A major inquiry into child sexual abuse across a range of settings has recommended residential special schools to be run to the same standards as care homes. Aled Blake, Learning Disability Wales’s Policy and Communications Officer, looks at what this means and why it is happening.Young man writing at a desk with coloured pens

Welsh Government is changing how residential special schools are regulated, meaning the way it ensures these schools are safe and secure places for their students to live. This is in response to a major report by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse. The inquiry was held over a period of nearly 8 years and heard evidence from 725 victims of child sexual abuse across a range of settings. One of the many recommendations of the report was that all residential special schools should be inspected against the quality standards used to regulate care homes.

What does this mean?

There are 4 residential special schools in Wales that will fall within the scope of the regulation. The standards of care that must be followed in the care sector must now be applied by residential special schools. Pupils and their families must feel able to report instances of abuse, while staff have a responsibility to report colleagues who they suspect of being abusive.

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse found that, even though residential special schools have enhanced focus on safeguarding, sometimes they have not been as safe for children as they should be. It wanted improvements in inspection systems, workforce regulation and oversight, and enforcement. Welsh Government has been working with the inquiry team to ensure Wales’s residential special schools can operate within a framework of regulations that meet the inquiry’s outcomes.

What does Learning Disability Wales think about this change?

Among the many findings of the independent inquiry was the fact that children with learning disabilities are at a heightened risk of being exploited. Ensuring those children are being brought up and educated in safe and responsible environments where they are valued and nurtured as individuals must be central to the mission of every person and organisation involved in their education and development.

Bringing the regulation of residential special schools in line with care homes is a positive action by Welsh Government. Young people in residential special schools deserve to have the very best standards; while their friends, families should have the peace of mind to know their loved ones are being cared for and educated in a secure and nurturing setting. By establishing a more robust system of regulation for residential special schools, Welsh Government is delivering the necessary change identified by the inquiry.

To help young people and their families understand what these changes mean and how the regulations have changed, we would like to see future communications available in Easy Read.

You can read the written statement from the Deputy Minister for Social Services on the changes to the regulations on the Welsh Government website.