The chief executive of the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) has stepped down amid safeguarding concerns at one of its children’s care homes.
A statement issued by the charity’s chair Eleanor Southwood said that chief executive Sally Harvey has quit after the Charity Commission opened a class inquiry into the RNIB and its subsidiary, the RNIB Charity.
This inquiry has been launched after the regulator was alerted to safeguarding concerns at the subsidiary charity’s Coventry based residential children’s home, RNIB Pears Centre for Specialist Learning.
Education and children’s services watchdog Ofsted is also investigating safeguarding issues at the Pears Centre and earlier this year told the charity that it was proposing to cancel its registration to run the children’s home due to concerns flagged up in monitoring reports.
“Following on from this Sally Harvey has decided to step down from her position as chief executive of RNIB. We will be appointing an interim chief executive as soon as possible,” said Southwood’s statement.
“We are sorry that we have let down the children in our care and the people who loyally support RNIB. We are now doing absolutely everything we can to put things right and make sure the young people at Pears Centre receive the very best care and support.”
The RNIB put in place an improvement plan in January to address concerns at Pears but Southwood says that the charity should have acted more swiftly to improve the service.
“In January we put in place a service improvement plan, but it’s clear that we should have acted more quickly to make changes,” says Southwood.
“We are now working closely with Ofsted to improve the service and we’re doing absolutely everything we can to put things right at Pears Centre.”
Her statement adds: “We will be co-operating with the Charity Commission fully in their inquiry. We’re also launching our own independent review to get to the bottom of what happened, and to guide us in making improvements to how we work.”
The Charity Commission said it had launched the inquiry after being made aware of “serious concerns about the oversight and management” of the children’s home.
Last month trustees of both the RNIB and the subsidiary reported “several serious incidents” over the last year as well as Ofsted’s concerns, according to a Charity Commission statement.
“The incidents raised concerns that the subsidiary charity may have consistently failed to comply with regulations designed to safeguard and protect vulnerable children,” the statement adds.
The inquiry will look at governance, management and oversight of both charities’ safeguarding arrangements.
This will include looking at trustee’s knowledge and oversight of incidents at Pears and how well concerns were reported to relevant agencies.
The regulator’s statement adds: “The Commission’s investigation will examine the extent to which the trustees of the charities have taken and are taking reasonable steps to protect users at the Pears Centre from harm. It will also work closely with Ofsted, and other agencies, as part of the inquiry.
“The Commission is pleased to note that RNIB has determined to establish an independent review to consider its safeguarding arrangements. The review will also work closely with the Commission, which will provide oversight to ensure its independence and rigour.”
The charity has until mid-April to demonstrate to Ofsted that it is making improvements at the Pears Centre. The watchdog will make a final decision on whether to strip the children’s home of its registration by mid-May.