April 26, 2021 4.47 pm This story is over 31 months old

Tortured with noise, bullied and dragged by her ankles: Brave Ruby smiles on despite special needs school nightmare

School apologised for “abhorrent and unacceptable” abuse

A mum has pleaded with special needs workers to blow the whistle on neglect, speaking for the first time of the unthinkable abuse her daughter suffered at a school and care home near Lincoln.

Never-before-seen details of an internal investigation at Kisimul children’s home in Swinderby have been shared with The Lincolnite, as desperate parents appeal for industry-wide change.

The document shines a light on gross misconduct at the hands of several members of staff against 14-year-old Ruby Oades, a child with extremely complex needs and just one of a number of young people implicated in investigations back in 2018.

Parents Nicola and Terry Oades were forced to realise every parent’s worst nightmare when they were handed a letter revealing their daughter had been routinely manhandled and dragged along the floor by her hands and ankles, punished with loud noises and mocked for ‘the way she talks’.

Also included in evidence was a series of callous text messages sent by four members of staff discussing regular and seemingly routine physical incidents, abuse and bullying.

The shocking breakdown of allegations and actions, eventually provided by Kisimul Group to Ruby’s family in March 2021, apologised “for the events that occurred and the culture we now know was apparent at the home.”

Kisimul confirmed to journalists that nine members of staff were involved in severe allegations of misconduct. As a result, all were dismissed, or would have been dismissed if they had not already resigned, and were referred to the Disclosure and Barring Service.

There were nine allegations that pertained to Ruby. Below are some of the allegations in full:

Extracts from a letter received by Ruby’s parents acknowledging the shocking and substantiated allegations

Text messages shared between staff reveal an unfathomable culture of cruelty

Ruby, whose traumatic ordeal has been made public with the permission of her parents, has a rare chromosomal condition known as 19p13.2 deletion, severe learning difficulties and autism.

She was moved from the school along with 55 other vulnerable children when inspectors suspended registration at the home in 2018. Lincolnshire Police also launched their own investigation under Operation Hendon.

While police investigations were concluded with no criminal charges, Ofsted’s inspections also found serious and widespread failures.

It has now emerged that the actions of a number of staff were deemed by an internal review as gross misconduct. Many of those implicated left the institution of their own accord.

They were all referred to the DBS, for either the text message allegations or other allegations in the overall Operation Hendon investigation.

Members of staff were referred to the DBS and dismissed for gross misconduct

No allegations involving other students have been made public at this time.

Ruby’s mum Nicola told The Lincolnite she has lost faith in the system, adding that the family have endured great pain and guilt at Ruby’s experience. While her daughter now lives in another facility, allegations of a similar nature have continued to circle the industry country-wide.

Ruby with mum Nicola | Photo: The Oades family

“Being separated from her is so hard”, said Nicola, reflecting on lockdown. “And sadly, she soon found herself in exactly the same position. The problems seems to be right across the special needs care industry.”

Ruby was moved to Fullerton House, part of the Hesley group. However, the school’s registration was suspended in March due to fears children there may have been at risk of harm. Ruby is not believed to have been involved in allegations at this school.

She has since been moved over 95 miles away from her family home to Lancashire.

“We feel greatly let down by the system,”

Nicola said. “And we require help to get our child back to a reasonable distance from the family home so we can visit her regularly and ensure she is safe.

“At the moment there is nothing else available, nothing locally.”

Nicola and Ruby’s father Terry Oades hope to inspire those in the knowledge of wrongdoing to come forward.

“People need to develop the confidence to speak out. Not only that, they have the right to follow up on their report.” Nicola said. “Concerns need to be repeated and followed up on.

“Of course nothing about what happened was lucky, but we do feel lucky that the school was closed and the investigation was carried out.

“When we were given the full report and told the staff would have been suspended it at least gave us a sense of closure. We are fortunate in that.”

The school’s response

The Lincolnite contacted Kisimul Group after speaking with the Oades family. The organisation issued the following statement, attributed to a senior director:

“We deeply regret the behaviour of these former staff members – it was clearly abhorrent and unacceptable, and Kisimul fully cooperated with authorities as they investigated all the allegations that were made.

“In addition, Kisimul conducted our own thorough investigation into the matter, which only recently concluded to ensure it was robust and abided by employment legislation.

“As a result, nine people involved in the allegations were dismissed, or would have been dismissed if they had not already resigned, and were referred to the Disclosure and Barring Service.

“We have since been speaking with the families involved to personally discuss the conclusions of the investigation.

“We have introduced a number of changes since 2018 to improve our safeguarding processes, including a new senior management team, increased oversight, and the introduction of an independently chaired oversight board.

“Planning is also underway to transition the home in the near future into a number of smaller homes that will provide even greater management oversight.

“Kisimul is committed to the wellbeing of all the young people in our care and we continue to work with Ofsted and our partners to ensure we are providing the safe and supportive environment these children need.”

If you have been affected by the issues contained in this story, you can speak to a local journalist confidentially by emailing [email protected]