The department of health was criticised by a high court judge
for acting “prematurely and inappropriately” when it shut seven
homes for disturbed children in Somerset.
In March last year, Prospects Care Services Ltd became the first
voluntary organisation to have the registration of its homes
cancelled by the doh, following two visits from the Social Services
Inspectorate in 1999.
The doh alleged that the welfare of some children at the homes
had not been safeguarded, physical
restraint guidelines had not been understood, and that the homes
were “isolated from the mainstream of residential care”.
They also claimed that there had been breaches of the 1991
Children’s Home regulations and that owner Stephen Hyland was
“unsuitable to have charge of the care of children”. Hyland was
found by an employment tribunal in July 1998 to have sexually
harassed a female staff member.
In October 2000 – after the company had gone into liquidation –
the registered homes tribunal upheld the company’s appeal against
the doh decision, despite agreeing that there were “unsatisfactory
features” about the management of the homes.
It also ruled that Hyland’s conduct towards staff was “not very
germane” to the issue of whether registration should be
High court judge Mr Justice Scott Baker backed the tribunal’s
decision and dismissed the doh appeal to have it reversed.
Mr Justice Baker said the case contained a “cautionary tale”
about the power of the health secretary to cancel registrations,
and the corresponding responsibility to ensure that it is not
“The inspectorate and Mr Hyland got cross at each other when
they should have been working together towards a common goal,” he
“The secretary of state, through the inspectorate, holds a
powerful weapon – a trump card – in being able to cancel the
registration of voluntary homes. Where, as here, that weapon has
been used prematurely and inappropriately, the consequences can be
Hyland was awarded legal costs against the doh and will be
seeking legal advice on whether to apply for compensation from the
He said the organisation’s 90 staff had all lost their jobs and
local authorities across the country had lost a “valuable resource”
for dealing with the most severely disturbed children, many of whom
have a history of violence.
A spokesperson from the doh said: “As the concerns about the
homes continued, the department sought to appeal against the
tribunal decision. We have learnt that the high court has upheld
the tribunal decision and we are now considering the high court’s