Shocking report reveals staff ‘slapped, shouted aggressively at’ vulnerable children at Plaistow respite centre

This respite centre on Dongola Road, Plaistow, has been shut-down with immediate effect after Ofsted

This respite centre on Dongola Road, Plaistow, has been shut-down with immediate effect after Ofsted was tipped-off about possible safeguarding issues. - Credit: Luke Acton

A shocking report has revealed evidence of violence and verbal abuse at a respite centre for children with disabilities that was abruptly shut down earlier this year.

The children's home in Dongola Road, Plaistow had its registration suspended on June 27 following a monitoring visit by Ofsted inspectors two days earlier, which was in response to a report from the home.

At the time, the regulator said "a number of safeguarding concerns" had been identified at the seven-bed facility, which is run by council-owned Good Support Group by a board of directors independent of the local authority.

A damning report of that inspection cites video evidence of verbal and physical abuse of children and food allegedly being withheld by staff members, as well as significant delays - in one case, eight months - in the reporting of serious safeguarding concerns.

Inspectors identified that the "shortfalls in the safeguarding practice of leaders, managers and staff" placed children at "significant risk of harm".

The report stated: "Video footage (showed) separate incidents where staff were seen to be slapping children and shouting at them in a loud and aggressive manner."

In another incident, a member of staff "witnessed another member of staff allegedly withholding food from a child last year", but did not report it until June this year.

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Other failures to follow the home's own safeguarding procedures in regards to reporting welfare or safety concerns were highlighted.

The report noted that staff who had allegedly hit, shouted at and withheld food from children were allowed to continue working at the home as a result.

The evident use of personal mobile phones by staff to film children in the home breached company policy and jeopardised children's privacy, inspectors said.

One serious "alleged restraint incident" involving a child that concerned the home's safeguarding lead and two members of agency staff was not reported to Ofsted, as required, until three months after senior managers were aware of it.

At the time of the inspectors' visit in June, the investigation into this alleged incident had not been completed and the senior member of staff involved had recently been given permission to return to work at the home, despite "the serious nature of the allegations."

Inspectors reported last month that the manager and managing director remain suspended by the company and full-time staff were undergoing a training programme.

The home, which Ofsted says has not had a registered manager since January, supports children with autistic spectrum disorders, profound and multiple physical disabilities, learning disabilities and complex health needs.

In a statement to the Recorder soon after the closure, the council said it was committed to ensuring vulnerable children and families have the best possible support and services.

A spokesman said: "We are concerned that the care and services offered at Dongola Road have not met the very high standards we demand, and have therefore taken swift action to stop all placements.

"Our priority at this stage is on supporting those families affected, including finding alternative provision for all children and ensuring that families continue to have access to appropriate care and support services."

The council provided no further response when contacted last week.