Child control training ‘violent’, The Guardian, 15.06.1991
By MADELEINE BUNTING
WORKERS at a children’s home in Greenwich criticised Home Office-approved techniques taught on a ‘control and physical restraint’ course, as ‘aggressive and violent’, according to confidential council papers. Another home in the London borough was temporarily closed this year after allegations of inappropriate or excessive use of restraint.
A report by the director of social services to the council’s case review sub-committee on the temporary closure in March of Parkview children’s home stated: ‘Five male staff attended the control and restraint course organised by a regional establishment which concentrated on the approved techniques endorsed by the Home Office.’
The course held at Frant Court, a Community Home with Education, was discontinued last year. It was run by the council as part of a training programme provided and monitored by the London Boroughs Children Regional Planning Committee.
But at a staff meeting 18 months ago, seven members of staff from Melanie Klein House, a home for emotionally damaged girls in the borough, condemned the techniques taught.
Leaked minutes of the staff meeting in November 1989 make clear their concern that ‘the physical restraint techniques taught were not appropriate for use in a ‘care’ setting because they were perceived to be aggressive and violent’, and added that several participants were hurt during the course.
The minutes also stated: ‘Forcible strip-searching of clients was taught. This was felt to be totally inappropriate for use in a child care setting.’
Melanie Klein House was closed last year after a report by the London Boroughs committee expressed concern over the use of restraint and of the home’s secure unit.
Parkview was temporarily closed on March 28 after Greenwich’s director of social services received seven allegations of inappropriate or excessive use of restraint from staff and children.
In his report, the director states that disciplinary action was required in three cases. There is no evidence that these staff had attended the course.
It was alleged that children were held down for between five and 20 minutes. In one incident, a five-year-old boy was allegedly held around the throat in a way that restricted his breathing.
In the director’s report, the child protection co-ordinator comments that the means of restraint were ‘obviously dangerous and cannot be acceptable’ in one incident, and describes the use of restraint by male staff on a young woman as ‘very worrying’. But he adds: ‘On the information available I conclude that no serious maltreatment occurred.’
Parkview is expected to re-open shortly after the director of social services concluded that ‘as many positive things have been said about Parkview as negative. Whilst carrying out the very difficult and challenging task, many staff have consistently worked in the best interests of young people.
‘Without consistent leadership and direction, rifts developed in the staff group that reduced the centre to providing a service that was not the best it could have been.’
The Home Office has responsibility for children when they have committed a violent crime such as rape or murder, but are too young to go to prison.