YOUNG offenders at a secure unit have told watchdogs it is a “good place to live” despite instances of staff using “inappropriate” physical restraint that placed them at risk of harm.

Children at Vinney Green in Emersons Green have also been left “distressed” when supervisors confiscated items from their bedrooms without good reason, Ofsted inspectors found.

But their report said: “Most children spoken to identified staff as being the best thing about the home.”

Although the newly published findings from an inspection in November are mixed, they signal a marked improvement from the damning visit in 2022 that gave the South Gloucestershire Council-run home the lowest rating of inadequate.

At the time, Ofsted officials said children suffered “unlawful painful” restraint and unjustified solitary confinement for up to three days.

When they returned to carry out a full inspection a year later they upgraded the rating to “good”.

The latest visit suggests this has been maintained after the council accepted “practices were happening which shouldn’t have been” and took immediate action.

Up to 24 children aged 10 to 18 live at the unit, whose places are commissioned by the Youth Custody Service.

Gazette Series: Vinney Green secure children's home in Emersons Green - which is run by South Gloucestershire Council Vinney Green secure children's home in Emersons Green - which is run by South Gloucestershire Council

Ofsted’s report said: “Children say that this is a good place to live.

“They spoke about having positive relationships with staff who give them the support they need.

“Care, education and health staff work in a coordinated way and deliver individualised programmes of support.

“These are kept under constant review and are effective in supporting children to make steady progress overall.”

It said managers had introduced new processes to monitor the use of physical restraint.

“These include improved working practices between the home and the external children’s partnership, and a focus on the reporting and review of incidents,” the report said.

“This additional level of external scrutiny helps to ensure that the use of physical restraint is necessary and proportionate to children’s behaviours and risks.

“Since the last inspection, there have been some occasions when staff practice regarding physical restraint has been inappropriate, placing children at risk of harm.

“These incidents have been identified by managers and external professionals.

“In these circumstances, managers acted quickly to protect children, referring these incidents to the relevant safeguarding authorities for investigation and providing children with additional support.

“During incidents of restraint, there have been some occasions when staff have taken steps to remove items from a child’s bedroom as a standard action, rather than as a response to the child’s individual risks.

“When this is not required to manage or reduce risks, this action is distressing for children.

“In general, incidents of single separation, where children are locked into an area alone due to being a serious risk to themselves or others, and managing away, where children are kept apart from their peers due to risk, are used in line with the legal criteria for such action, and for the minimum time necessary.

“However, staff shortages during the summer period resulted in children spending more time confined to their bedrooms as an emergency measure and at short notice.

“Although, in these circumstances, children were provided with additional activities in their bedrooms, they were frustrated by this experience.

“Managers continue to recruit to staff vacancies across the home to prevent a recurrence of this situation.”

It said youngsters had been found “in possession of contraband such as smoking material and vapes” several times.

“On these occasions, managers have completed investigations that have enabled them to identify how these items got into the home and reduce their reoccurrence,” the report said.

“However, the manager has failed to inform Ofsted about some of these incidents.

“Some improvements in the recording of physical restraints and other incidents are noted.

“Nevertheless, the language that staff use to describe children’s behaviour is often unhelpful and does not provide children with a meaningful account of their experiences.”

South Gloucestershire Council statement 

A council spokesperson: said: “We are pleased that the ongoing work to provide a positive experience for young people at Vinney Green is recognised by Ofsted in their most recent report.

“To hear that young people consider it a good place to live and appreciate the staff is heartening as this sets a really positive platform to help build young people’s lives and give them the opportunities to make positive choices and changes.

“Vinney Green is home to young people who need our help to improve their lives and we take that responsibility very seriously.

“We recognise that there is always more to do and that improvement must be continuous.

“We note the recommendations made in the report and work is already well underway to take action on these.”