CONCERNS have been raised over the number of times children living at a north Northumberland care home have been physically restrained by staff, sparking a review of procedure.
Figures released to the Gazette by the county council show that 76 incidents took place at Thornbrae, on Alnmouth Road in Alnwick, over the last three months, ranging from ‘low-level’ intervention to ‘prone restraint’ where a child is placed on the floor.
Only six children aged between six and 12 years old are currently resident at the home, with a further two accommodated in a satellite property called The Limes.
At a meeting of the council’s children’s services scrutiny committee last Thursday, a report highlighted concerns over the frequency of restraint being used at Thornbrae, which houses youngsters who have experienced serious levels of abuse.
Following a visit on February 25, the council’s Safeguarding Standards Manager wrote: “The number of restraints seems very high given the age profile, although I accept that these young people will be exhibiting challenging behaviour.
“I would like some reassurance that the restraint process is being used appropriately and as a last resource for managing dangerous behaviour.”
And a month later, he noted: “I remain concerned regarding the number of restraints. I have asked the service manager to review the current practice and satisfy herself and me that these restraints are necessary and proportionate.”
An inspection by Ofsted in February also raised similar concerns.
As a result, the council report states: “A thorough investigation is currently under way into the use of restraints and a report from the service manager is expected imminently.”
A spokesman for the council said of the 76 recorded uses of restraint by staff at Thornbrae, only three had involved taking a child to the floor, while the main focus on dealing with challenging behaviour was ‘de-escalation’ of volatile situations.
The majority of the remaining 73 instances of physical intervention were described as ‘minor’.
He said: “This involves a stepped approach to physical intervention from a low-level turn-and-guide to high-tariff prone.
“High-tariff prone restraints are only used once all other options have been attempted or in situations where immediate action is required to prevent harm to self or others.
“To ensure the ongoing safety of children, any physical intervention is documented and reviewed by senior managers.
“A range of actions have been taken to ensure the use of restraint in the home is appropriate – these include a review of training delivery, refresher training for staff in conflict management and de-escalation, review of risk assessment and planning and senior management oversight out with the registered manager.”