RNIB has vowed to do everything possible to ensure safeguarding breaches at its children’s facilities never happen again, as the charity is investigated.
The charity announced yesterday that its chief executive Sally Harvey had resigned, just months after taking on the role, after Ofsted and the Charity Commission opened investigations into safeguarding concerns raised at RNIB’s children’s home in Coventry.
Ofsted gave notice of intended action on 9 March, which was received by RNIB on 13 March.
Southwood said this was “a culmination of a series of increasingly poor monitoring reports” going back to 2015, although the home was rated as “good” in October 2016.
RNIB also runs a school in Coventry, but the Ofsted notice relates only to the Pears Centre children’s home.
The charity has to demonstrate to Ofsted substantial improvements by mid-April, with the regulator making a decision on whether to cancel the RNIB’s registration by mid-May.
Separately, the Charity Commission investigation will consider the trustees’ oversight of safeguarding arrangements across the charity’s schools and care homes.
The charity has put in place a new management team including an independent project manager to implement a service improvement plan.
It will be providing additional training to all staff members at the Pears Centre and will be reviewing every child’s individual care plan at the home.
Southwood said: “I’m confident we are doing all we can to meet Ofsted’s expectations. We are working closely with Ofsted as we are with the Charity Commission to make sure that we are doing all we can.
“Clearly, we recognise the seriousness of the regulatory action. We take full responsibility for that and I, as our chair, am profoundly sorry that we have let down the families who have entrusted their children to our care.
"My personal commitment, and that of the board, is to do everything to put this right and to make sure this will never happen again.
"That is both in terms of the local effort at Pears in terms of taking very swift management action around that but it also is in terms of really looking at ourselves and putting in place things to make sure our governance ensures this cannot happen.”
Both Southwood and Harvey took up their respective positions last year. Also in 2017, the charity merged with Action for Blind People.
Southwood says she is not sure whether this significant amount of restructuring could have led to safeguarding issues being overlooked.
She said: “There has been a great deal of change over the past year, but also before that. There was a significant restructure this time last year. The decisions we made at the time were based on the information we had at the time.
“That is precisely why the board is going to commission an independent review to really get to the bottom of exactly what the contributing factors have been in terms of a management failure, which ultimately has let down the children in our care.”
Southwood told Civil Society News that the board had discussions with Harvey after Ofsted issued the charity with a notice of intended action on 13 March “and she has subsequently chosen to resign”.
Southwood refused to comment on whether Harvey’s resignation was the right decision for the charity and said “at the moment, our focus is on making sure the children are safe and then making sure that this cannot happen again”.
The charity plans to put in place a process to appoint an interim chief executive “as soon as is feasible”.