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A LACK of staff at Swansea Council’s only residential home for children was “a fundamental issue” which led to other challenges, a senior officer said.

Christopher Francis said he had known about a number of issues that were flagged up by Welsh Government inspectors, with a couple of others he wasn’t aware of.

Mr Francis, the council’s principal officer for child and family services, said the authority was implementing changes at Ty Nant residential home, which looks after a small number of 10 to 18-year-olds, some of whom arrive on an unplanned basis.

Care Inspectorate Wales (CIW) issued five “priority action” notices after visiting Ty Nant in May this year.

These related to the home not actually providing its stated service, known as the statement of purpose, and not having sufficiently robust arrangements to monitor and improve the quality of care provided.

Another notice said personal plans prepared for the children were incomplete, with little input from the youngsters themselves. Another notice said staff did not receive the training they needed.

The CIW report said records of recent activities regularly included going for a drive with staff, and visits to fast food outlets. Trigger points for incidents included boredom.

Inspectors asked the home to rectify a below-height ceiling beam in one of the children’s bedrooms, which a young person bumped their head on.

Fire drills are supposed to take place every month, but records showed they were happening every quarter in 2019 and 2020, with the most recent one nearly six months before the inspection.

The report also said that young people were generally positive about the home and had good relationships with staff.

The children, it added, were safeguarded appropriately.

During the Covid pandemic young people at the home were provided with laptops to continue with their education.

The home has a large lounge/games room, large grounds – and bikes have recently been provided.

Mr Francis told councillors on a child and family scrutiny panel about the improvements that have or are in the process of being made, such as a restructured staff rota, more staff and training, and input from a principal social worker.

He said the pandemic, plus the absence of a home manager for six months, had been a challenge.

But he said there were “no excuses”.

“We have got to do better for the young people who require that service,” he said.

The previous staff rota, he said, did not provide enough staff to meet the needs of the young people.

“We were too dependent on agency workers and flexi-workers and were not providing the young people with the continuity they needed,” said Mr Francis.

Not having enough staff, he said, put additional pressure on the home’s management team and hindered staff training.

“It’s a fundamental issue which has contributed to a number of issues identified,” he said.

Mr Francis added that arrangements to deal with this were being made before the CIW inspection.

He also responded to questions from councillors.

The group’s convenor, Cllr Paxton Hood-Williams, said the report was a change from the usually positive reports and data relating to child and family services, and that it was obvious that Mr Francis and his colleagues were “systematically working through” the actions required.

“Hopefully you will be able to come back in the not too distant future saying things are a lot better than they were, and we intend them to stay that way,” he said.

Director of social services Dave Howes said he took “considerable assurance” from Mr Francis’s work in response to the report and that there had been a wider responsibility among the children’s service.

Mr Howes said he himself hadn’t spotted that he was missing the regular assurance reports he was meant to receive relating to the home.

“It has been a bit of a wake-up call,” he said.

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