A children’s home run in Wick has come under fire from care inspectors, who graded the facility as “weak” following a visit last year.
The inspection report, which has just been published despite the visit taking place in September, describes the care provided at Avonlea as “inconsistent”.
It also highlights a lack of managerial presence in the facility, and says only one significant event was reported to the Care Inspectorate in 2021 “despite there being a high level of incidents and some accidents”.
Avonlea, which consists of a residential home for five children and two separate houses for 16 to 25-year-olds, was opened by Highland Council in 2014 to replace a previous facility on the town’s Northcote Street.
Since then, it has consistently been rated very good or good in assessed areas, with its first weak rating – the second-lowest grade on a six-point scale – coming in the latest report.
It was given the rating in all three areas assessed by the inspectors: support of people’s wellbeing, quality of leadership and how well care and support is planned.
A spokesman for the local authority said it does not believe the report is “an accurate reflection of all aspects of the service”.
What does the report say?
Inspectors said they had interviewed two young people and received an e-mail from another, expressing their views about the home.
Among the quotes they included in the report were “staff aren’t able to keep me safe”, and “I felt so alone”.
While referencing a “committed staff team”, the inspectors said recent shortages had had a negative impact on the young people staying at the home, with some having difficulty forming trust with the new staff.
The report also says the range of activities offered to the residents of the home “would provide new experiences and lifelong memories”, with beauty treatments for special occasions among the ways in which the facility promoted “self-identity and self-esteem”.
However, the inconsistency in levels of care was also highlighted. Inspectors noted: “This was evident through one young person being supported to visit family whilst another had to arrange this themselves, which often didn’t happen due to them regularly not being able to fund transport to visit.”
They also found there were no care plans for any of the individual young people, and risk assessments were “seriously out of date” – with some not updated since 2020.
What does the council say?
A Highland Council spokesman said they were aware of the recent publication of the report, adding: “We do not consider the report is an accurate reflection of all aspects of the service.
“It is disappointing that the Care Inspectorate’s report does not provide any recognition of the very extensive and varied challenges faced by care staff and the service as a result of the Covid-19 context during this period.
“The report states that the Inspectorate observed ‘committed and empathic relationships were at the forefront of care provided by the service.’
“It further states ‘external professionals told us about the committed staff team and the good quality of care afforded to the children’.
“These are very positive statements reflecting the care provided by the service and are not consistent with the poor assessment reached by the Care Inspectorate.
“The Highland Council practice model is based on a consistent and dedicated multi-agency plan for each child. There were a number of issues identified in the report and these are being addressed and rectified through an improvement plan.”