Edinburgh Council-run children’s unit ‘unhomely’

Saturday April 8th 2023

Heathervale

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A children’s home has been criticised for having an “unhomely” atmosphere after an inspection found holes in the ceiling and vulnerable youngsters sleeping in broken beds.

External inspectors who visited the Edinburgh council-run Heathervale Young People’s Centre said work was needed to improve the setting of the home, as the issues – which included leaking windows, “badly marked” walls and a broken TV – were impacting kids’ “sense of worth”.

A lack of permanent staff at the small Wester Hailes childrens’ unit was also flagged as an issue, leaving some in care there “frustrated”.

The council has been given until the end of May to “ensure that the environment is in a good state of repair and decoration, is homely and comfortable”.

Heathervale provides care and accommodation to eight to 18 year-olds from disadvantaged backgrounds and runs an outreach service to families with young people at risk of being accommodated. It was paid an unannounced visit by the Care Inspectorate in January and a report was published this week.

They rated the support of children and young people’s rights and well-being at the centre as “adequate” – but said the strengths “only just outweigh weaknesses”.

Despite the previous inspection calling for repairs to be carried out, ongoing issues with the building were found to still be a problem.

The report said: “There had been leaks around the windows for some time which meant that curtains could not be hung.

“There were also holes in the sitting room ceiling. Walls were badly marked and in need of redecoration and the TV was broken.”

It added that young people who spoke to inspectors said their bedrooms were in need of redecoration and new beds as the ones they had were broken.

“Whilst it was recognised that staff did their best there was a general feeling of the house feeling unhomely. All of this impacted on young people’s sense of worth,” it said.

It was mentioned that following the evaluation staff said the TV had been replaced and new sofas purchased, however the report added: “There remains outstanding work to be done to bring the premises to an acceptable standard to impress young people’s value.”

Children said they had positive relationships with most staff members who they felt “really cared about them” however the home’s use of agency staff was also raised as an issue.

“Young people also told us that there were not enough staff and they missed having their regular staff team,” the report said.

“Staff shortages had had a significant impact on the young people and the staff team. Whilst it was recognised that attempts were made to ensure consistency within the locum and agency staff, staffing stability is central to the efficient running of the service and had been an ongoing issue for at least a month.

“Whilst the service tried to maintain a group of regular agency and locum staff, to cover vacancies and sickness, on some weeks there were ten additional staff covering twenty shifts.

“In addition, the assistant team leader had too much to do as she had been the only manager available for the past month. Young people didn’t know what had happened to the staff they had formed relationships with and were frustrated by the lack of information.”

“There was a sense that staff were tired and looking for stability and this was reflected in some of the young people’s frustrations.”

Inspectors added better planning was needed around activities for the young people living at Heathervale to “decrease boredom and enable them to lead more fulfilling lives”.

Cllr Joan Griffiths, Education, Children and Families Convener for the City of Edinburgh Council, said: “It’s welcome that the report stated that the young people felt that staff loved them and cared about them and that they had very positive relationships. We always strive to ensure all young people in our homes are supported and cared for.

“We acknowledge that the home, which the report highlights is spacious, is in need of repair and redecoration and this is being carried out as a matter of urgency.

“We have also spoken to the young people and staff about providing them with additional furniture to ensure the building is providing a high quality care environment in which everyone can take pride in.”

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