run the children’s home at RNIB Pears Centre in Coventry, Warwickshire.

“This was in response to a series of increasingly poor monitoring reports which have criticised the way we have run the service.

“The children at RNIB Pears Centre are our number one priority.

“We recognise the seriousness of Ofsted’s concerns and we’re truly sorry that the level of service we’ve provided has not been good enough.

“We will be co-operating with the Charity Commission fully in their inquiry.

“We’re also launching our own independent review to get to the bottom of what happened, and to guide us in making improvements to how we work.

“We are sorry that we have let down the children in our care and the people who loyally support RNIB. We are now doing absolutely everything we can to put things right and make sure the young people at RNIB Pears Centre receive the very best care and support.”

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