Missing children, rising substance abuse and criminal activity have all been raised as concerns at a council-run children's home in Darlington. 

Children regularly go missing from the home in Darlington, Ofsted inspectors said after a recent visit.

The watchdog also had concerns that substance misuse was rising, and that children were involved in criminal activity when missing from the home.

The home was inspected in May, with Ofsted saying it requires improvement to be good.

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At its previous inspection last November it had declined in effectiveness and was last rated as good in 2019.

Darlington Borough Council said it had put a plan in place to improve the service.

There were concerns raised about new children coming into the home who were not compatible with youngsters already living there, with the poor matching detrimental to them.

That meant the development of some children had stalled or declined, the report added, with some reverting to past harmful behaviours.

There was praise for staff in some areas. Staff continue to encourage support in education, with attendance in school good, including for one child whose previous attendance had been poor.

However, when children did not attend routine medical appointments staff did not help them to understand the importance of them or work to raise awareness of a healthy lifestyle.

The report adds: “Furthermore, some children engage in substance misuse, and the frequency of this is increasing. Staff do not carry out key-work sessions with the children regarding the detrimental impact that this will have on their progress and development. This is a missed opportunity to raise children’s awareness of how their lifestyle choices at this time will affect their future prospects.”

Missing-from-home protocols do not detail clear action, so responses are inconsistent and put children at risk of harm. Reports are poor quality, misleading and contradictory, whle sometimes staff cannot go and look for children because they do not have access to a vehicle.

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Some children are involved in criminal activities when they are missing from the home and staff do not work effectively with children to manage and reduce these risks.

The manager has however arranged for new bedroom windows to be fitted in response to children climbing out of them.

“This reinforces a safety message to the children that staff are concerned for their welfare and well-being,” the report said.

A Darlington Borough Council spokesman said: “We note the outcome of Ofsted’s visit and already have an improvement plan in place. The plan reflects the improvements required to increase the quality of services in the home.”


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