OFSTED Inspection reports ‘Good’ for Westmorland and Furness children’s short break care homes in Penrith and Ulverston.

Two Westmorland and Furness Short Breaks care homes for children with physical disabilities and/or complex learning disabilities have been award ‘Good’ by OFSTED after inspections in March 2024.

The homes : Hart Street Ulverston and 21 Huntley Lane, Penrith, both opened in April 2023 and are owned and managed by the Local Authority. They provide short term respite for up to 5 children aged up to aged 18.

Of both homes, the inspector said:

Children stay in a spacious, welcoming home with a relaxed atmosphere, helping to maintain a sense of calm and safety. Staff ensure that children’s views, wishes and feelings are fully considered.  They are encouraged to progress their independence, with life skills such as cooking and shopping.

Some highlights for 21 Huntley Avenue said:

Staff provide a wide range of activities encouraging new experiences, such as fishing and visits to parks and zoos. Children spoke about plans for summer which include a camping experience. There are daily group meetings where the children can make choices about what they would like to do.

There is a confident and stable staff team who know the children well and the inspector observed that children are at the centre of the home. The children take part in making decisions about friends and socialising, and the team work tirelessly to see beyond their behaviours and give them a happy and pleasant break.

The home is bright and spacious. Many canvas prints of the children are displayed around the home, which are given to them as a keepsake of their time spent here. There are lots of books, jigsaws and games for the children to enjoy, and also a soft playroom; and a sensory room is being developed. Children’s bedrooms are welcoming and comfortable. One parent said, ‘The homeliness is a strength of the service.’

Staff celebrate all achievements, known as ‘proud cloud’ moments and these are displayed around the home.

Some highlights for Hart Street:

Children are welcomed into the home at their own pace and through a series of tea visits, helping them to feel welcomed, and enjoy the relaxed and homely atmosphere, and a sense of calm and safety. The home is well designed and includes a fully equipped sensory room, ball pool, and outdoor play area.

Children receive praise for the smallest of achievements by being a ‘star of the month’, celebrating progress on their individual goals.

Children’s views, wishes and feelings are fully considered. This is a real strength of the home and encourages feedback from their requests.

Discussions take place regularly, where they can share what they wish to do on their stays and in the future. Children’s memories are captured and uploaded onto the home’s social media page.

Parents or carers said:

‘We know our children are protected and safe here.  There is effective communication and the relationships the staff have with families is friendly, professional, and reassuring.  Often when the children come back home, we see positive changes in some behaviours which is very reassuring. And for us to have a break too refreshes us all.’

Councillor Sue Sanderson said:

‘We are delighted with the ‘Good’ report from OFSTED for Huntley Avenue, Penrith and Hart Street, Ulverston.  We know our staff teams here are totally committed to providing a safe, happy place for children with special needs to come for a short break, giving their families an important time of respite.’

Milorad Vasic, Director of Children’s Services said:

‘Our children are always at the heart of everything we do. To have these 2 (2023) new short-break respite care homes be assessed as GOOD is an absolute credit to the staff who work here, and their commitment to providing a much-needed service.

We know the families benefit from a break, and the children benefit from meeting new friends, and trying new activities.  We also take on board the recommended actions for improvements in some areas and recognise that staff shortages have been challenging for our teams.’

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