Preventing and Managing Challenging Behaviour is a professional undertaking. Fundamental to its success is an understanding of, and respect for, the person being cared for or supported. The Jersey care home inquiry published its report this week which highlighted innumerable abuses of power. It highlighted unnecessary and punitive restraint, as well as the fact that young people felt they had no outlet to raise their concerns. It short it reveals widespread and unchecked abuse.

Jersey Care Home Inquiry PublishedThe Inquiry sat for 149 days of hearings and consultations, allowing over 200 witnesses to give evidence directly. It considered the evidence of over 450 former residents of, and considered around 136,000 documents.

The 62-page executive summary outlines a litany of failures. It states that “For decades, there was little evidence of a considered approach to the needs of and desired outcomes for individual children. At a strategic level, there was a marked absence of government initiatives to tackle the causes of social inequalities and deprivation or to promote the welfare of children. In the youth justice system, punitive approaches were taken to children whose misdemeanours likely would not have reached the threshold for prosecution in other jurisdictions…”

In the section on Family Group Homes the report says, “For at least some of the residents, there was a tense and controlling atmosphere, in which the children in care were spoken to and disciplined harshly and did not have their emotional needs looked after. …One witness referred to it as a “reign of terror” and the contemporaneous records suggest that the ability of the children to speak out was limited…”

This is a sentiment echoed by Guardian Journalist Daniel Lavelle, “I lived in children’s homes and foster placements from the age of 13 to 18. Neither I nor any of the children I grew up with felt we were being listened to. We felt helpless victims of injustice…”

“In just one relatively minor case, a child who had been misbehaving in the home’s laundry room was grabbed by one of the carers and removed by force, leaving a friction burn on the child’s arm. When we went to the office to complain we were told to stop causing trouble. The carer, who said that the child had burned themselves on an iron, was defended by the office staff. The impact of small incidents like this, repeated over time, escalates the feelings of helplessness…”

“In another care home I lived in, children would regularly be restrained by the staff if they were seen as posing a danger to themselves or others, which often meant for relatively innocuous indiscretions like mouthing off or attempting to leave the premises…”

“One technique the staff favoured during these restraints was to arrange three chairs next to each other. They would place the child in the middle, and two carers would take a seat either side, locking the child’s arms to their waist with one hand and pushing the child’s head into his or her lap with their other…”

“One day I was locked in this position and felt so enraged and helpless that I spat onto the floor in frustration. Another carer who was in the room took my spit from the carpet and wiped it on my face…”

“The thought of complaining after this incident didn’t even cross my mind – I even felt I might have deserved it. I had seen far worse things happen to other children with no action taken as a consequence. This is why, if we’re to end in-care abuse, there needs to be much more than a bureaucratic complaints procedure which children seldom use or even understand…”

Joanne Purvis, Senior Regional Manager for Securicare says, “This case is heart-breaking. It highlights how the exploitation of power within a system set up to serve the child’s best interests can quickly lead to coercive and abusive practices. My colleague Chris has previously commented on the need for robust recruitment processes before. You need the right people, but you also need the right values and the right policies and procedures…”

“All sorts of strategies and interventions have a role to play. Even restraint, as a measure of last resort and within the context of minimum force/minimum time in order to serve the young person’s best interests in the moment. Restraint should never be a punitive experience. The examples highlighted in the report and the experiences detailed by Daniel (Lavelle) are horrifying and used in the way he described extremely dangerous. Knowledge is power and that power should be understood, respected and never abused....”

“Training has a role to play. Whether it’s induction care courses,  preventing and managing Challenging behaviour training courses, or even Physical intervention training courses. The knowledge and skills provided should be used on a person-centred basis, with discretion, with care and with compassion. Everyone is unique and should be treated as such..”

Contact us for more information and to discuss your training needs: E: trainers@securicare.com or T: 01904 492442

Daniel Lavelle is the winner of the 2017 Hugo Young award and writes for the Guardian