ALARMING pictures have emerged that appear to show security guards sleeping on the job at a North-East children’s home.

The pictures, taken at Aycliffe Secure Centre, in Newton Aycliffe, show security guards sleeping on three separate occasions with a source claiming it is a "running joke" and happens nightly.

The whistle blower said it jeopardises the security of the centre and failings by officers have led to drugs being smuggled into the home.

In response, Selwyn Morgans, manager of Aycliffe Secure Centre, said: “We take the safety of young people in our care very seriously and have a number of robust measures in place to keep them safe. The security team, employed by Steadfast Security on behalf of the council, is entirely separate to the care team in place 24 hours a day at the centre, and therefore has no impact on the safety and security of our children.

“Several matters relating to the security team were raised to us in summer 2019 and were immediately investigated alongside Steadfast Security. As a result, appropriate action was taken and security policies and procedures were updated. We are also aware of the attempt to bring drugs into the centre and we acted immediately, notifying appropriate authorities. We have rigorous internal policies in place to deal with any concerns regarding banned substances and trained care staff in place should an incident occur.”

Last year the centre, which provides specialist, secure care for up to 38 children, was given the top rating in all areas by Ofsted.

It is home to children aged between ten and 18 from all over the country who are in the care or criminal justice systems.

Commenting on the photographs, a whistleblower told The Northern Echo: “Every night shift they sleep, it’s a running joke. It was reported to the facilities manager, who did nothing. 

“It is a disgrace. I was told what happens in security stays in security but someone needs to be held accountable.” In response, Durham County Council said security has not been compromised.

Martyn Stenton, head of early help, inclusion and vulnerable children, said: “We take the safety of young people in our care very seriously and have a number of robust measures in place to keep them safe. The security team are employed by Steadfast Security on behalf of the council and there is always more than one member of that team working on a night shift. It is therefore important to stress that security has not been compromised.

“In summer 2019 we were made aware of concerns raised by a former member of security staff and investigated this immediately alongside Steadfast Security. Despite several requests for information, no evidence was provided to us at that time, but our policies and procedures were updated as a result of the investigation. Now that new information has been made available, the council’s internal audit service will be carrying out a further review alongside Steadfast to consider what other measures are appropriate.”

Paul Harbord, security director of Steadfast Security Solutions, added: “When concerns about some of our employees were first raised in summer 2019, we immediately investigated the claims. Each member of staff was spoken to individually and our security policies and procedures were updated. However, in light of this new information, we will be carrying out another review and will work closely with the centre and Durham County Council throughout.”