Inquiry into physical abuse claims at school near Presteigne

Womaston Children's Home and School, Walton The school provides education for 12 pupils with learning disabilities

A police investigation has been launched into allegations of physical abuse by staff at a Powys residential school for young people with learning disabilities.

Dyfed-Powys Police are investigating the claims at Womaston Children's Home and School at Walton, near Presteigne.

Its owner, the charity MacIntyre, said the school is to close in July.

A spokeswoman said a worker raised concerns with the principal about some staff's behaviour in March.

The principal had immediately suspended the staff and informed the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales (CSSIW) who agreed that police should be notified, she added.

'Complex needs'

A Dyfed-Powys Police spokeswoman said they were working closely with the Local Safeguarding Children Board and CSSIW in their investigation.

"Due to the nature of the enquiry and complex needs of the victims this investigation may take many months," the spokeswoman said.

"Throughout this time the police will work closely with all agencies involved and the alleged victims and families of those affected will receive ongoing support.

"The safety, welfare and protection of vulnerable adults and children will be the absolute priority of all the organisations involved."

Womaston is a residential school for pupils between 11 and 19 with severe learning disabilities including autism and challenging behaviour.

Currently it has 12 students.

'Well-being'

The school employs 72 staff, including managers, and care, education, maintenance, and domestic employees.

Principal Belinda Manning said "We are co-operating fully with the police investigation and have agreed with them not to comment until it is concluded.

"Our first priority is the safety and well-being of our students. The parents and carers of all the students have been informed as have the local authorities.

"We have kept the school open because the parents, carers, local authorities and CSSIW are satisfied that the children are safe, happy and well looked after.

"The school voluntarily agreed with CSSIW not to take any new students during the investigation, which is expected to take some time.

"As some students are 'graduating' at the end of the school year anyway, leaving only seven, a decision has been made to close the school."

The school is expected to close in July with pupils being found new placements by September.

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