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UPDATED: Future of Dorchester children's home undecided

child teenager

7:41am 6th December 2017
(Updated 7:17am 7th December 2017)

The future of a Dorchester Children's home is still unclear.

Dorset County Council's Cabinet has agreed to begin a consultation on Maumbury House what should happen to the building.

The facility which looks after youngsters with emotional and behavioural problems was rated inadequate by Ofsted in June. The report found "serious and widespread failures meaning children are not protected."

Inspectors found the safety, health and well-being of young people to be poor, leaving them at significant risk. The report said: “Young people are not protected from harm. They frequently go missing, leaving them exposed to bullying and exploitation, with no missing-from-home protocol agreed between the home and the police. This leaves staff with little or no guidance on what to do when young people go missing.”

Councillor Steve Butler, Lead Member for Children’s Services at Dorset County Council said: “Cabinet has agreed to starting a formal period of consultation on the future of Maumbury House. Following this, a report will be presented to the Cabinet, setting out all the possibilities. At this point in time all options remain open.”

Wessex FM has had numerous calls from concerned members of the public wanting to give their first-hand experiences of the home.

'Reaction'

One caller who wanted to remain anonymous said:

"Needs are just absolutely not being met at all. I'm absolutely hoping it closes.

"I think some staff there are trying their very hardest, but I and others have witnessed that other staff just don't have the ability to deal with the situations that are in front of them.

"Rough and intimidating behaviour from staff to the children has been witnessed. Someone I know who witnessed something said he was shocked at how a professional member of staff went from 0 - 60 with anger within seconds.

"Nobody is actually child-centrered. They're all just talking about reports and paperwork."

She feels the child she has a connection with went downhill in the time they were there, becoming more anxious, losing weight and running away, adding that the home sometimes wasn't providing the most basic of things such as a bottle of water for their school day.

She also feels the child's social worker has let them down and has written letters of complaint to them in an attempt to remedy the situation.

"There isn't enough communication between the home and school, but more worryingly, the child has been running away so as to avoid going back there.

"What these children needs is a safe place and children do not feel safe there."

Another caller echoed the same concerns. Her daughter was in West End House which has since closed. The mum feels her daughter became much worse, very quickly. She said her daughter became increasingly suicidal and began taking drugs whilst at the children's home, whereas she hadn't before. She was encouraged to abscond and was sexually assaulted by another resident.

However, ex-Maumbury resident Hannah Morris, now 24, doesn't share their concerns. In fact, she says her experiences and the support she received at Maumbury helped turn her life around.

'Hannah's Story'

Hannah was a resident at Maumbury for three years from the age of 13. Before she moved there she was in 38 different foster homes within an 18 month period. She says this badly affected her and that her time at Maumbury gave her a fresh start:

"I was really troubled because of the foster system, but they helped me. I'm married now with two kids and have a beautiful home; I'm stable. If it wasn't for Maumbury House I wouldn't be here now; I wouldn't even be alive now because I'd lost myself.

"It's important to remember that when most people move to Maumbury they're already damaged because of the system that I believe is failing so many people. But Maumbury House genuinely moulds people, and it's up to the young person to let them help."

Hannah added that the issues the home is criticised for are not unique to Maumbury - such as exposure to drug abuse and sexual assault, which she says are inherent in the foster care system. She said: "Those things are more likely to happen before you get to Maumbury. There were loads of safeguarding measures in place, for example we weren't allowed to access the internet for our own safety because we were vulnerable young people. Staff were always professional and supportive."

Hannah said the staff at Maumbury when she was there eight years ago were fantastic. She said she bonded really well with them and still maintains some of those relationships. She has fond memories of spending time with them and being able to express herself in the art room and relax in the garden at Maumbury. Hannah strongly believes the home gave her a grounding in life she wouldn't have otherwise had and a confidence to believe in herself.

 

 

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