COUNCILLORS have raised questions about a children’s home in Cardiff following allegations youngsters have been mistreated.
Ty Coryton in Cardiff is subject to an investigation by police and the local authority after four whistleblowers spoke to the media about what they claimed they had seen at the home.
Orbis Education and Care has denied the claims of the whistleblowers.
Questions about the children’s home have now been raised to Cardiff council, over what action the children’s services department has taken since the allegations were revealed.
During a council meeting on Thursday, June 24, cabinet member for children and families Graham Hinchey was asked about whether the council was conducting its own investigation into Ty Coryton, and why councillors found out through the press first about the allegations.
Conservative Cllr Mia Rees said: “When did the council become aware of the allegations involving Ty Coryton? Was it when the rest of us did—when it was in the news—or did it have foresight?
“Will the terms of reference of the investigation be published, and who is leading it? When do you anticipate the investigation will be concluded, published, and councillors will have sight of it?”
There are still 16 children and young people at Ty Coryton, according to Cllr Hinchey. The home has space for 26 in total.
Cllr Hinchey said Orbis initially suspended taking any new children referred into the home, but a review this week meant that suspension could be lifted, with more children going into Ty Coryton. Cardiff Council and the police were both investigating the allegations, he told the meeting.
He said: “At Ty Coryton, all families have been informed and kept up to date with the local authority and a multi-agency approach. Families have been kept involved.
“The police are absolutely involved in the multi-agency investigation. Obviously, some of the allegations and the whistleblowers’ concerns could possibly have criminal effects. Some of the investigation has proceeded but not quite finished, so I can’t comment on the full investigation but will keep members updated.
“It is a privately run home—I must underline that—it’s not a Cardiff home. But the local authority does have responsibility as a host authority, as the provision sits within the Cardiff boundary. So we will be leading with Care Inspectorate Wales, partners and local authorities who have children there, in the ongoing investigation.
“Social workers are visiting the site. It was daily but now at least twice a week, and we are being kept up to date in terms of those investigations. There will be a review of the suspension of placements going into that provision on Thursday, July 1.”
The council found out about the allegations “at a similar time” to the article being published, Cllr Hinchey added. All councils, including Cardiff, who have placed children at Ty Coryton “are comfortable” with them remaining at the home.
Cllr Hinchey said: “The whistleblower did choose to go to the media. We found out at a similar time and I briefed members as quickly as possible on that particular issue. They are allegations which are being taken seriously, but those allegations need to be substantiated.
“All local authorities that have placed children there have decided that they are comfortable that those children are being cared for properly.
A Cardiff council spokesman said after the meeting that while the council doesn’t run Ty Coryton, it is responsible for co-ordinating the review and monitoring of safeguarding concerns.
The spokesman said: “The wellbeing and safety of children and young people is of paramount importance to this council and we are undertaking significant monitoring and review activity in response to the concerns raised. The council is also working alongside the Care and Education Inspectorates, Childrens’ Commissioner and the Childrens’ Commissioning Consortium Cymru (4Cs).
“The voluntary suspension of placements forms part of the 4C’s Escalating Concerns process, which the council’s activity will feed into. While [the suspension on new referrals] could be the outcome, the home will continue to be subject to scrutiny and it is these discussions which will influence the extended suspension or otherwise.
“The local authority is co-ordinating individual investigations from a safeguarding perspective and completing monitoring and review activity from a commissioning perspective. This information will be fed into the 4C’s ‘escalating concerns process’. Reviews of this nature are not published by the local authority.”
An Orbis spokesperson said: “Orbis Education and Care delivers specialised services for children, young people and adults with complex needs associated with autism.
“We take any allegation against our staff or our services extremely seriously and where an alleged incident has previously been reported to us, we have thoroughly investigated. Orbis Education and Care has a comprehensive range of established governance policies and procedures, supported by a well-resourced quality team, to work with home managers in the delivery of a safe and high-quality service.
“During the period since the alleged incidents took place, Ty Coryton has had 78 visits from independent organisations, other providers and authorities who raised no issues relating to the allegations (with the exception of staff and PPE shortages at certain points during the pandemic, which Ty Coryton experienced in common with many other providers during this time). We have received a draft Care Inspectorate Wales report on Ty Coryton which will be published in the coming weeks, which is complimentary of our staff and our service.
“Ty Coryton has voluntarily agreed to suspend new admissions for a short period.
“We are proud of the level of education and support we offer at Ty Coryton and our amazing staff who care for the children and young people we look after. Creating a warm, stimulating home for our children is what we strive to do everyday at Orbis; this is the reason why the vast majority of colleagues choose to work with our unique young people, taking great pleasure and professional pride in the steps forward that we support them to take. We are committed to continuing to provide an environment that will allow all our cherished service users to live happy and fulfilling lives.”