A home for vulnerable children has been closed while police investigate reports allegations of abuse by staff.
The North Shore facility, which The Gazette is not naming to protect the youngsters, is at the centre of a police investigation after it was alleged one boy was burned with cigarettes.
The issues reportedly came to light after a whistle-blower raised concerns over residents being physically restrained by staff.
The shocked relative of one boy, who has now been moved from the home, today said: “I was led to believe that he was going to a place of safety. I’m absolutely disgusted.”
Ofsted has suspended the home’s licence while investigations take place.
The Gazette understands three people at the home, which we are not naming to protect the youngsters’ identities, have been suspended.
In a statement, the company which runs the home, Care 4 Children, stressed the individuals being investigated are ‘innocent until proven guilty’.
Emails seen by The Gazette show concerns were first raised by a whistle-blower at the home after children were allegedly restrained by staff.
A relative of one of the three children at the home said: “I am absolutely devastated. I was led to believe that he was going to a place of safety. I assumed that everything was fine and he was getting the therapy he needed.
“I feel so guilty that I ever let him go there.
“I was shocked. You don’t expect something like this.
“I can’t help but wonder if this is going to set him back, because his trust in adults is going to be gone. I’m absolutely disgusted.”
The property has now been shut by Ofsted and the children moved out of Blackpool to alternative accommodation while the authorities investigate the allegations.
An Ofsted spokesman said: “Concerns about this children’s home were raised with Ofsted. Inspectors visited the home on Friday and decided to suspend its registration.
“We will continue working with other agencies on their ongoing investigations. In the meantime, children who were living at the home have been moved to other locations.”
In an email, shared with The Gazette, it was revealed that three members of staff at the home were suspended last month after restraining a child who was ‘threatening to damage property’. While being restrained, the child suffered a cut to his face, it is alleged. It adds that one child ‘indicated that he was burned with a cigarettes by a member of staff’.
There were also allegations that children were ‘goaded’ by staff, which then resulted in inappropriate restraints. Police have confirmed they are investigating.
Care 4 Children is a foster care agency and specialist service which offers therapy and support to children who have experienced difficult upbringings, including sexual abuse.
A spokesman said: “At Care 4 Children, we take our duty to safeguard and protect children in our care seriously and work alongside all relevant agencies to ensure that this duty is strictly adhered too, through open, transparent processes following both statutory guidelines and robust internal procedures.
“When allegations of this nature occur, they go through a rigorous process that involves the local police, local authority designated officer, any children involved, social workers as well as our regulators. Individuals are innocent until proven guilty and as such these processes should not be compromised by any media reporting around such sensitive and private matters.”
A Lancashire police spokesman said: “Allegations into physical abuse by staff at the home are currently under investigation. All of the children within the home have been appropriately safeguarded. Enquiries into the allegations are ongoing.”
Blackpool Council said it was working with police and Ofsted ‘to support their investigations’. A spokesman added: “This is a home where children are placed away from their town of birth and at this stage there is no reason to believe any children from Blackpool have been harmed.”