Care home warned to up its game

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OWNERS of a residential school that houses vulnerable children have been warned they will face court action unless they meet a two-week deadline to make improvements.

Care watchdog the Care Inspectorate has issued an eight-point “improvement notice” to Moore House Care and Education in Bathgate, West Lothian, which must be put in place by November 1.

The Care Inspectorate tried to get the school shut down two weeks ago, but the bid was rejected by a sheriff at Livingston Sheriff Court.

The privately-run school cares for young people aged between 11 and 16 from all over Scotland who have serious emotional and behavioural problems.

It has had a number of recent incidents to which police have been called – ranging from vandalism to assaults – prompting the Care Inspectorate to raise concerns and formal legal proceedings.

Local councils pay to send children to the school, but the Care Inspectorate has given guidance to council bosses advising them that they should avoid further admissions to the service until the improvements have been made.

The improvements include reducing the number of unauthorised absences, reducing the number of incidents involving police and reducing the number of incidents involving physical restraint, absconding, assault and other antisocial behaviour.

Staff at the residential school will also have to provide written notification to Social Care and Social Work Improvement Scotland (SCSWIS) within 24 hours of any child protection concerns, police intervention, disciplinary action and the use of physical restraint.

A copy of the improvement notice has been sent out to all 32 local authorities in Scotland.

West Lothian Council – which does not have any young people placed at Moore House – has also advised colleagues in other councils about the recent issues at the school after being made aware of them by police.

A council spokesman said: “Given the frequency and seriousness of the incidents, the police and ourselves contacted the care regulator, SCSWIS, to alert them to the situation.

“Due to the school being located in West Lothian, West Lothian Council has a duty of care for the young residents.”

Moore House Care and Education says it has been working to address the issues and return the school to “stability”.

Deputy chief executive Douglas Hardy said: “We have been working hard since the court hearing on September 27, during which Sheriff Muirhead was not persuaded to grant the Care Inspectorate an order to temporarily suspend our registration, to address the concerns raised by them.

“We continue to work in partnership with local authorities and Lothian and Borders Police, and have made considerable progress in returning our campus to stability.

“We remain confident in our ability to meet the needs of vulnerable and challenging young people. We have continued to be in regular communication with the Care Inspectorate.”