Kacey nursery shut down over ‘serious concerns’

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A Blackpool nursery has been temporarily shut down and had its registration to provide childcare suspended following investigations into the death of a two-year-old girl.

Ofsted has told parents with children at West Park Kindergarten, on West Park Drive, the facility will be closed for six weeks after “serious concerns” were raised about safeguarding and child protection.

Around 80 children are affected by the closure.

Concerns were taken to the independent inspectorate, which regulates child care services, following the death of Kacey Hambleton (pictured) on April 12.

She had attended the nursery part-time for around 18 months.

The Ofsted investigation is completely separate to the police investigation and does not concern Kacey’s death.

It is understood the concerns were reported to Ofsted by social services at Blackpool Council. Today nursery bosses stressed they were following procedures to help the investigation, while parents have leapt to the defence of the facility.

A spokesman for Ofsted said: “We have suspended the registration of early years provision while we investigate concerns.”

In a letter sent to parents at the nursery on April 15, Ofsted said: “Information from an outside agency raises

serious concerns about the nursery’s safeguarding practice, policy and procedure and understanding of their duty to refer matters of a child protection nature to the relevant authorities.”

The move has been described as a “temporary measure”.

Kacey, who lived on Granby Avenue, Layton, was taken to Blackpool Victoria Hospital from her home on April 10 and was later flown to Liverpool’s Alder Hey Children’s Hospital. She died two days later.

A post-mortem examination showed Kacey had suffered head and liver injuries.

She had attended West Park Kindergarten for two mornings a week since she was six-months-old.

Kindergarten bosses said they were rocked by the death of the youngster, who they described as a “lovely little girl”, and are now working to assist with the investigation.

And the kindergarten, which was rated as “good” by Ofsted in an inspection report released only last week, has moved to allay fears about its care.

Parents have also leapt to its defence, praising staff and posting messages of support on social networking sites.

Owner Debbie Easter said: “We are following instructions from outside agencies which will help with the details of the build up to the tragic event that took place.

“Ofsted, social services and police are trying to get all the details. They want to make sure our safeguarding policies are watertight, which they are. It’s a very, very sensitive case. We’re just doing what we’ve been asked.”

Mrs Easter has owned the nursery for two years and also owns Chelsea Kindergarten, on Chelsea Avenue, Blackpool, for five years, employing 22 qualified staff members across both.

Both facilities are rated “good” by Ofsted.

Chelsea Kindergarten has not been impacted by the investigation at West Park Kindergarten and remains open.

Blackpool Council has now contacted families to offer help finding alternative provision. Coun Ivan Taylor, Blackpool Council’s cabinet member for children’s services, said: “This is clearly a very sad case and we support Ofsted in the action they’ve taken.

“We have been assisting parents in finding alternative arrangements for their children as a result of the closure.”

Many parents have said they are sticking with the nursery.

Mother Karen Tismond, whose four-year-old Jack has been at the nursery for two years, said: “I’m happy with them. I trust them and Jack has always been well looked after. It is heartbreaking what has happened. You can understand they’ve got to look into every avenue.”

Emma Swindells posted on the kindergarten’s Facebook page: “Cannot wait for everything to get back to normal.”

And Donna Bowkett added: “The parents know all staff and trust them all 110 per cent with our children.”

n Connor Gibson, 23, of Melrose Avenue, Blackpool, has been charged with murder in relation to the death of Kacey Hambleton.

He will appear before Preston Crown Court in July.

Kacey’s mother was arrested in connection with her daughter’s death and is currently on police bail.

A spokesman for Lancashire Police said: “The closure of the nursery and the Ofsted inspection have not come at the police’s request.”