Edinburgh secure accommodation scandal: Resident claimed children 'treated like animals'

Children in Edinburgh’s secure units were “treated like animals”, one resident complained, according to a confidential council report.

By Ian Swanson
Tuesday, 3rd May 2022, 4:55 am
Updated Tuesday, 3rd May 2022, 8:05 am

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The female resident also claimed details of incidents in which children were inappropriately restrained were not properly recorded by staff.

The report stated the resident, who claimed she suffered carpet burns while being restrained, said: "They leave out details to make us kids look mad and bad."

An investigation was carried out into the council’s secure accommodation, prompted by a whistleblower complaint in 2020, and a summary report presented to full council in March.

It found “serious failings” dating back more than a decade and concluded there was "illegality, maladministration and injustice".

The full report, which was made available for councillors to read on a confidential basis, highlighted physical and mental abuse, including assaults on children and children being put in isolation, and a toxic management culture.

Extracts seen by the Evening News refer to a meeting in February 2018 between a manager, a social worker and the resident, who claimed she had been “manhandled and restrained”. The report records her saying: “I’m pretty sure every child in secure will tell you they’ve been restrained. Nobody has the right to put their hands on me. Look (points to head) – carpet burns from being restrained, how embarrassing is that.”

A report on Edinburgh's secure units found 'illegality, maladministration and injustice'.

She then said to the manager: “You must know that for every child restrained there is a report, but they won’t put in their report about carpet burns.” The manager replied the report would tell him everything that happened. But she said: “I’d like to see the report from four years ago when I was restrained. It won’t say anything about what they did to me. It won’t say that they drag kids off beds, they write things in their reports to make them look good and the kids bad.”

Asked to talk further about the alleged culture of abuse, she named three staff and said: “I hate every one of them, they all take it too far.”

And when she was asked about the way forward, she said: “I want you all to say sorry. You treat us like animals, you have treated us like this since we were bairns – how else do you expect us to act?”

Revelations from the report last week suggested the council had allowed the same resident to live with a care worker suspected of sexual abuse. That is among claims due to be raised at an emergency meeting of the education committee today.

The report extracts seen by the Evening News also note an email in September 2017 from an employee who was about to leave the council, in which he expressed concern to colleagues at the lack of progress on the resident’s complaints. “He was deeply concerned that the same staff names came up repeatedly from a variety of sources, but they continued to work with the most vulnerable children.” The report adds: “It appears that no further action was taken to progress a robust investigation into [the resident]’s allegations.”

A council spokesperson said it was important that young people it looked after had faith they would be listened to and treated with “absolute care and respect”.

“We will work with them so they can hold us to account on the quality of support they receive and tell us where and how we can do better,” the spokesperson said. “Significant changes are already in place so they are now safer and better supported as we take forward our plans.”

He said a detailed action plan was being taken forward, which included putting in place an Improvement Board, including external organisations representing the voice of young people, and having unannounced visits in children’s homes to ensure all young people and staff could raise any concerns individually.

“The two young people currently in the unit have access to independent advocates, social workers, reviewing officers and will be part of an independent visitors scheme, which would be a first for Scotland,” he said. “We also intend to meet regularly with the Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland office to ensure independent oversight of our plan and its implementation.”

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