Barnsley councillors call for more transparency as ‘inadequate’ children’s home report discussed behind closed doors

Opposition councillors have called for more transparency within Barnsley Council, after a discussion about an “inadequate” children’s home was allegedly held in private.

By Danielle Andrews, Local Democracy Reporter
Thursday, 30th September 2021, 2:43 pm

Education watchdog Ofsted inspected the home, which has not been named, in July this year.

A report following the inspection rated the home ‘inadequate’, and found “serious and widespread failures.”

Inspectors branded the condition of the home as “extremely poor”, and found one bedroom with “no furniture other than a bed”.

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Town Hall.

One child told inspectors that their bed had been broken for six months.

The damning report added: “The overall experiences and progress of children are judged to be inadequate because there are serious failures that mean children are not protected and their welfare is not promoted or safeguarded.”

During today’s (September 30) full council meeting, Liberal Democrat councillor Chris Wray said that a “large portion” of the overview and scrutiny committee meeting which discussed the report was held in the absence of the press and public.

He told the meeting that “systematic failings…….led to children sleeping on broken beds over six months.”

Councillor Wray and Lib Dem colleague councillor Steve Hunt called for a review of the policy which excludes press and the public from certain parts of scrutiny meetings.

Councillor Wray added: “How can we learn from mistakes if we don’t talk about them, and don’t publish them?”

Councillor Hunt added: “This is an extremely serious matter that is in the public domain.

“There is lots of good performance in children’s services. Let’s review the process of excluding public and press from the scrutiny session.”

However, council leader sir Steve Houghton dismissed claims of a cover-up, and told the meeting: “This innuendo that we’re trying to hide something is ridiculous.

“We had a problem with that children’s home…….. and it’s been dealt with in no uncertain terms.

“Please don’t insinuate that the council is somehow trying to push this to one side because it’s not.”

Councillor Houghton added that Ofsted had since re-inspected the service, and had “congratulated” the council for a “rapid turn around.”