Borders nursery worker struck off

Shielfied Park.
Shielfied Park.

A Borders nursery worker has been struck off after placing children at “unnecessary risk of harm” at Little Reivers nursery in Duns.

Nicola Jeffrey was found guilty of shaking a child’s arm after he had injured it, and referring to others as “ugly” and “sloth-like”.

Little Reivers childcare facility in Duns.

Little Reivers childcare facility in Duns.

She also grabbed and pulled a one-year-old by the wrist, frightened children, and referred to some as being “like something out of Forrest Gump”.

The incidents happened during Jeffrey’s employment as a room supervisor at Little Reivers nursery between January 2015 and June 2016.

She denied any wrong-doing, but was found guilty of a string of charges following a two-week Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) hearing at Shielfield Park in Berwick.

Jeffrey’s lawyer said she had previously worked in social service for eight years without incident.

He claimed she was the victim of a hate campaign by another member of staff, and that witnesses were motivated by a personal dislike of his client.

But the panel found witness testimonies to be “credible and reliable”.

They said that Jeffrey’s behaviour was particularly serious as the the children were in the baby room, and she had been placed in a position of trust.

A spokesperson for the SSSC said: “The panel was satisfied that the SSSC’s witnesses who spoke to the allegations against the worker, in person, did so truthfully.

“You shook a child’s arm after he had injured it and grabbed another child by the wrist and pulled the child by the wrist.

“This behaviour demonstrates that you placed these children at unnecessary risk of harm and failed to meet relevant standards of practice and to work in a lawful, safe and effective way.

“You made a number of derogatory comments about and to children, repeatedly labelled them. It placed them at risk of emotional harm and was demeaning and disrespectful to those children.

“You failed to treat children as individuals, failed to respect and maintain the dignity of children and failed to communicate in an appropriate way.

“Accordingly, the panel decided that your fitness to practise is currently impaired as a result of the misconduct found.”

Earlier this year former Little Reivers worker Teresa Renton was struck off after admitting a number incidents at the nursery between September 2015 and June 2016, including putting a two-year-old child in a cupboard.

Renton had also lifted a child by the arm as they were climbing stairs, lifted a child by the wrist as they were crawling, and called a 23-month-old “stupid and simple”.

The SSSC her behaviour had contributed to children becoming distressed in an environment where they were entitled to feel safe.

Renton was struck off the register in February.

The SSSC told her: “Bullying behaviour to children under or around the age of five years old is fundamentally incompatible with behaviour expected of a social service worker.

“Your behaviour falls so far below the standards expected of social service

workers that, if you were deemed fit to practise, it would damage the confidence in the profession.”

Berwickshire Housing Association (BHA) announced earlier this year its Little Reivers childcare​ facility would close on June 27. It cited a “significantly reduced” demand for nursery hours, and said the facility was not covering its costs.

BHA suspended Jeffrey when the complaints were reported in July 2016. It launched a full investigation - including alerting SSSC and the Care Inspectorate - and began disciplinary action.

Helen Forsyth, chief executive of Berwickshire Housing Association, said: “This behaviour towards children and colleagues at Little Reivers was unacceptable and not typical of the high standards of care that we have delivered since 2008. We are truly sorry this has happened. On becoming aware of the situation, we immediately suspended the person, launched a full investigation and informed the Scottish Social Services Council and the Care Inspectorate.

“As confirmed in March 2018, Little Reivers is to close on the 27th June 2018. Our focus now is to ensure that all the children currently in our care continue to receive support and fun nursery education. We are also assisting our loyal and hardworking nursery staff to seek alternative positions.”