Troubled home for children to close

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The Independent Online
GWENT County Council announced yesterday it was closing the controversial Ty Mawr children's home after an independent inquiry report found that unacceptable violence was used against young people in care.

The inquiry report, published yesterday, criticised Roger Perkins, Gwent's former director of social services, accusing him of having an autocratic style of management 'verging on dictatorial'.

The Welsh Office ordered Gwent to set up an inquiry, after revelations by the Independent in May last year of abuse at the home near Abergavenny.

It investigated allegations that young people in the home were subjected to emotional and physical abuse and that those placed in care for their protection were mixed with juvenile offenders and cared for by unqualified staff.

Former residents and staff claimed several young people had attempted suicide, including Leslie Clements, who killed himself last August after leaving Ty Mawr, and Phillip Knight, the 15-year-old boy who took his life in Swansea prison in June 1990.

The Ty Mawr inquiry, headed by Lord Williams, QC, chairman of the Bar Council, found that while there was no evidence of a systematic, pindown-style regime, young people at the home were subjected to 'low-level violence' which it found 'unacceptable'. The inquiry cleared Ty Mawr staff of responsibility for the attempted suicides, but said that Ty Mawr was an inappropriate place for them to have been treated.

It recommended that 'there should never in future be an institution within the control of Gwent County Council with such an inappropriate mix of residents cared for in large measure by unqualified staff'.

Lord Williams said Mr Perkins had created a 'climate of fear' in his department, which prevented people speaking out about their concerns.

The problems were compounded by lack of training, the inquiry found. Only two of 27 residential care staff at Ty Mawr had social work qualifications and vacancies were advertised at the Job Centre. Lord Williams said that was unacceptable.

According to Lord Williams the local authority had been unresponsive to legitimate press interest in the home and said it was doubtful whether the inquiry would have been held without media pressure, although he described some coverage as 'lurid and over-sensationalised'.

Ian Sparks, director of the Children's Society, welcomed the closure and said the report highlighted the need for training and high-quality staff for work with vulnerable young people.

Inquiry criticised, page 3