United Kingdom

Ofsted told to take ‘urgent action’ over children’s care home abuse allegations

Education secretary Gillian Keegan called on Ofsted to act over the scandal (Picture: Getty)

Vulnerable children in care homes were punched, had vinegar poured on their cuts and were locked out of rooms while naked, an investigation claims.

Others were made to sit in cold baths, denied medication for days and left in soiled clothes, it has been alleged.

But despite more than 100 complaints of ‘systemic and sustained abuse’ being logged at homes in Doncaster, South Yorkshire, the venues retained a ‘good’ Ofsted rating. The homes included two residential special schools, which charged local authorities £250,000 a year to care for each young person.

The regulator was alerted 40 times about incidents, documents leaked to the BBC show. The homes were eventually closed in 2021 when allegations of abuse were finally looked into by Ofsted. It has apologised for the failings.

Education secretary Gillian Keegan said she was horrified at the claims. ‘I expect Ofsted to take urgent action wherever safeguarding concerns are identified,’ she added.

She said she intended to strengthen Ofsted’s powers to hold private providers to account and will publish ‘bold’ reforms later this year.

It has also emerged more than 100 of the UK’s most vulnerable children in care, many who are non-verbal, are feared to have been harmed. Hesley Group which ran the homes said it was ‘deeply sorry’ to those affected.

But the firm, whose accounts show it recorded a £12million profit for all the sites it runs, declined to comment further due to an ongoing criminal investigation by South Yorkshire Police into alleged abuse by some of its staff.

Doncaster Council said safeguarding was provided by an independent service when the homes were open, which has since been disbanded.

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