Brandon/Braintree: Evergreen Children’s Home had monitored Rebecca Watkins in days before she died

Coroner Dr Peter Dean. Coroner Dr Peter Dean.

Thursday, April 24, 2014
5:56 PM

An inquest into the death of a teenager at a children’s home in Brandon has heard she was monitored around the clock in the days before she died.

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Staff at Evergreen Children’s Home found Rebecca Watkins, 16, from Braintree, hanging in her room on June 16, 2009. She was taken to West Suffolk Hospital where her death was confirmed the next day.

During the third day of the inquest into her death, which is being held in Bury St Edmunds, coroner Dr Peter Dean read from the report of Evergreen Children’s Home manager Jamie Branagan.

In his report he said Rebecca, who suffered from cerebral palsy, was under constant observations during the day and every 15 minutes of the night up until the time of her death after she had tried to hang herself earlier in June.

She was also assessed by Suffolk Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) on June 9 and 12, 2009.

Mr Branagan said Evergreen was not a “secure” home, which meant staff could not forcibly prevent a resident from leaving, which the placing authority would have known.

He said he had not been told she had been under a “locked room” policy at Longview Adolescent Psychiatric Unit in Essex where Rebecca had stayed from January 14, 2009, for 12 weeks.

Mr Branagan, who the inquest heard had more than 22 years’ experience in the care industry, said Essex County Council had failed to provide certain information regarding Rebecca’s time at Longview.

Dr Dean said: “Evergreen, you tell us, was a home and not a secure unit and you have to create a balance between a home environment and monitoring the residents.”

The inquest heard there had been 62 apparent reports of self-harm or self-strangulation from January 15 to April 1, 2009, compared to less than 15 incidents in the two months Rebecca was resident at Evergreen.

“It’s apparent an improvement in her behaviour took place whilst she was at Evergreen,” Dr Dean said.

The inquest heard Evergreen, which was closed voluntarily after Rebecca’s death, had been judged to be “inadequate” in 2008 following an inspection, but in subsequent inspections it was found to be satisfactory.

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