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Children with severe disabilities and complex needs were 'put at risk' by failures at Highland Council and NHS-managed care home in Inverness


By Alasdair Fraser

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The Orchard care home in Lochardil, Inverness.
The Orchard care home in Lochardil, Inverness.

Vulnerable children were “put at risk” at a Highland Council respite care centre through failings identified by inspectors.

A Care Inspectorate report on The Orchard Care Home in Inverness raised safety concerns following a two-day visit in November last year.

The facility at Broom Drive in the city’s Lochardil neighbourhood serves up to 11 young people with severe and complex disabilities, either on a permanent or shared care basis.

While run by the council, it has NHS input with an emphasis on providing care in a community setting.

RELATED STORY: Respite provision for young people in Highlands paused partly due to staffing issues

During the inspection, 15 staff and management, seven service users and two family members were interviewed while observations were taken during the day and in late evening.

The Care Inspectorate rated support at the care home for children and young people's rights and wellbeing as being “weak”, second lowest on a scale of one to six.

However, it blamed poor running of the service on systemic failures, with “significant improvements” required.

It noted staff had developed warm and caring relationships with young people throughout the home, while managers and staff were “committed to the people in their care and worked hard with limited resources.”

It was felt that staff needed better support to meet the complex needs of young people in their care.

The report stated: “We were concerned about the safety of some young people who had been subject to either a house move or exceptional measures in order to keep them safe.

“An analysis of the mix of young people and their needs, matched against their care and support plans, was lacking.

“There had been little consideration when young people moved to The Orchard around whether the service could meet their needs on a long-term basis.

“This had led to events where young people had been put at risk within the house.

“This meant that the staff team were not confidently managing the young people as

a group.

“This could compromise people's safety and create potential for increased risk.”

But the report also noted: “Children and young people benefited from warm and nurturing relationships with staff across all houses.

“We observed young people taking part in meaningful activities with staff in some houses and young people were having fun.

“Staff worked hard with available resources to ensure most young people were kept active

and stimulated.

“We were impressed with the commitment of staff and the genuine care they had for children and young people.”

While one of the home’s houses provided a warm comfortable environment within a family-orientated setting, the rest had limited resources and were in need of refurbishment, upgrading and repair.

The report said: “We were concerned that some young people lacked opportunities to undertake activities outwith their house when family were not involved.

“Some staff and parents agreed that this could lead to young people becoming isolated and impact on them reaching their potential.”

There was also a lack of detail in personal plans for young people, leading to a lack of complex support.

The report added: “Whilst staff we met were committed and had experience of working with young people who had experienced trauma, we did not see many examples of young people benefiting from well-planned and skilled trauma informed interactions.

“Young people who had experienced trauma were not all being supported appropriately.

A Highland Council spokeswoman said: “A robust improvement plan is in place to address the areas of development identified through inspection and this shall be closely tracked, monitored and supported by leadership.

“Key issues raised relate to broader systemic challenges across the health and social care system.

“Core findings are in respect of the transition of young adults and their complex planning into NHS Adult Social Care provision.

“There are considerable local and national challenges in the adult social care sector linked to demographics, including increasing complexity of care, and a national workforce recruitment and retention crisis in all parts of the social care and social work fields for adults and children’s service provision.”


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