INSPECTORS visiting a West Fife school were "seriously concerned" at the "unacceptable use of restraint" which has seen both pupils and staff suffer injuries at the facility.

The Care Inspectorate carried out the inspection at Hillside School in Aberdour over three days in January and while enforcement action was announced at the time, the subsequent report has now been published.

As previously reported by the Press, the school – which provides 52-week residential care and education for young people aged 8-19 who have complex and/or additional support needs – was ordered to carry out urgent improvements or risk being shut down and the subsequent inspection report has now been published.

Inspectors found several aspects of care "raised concerns" for they safety of young people.

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"We had serious concerns for the safety of young people due to the service's unacceptable restraint practice," the report stated. "The service regularly used high risk restraint techniques and did not follow best practice guidance.

"Young people and staff had at times been injured during restraint and we were concerned about the lack of analysis and reflection of incidents. There was limited learning and poor practice remained unchanged which left young people at increased risk of being subjected to unnecessary use of restraint."

Inspectors found that young people's emotional and physical safety was "seriously compromised" due to the staff team's reactive approach to care, and limited understanding of the young people's needs.

"This meant that some young people felt unsafe, and lacked confidence in staff's ability to look after them," they stated. "We were very concerned about the service's response to safeguarding and protection concerns. The service did not always follow best practice, and basic procedures were frequently not adhered to.

"We found that young people's emotional and physical safety was seriously compromised due to the staff team's reactive approach to care, and limited understanding of the young people's needs."

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The report said some young people spoke of positive relationships with some staff members, and the majority felt that they had someone that they could speak with.

It continued: "Despite this, we were concerned about the lack of consistency in care provided to young people. The care and support that young people received did not always take account of their rights.

"Often young people were subjected to punitive consequences that were based only on their presenting behaviours.

"We identified the need for additional training to develop staff and managers understanding of the impact of trauma on young people's behaviours, physical and emotional wellbeing."

The school has been ordered to carry out improvements which, if not met, the Care Inspectorate say may result in them making a proposal to cancel the school's registration:

  • The school "must ensure" that no child or young person is subject to restraint unless it is the only practicable means of securing the welfare and safety of the child or young person. This includes a "robust review" of approved restraint techniques taking place as well as an evaluation of how these are used and the impact that high risk holds have on the children and young people.
  • The school must ensure that the child and adult protection practice is reviewed and developed. This review must be informed by effective analysis of safeguarding issues to ensure the safety of children and young people.
  • The school must ensure that at all times suitably qualified and competent persons are working in the care service in such numbers as are appropriate for the health, welfare and safety of children and young people and that there are processes in place to identify and appropriately respond to any concerns about staff competence and practice.
  • The school must ensure that there are effective systems in place for the identification, assessment, analysis, management and mitigation of risk.
  • They must ensure there is evaluative scrutiny and oversight of all aspects of the care provision within the service to ensure that children and young people experience high quality, consistent care and support.

Following the warning, a spokesperson for Hillside School said: "Hillside school is committed to make the necessary improvements detailed in the Care Inspectorate’s Improvement Notice.

"We are grateful to the Care Inspectorate for their ongoing support. Hillside School will work towards meeting all of the specified improvements in the required time scales."