Saturday, March 31, 2012

Bringing shame on Lancashire

I'm ashamed to draw your attention to this case of, at best poor practice and at worst, abuse, not a million miles from my own doorstep. A teenager with autism being locked into a padded room (presumably for his own safety) at school, on a regular basis, is not a good way to educate anyone. I understand he is now elsewhere and doing well. Why could this not have happened sooner - locking him up once in a crisis might have been unavoidable, but regularly is avoiding facing what was making him 'kick off'.

That there was a 'blue room' for this sort of reason is a little disturbing in itself. It suggests this was a planned and acceptable form of response. There are alternatives to this sort of behaviour - admittedly more labour intensive, and hence more expensive - as his current position suggests, that work.

Two aspects that I find more worrying are that the school in question was run by Scope - a charity committed to learning disabled people that I have considerable respect for, and that the remedy had to be sought via the courts - and CQC seems to have had little to say about this. I assume it didn't fit their tick boxes as it was an educational establishment. People are still people whatever care context they are in.

Those involved need to be held to account for this and I will do what I can locally to ensure this is treated as unacceptable by the responsible parties. It may have been Wigan paying for this and it may have been Scope running the school, but it happened in Lancashire and for that I'm ashamed.


  1. Very worrying that the school was run by scope and had to go to court to get some resolution. Awful.

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  2. To be fair to Scope, they have put their hand up and accepted they got it wrong. Their statement is at
    The school in question is closing soon, for other reasons.
    What really worries me is what's going on in the less trustworthy care settings as I have little confidence in CQC to pick things up.

  3. I find it a great shame the way in which people have been manipulated by the media in this particular case. Firstly, this article fails to mention that Boy Cs mother insisted upon his arrival at Beech Tree school that the 'blue room' be implemented, as she said he relied on it. Padded rooms are not something that the school used before this young person began his placement. She had also insisted that the 'blue room' be implemented at his previous school, one which she also took to the courts and sued. I wouldn't like to insinuate that Boy Cs mother would ever use her son as a way of receiving money. Surely no parent would stoop so low?

    As a parent of a young man with Autism and challenging behaviour who also attended Beech Tree School, all I will say is the progression he made during his time there was outstanding, this I put down to the hard work and dedication of the staff who worked there. There was not one member of staff working there that I met that did not care for my son in anyway I would have disapproved of. I know this is the case for many other parents I have spoken to. These staff were subject to high levels of aggression on a daily basis, yet still came back and gave their all for those pupils because they cared so much! And I'm talking serious injuries including broken bones, detached retinas, and bites to not just their bodies but face, including a member of staff having her nose bitten off. Some of these injuries were inflicted by the young individual in question in this article. Yet they still came back dedicated as ever to all of those young people. And you say you are ashamed of this?

    The unfortunate mistake here was that Beech Tree school cared to much. They gave young people the chance and opportunity to grow and develop when no other settings would have been willing to help. For my son inparticular, he would have spent the rest of his time in secure units if beech tree had not accepted him. He had nowhere else to go and we were at the end of our tether and close to suicide. Three years later and the improvements he has made are incredible. He is a different young man and now lives in a care home for adults.

    Don't get me wrong, it is a great shame we can not tell the same story for Boy C, who is now sectioned on a high secure unit where I am aware seclusion is used throughout the day and he is on controlled medication. But I believe Beech Tree took on some young people in the hope they could turn their lives around, that perhaps where beyond a residential school settings help.

    Beech Tree school has now shut. Over 70 truly caring staff are out of a job. 11 other pupils who were thriving there are now in different placements, several of which had no other options but to be sectioned in to secure hospitals. That is the great shame here. Boy Cs mother and brother, who both placed separate claims, they have their compensation. And as for Boy C, I just hope and pray he is being loved and cared for at his secure unit in the way that he was at Beech Tree.

  4. Thanks for the detailed reply, obviously better and more closely informed than I am. I had hoped that Scope was better than this incident implied and your comments seem to support this.

    I feel, as I suspect you do that the school bit off more than it could chew. I accept that there were probably no alternative takers - there weren't for my son. There are no easy answers -ours was to set up a service that was appropriate, but it took time and massive effort, and wasn't available when we needed it most.

    I also fell the loss of jobs and re-placement of the other children was a poor outcome. Good services, be they schools or residential homes, should not have to take on things they can't cope with. Cuts in services are forcing them to and I regret that. And I will continue to fight for better services.

    I hope we're really on the same side and wish you all the best getting a good service for your child - as I do for Boy C - though I accept a secure hospital may not be the best solution.