Care Inspectorate ‘bans’ all touch between staff and service users
The actions of the Care Inspectorate in addressing the false accusations made by a disgruntled member of staff which caused the school to close, indicate that all instances of an adult touching a child must now be regarded as child protection matters. A failure to report any instance of touch could, as happened with TNS, result in improvement notices being served and a service being forced to cease operating.
Not only has this new policy never been announced but it flies in the face of research which indicates that touch is a crucial aspect of human development and that if young people are deprived of physical contact with others, including care staff and teachers, they will be disadvantaged.
The policy also contradicts guidance provided in other parts of the UK (see guidance for Wales) and raises serious questions about the apparently arbitrary way that care inspectors conduct their assessments and investigations.
The Care Inspectorate has been heavily criticised by former parents and staff of TNS and significant concerns raised about the personnel employed in the specialist residential schools sector:
Care inspectors have often never had experience working in the residential schools sector
Care inspectors have often never held positions of responsibility in the residential schools sector and yet comment on management and leadership
Care inspectors have had insufficient training in developmental disorders (e.g. autism) and additional support needs
Care inspectors often lack the cognitive ability to deal with complex issues
Care inspectors use arbitrary judgements rather than standardised assessment methodologies to judge performance - inspections appear to be arbitrary and undermine the concept that care standards should be universal in nature
The Care Inspectorate appears to place little significance on evidence when commenting on performance and fails to disclose how decisions are made
Professional standards imposed on services do not appear to match the standards expected of the inspectorate itself
The closure of TNS and the manner in which this occurred has caused two former Heads of School to question the fitness for purpose of the Care Inspectorate in terms of its working practices and its organisational culture. Both have called for its abolition and replacement.
Banishing ‘appropriate touch’ from all schools and care homes would cause immense harm to vulnerable young people but that now appears to be the current policy of the regulators.
Staff who place the needs of young people first are thus at serious risk of harm from false allegations and reputational damage if they provide the support that is required.
Service managers are at risk of similar harm if they fail to report any incident of touch between a service user and a member of staff.
The TNS scandal has made this very clear.