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Celebrity-Owned Children’s Care Home Hired Two Managers ‘Sacked from Previous Jobs’ who Oversaw Safeguarding ‘Chaos’ that Led to Closure

AP Care Homes Ltd is run by reality TV star Ampika Pickston and was bankrolled by her fiance, West Ham co-owner David Sullivan

West Ham United chairman David Sullivan with fiance Ampika Pickston in the stands before the Premier League match at Wolverhampton in April 2024. Photo: PA Images / Alamy
Ampika Pickston with her fiance, West Ham United chairman David Sullivan, in the stands before a Premier League match at Wolverhampton in April 2024. Photo: PA Images / Alamy

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Reality TV star Ampika Pickston hired two managers who had been sacked from their previous jobs to run the children’s care home she owns before it was closed due to a series of “chaotic” child safeguarding failures, a tribunal has heard.

Although AP Care Homes Ltd had previously been assessed “inadequate” and closed by Ofsted inspectors last November, the watchdog in early January permitted the facility to look after some of the most vulnerable children within the care system.

AP Care Homes Ltd, which was set up through a £1.2 million loan from Ms Pickston’s fiance – the billionaire West Ham co-owner David Sullivan – was understood to have been paid around £10,000 per child, each week, from the public purse .

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On January 3, Ms Pickston, who has no qualifications in social work or child care, hired Darren Roberts and Leigh Brooks, despite questions over their past employment and suitability.

The Care Standards Tribunal heard how Mr Roberts, who as Responsible Individual oversees all aspects of the home’s management, and deputy manager Ms Brooks went on to oversee a period of “chaos”.

For Ofsted, Dominic Howells alleged Ms Pickston had overruled an earlier recommendation made by the home’s manager Brendan Prior not to take in an extremely vulnerable child, identified only as Child A.

The tribunal heard AP care Homes Ltd’s decision in mid-January to accept Child A was made after the fee it received from the local authority was increased to a sum Byline Times has learned was around £14,000 per week, having agreed the child would be the home’s only resident, and would always be accompanied by two staff. 

Iain Simpkin KC for AP Care Homes Ltd and Ms Pickston admitted several times during the hearing that the company lost money when there were no child residents.

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However, Ms Brooks said she had made the decision while deputising for Prior, who had been off work on the day they accepted Child A, and denied it had anything to do with Ms Pickston.

The tribunal heard that in the days that followed the girl had gone missing from the home, threatened employees, self-harmed, caused significant damage to the property and received hospital treatment. Police had been called to once incident.

Within a week of Child A’s arrival, AP Care Homes Ltd requested the child be removed from the facility, which has capacity for four children, admitting it was unable to keep her safe. The tribunal described Child A as having been put “at risk of serious harm”.

The incident led the ‘luxury’ five-bedroom home in Styal, Cheshire to be shut by regulator Ofsted on 30 January, for the second time in three months.

AP Care Homes Ltd has been barred from taking children ever since and, despite only opening in July 2023, the tribunal heard the home is now facing the possibility of permanent closure.

Mr Simpkin argued restrictions should be lifted as improvements in standards at the home have taken place and Mr Roberts and Ms Brooks – now the home’s acting manager after Prior’s departure – were working to gain approval from Ofsted for their roles.

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But Mr Howells told the Tribunal that these efforts had been deemed insufficient by Ofsted and that the home continues to lack adequate safeguarding and skilled staff. He described the case of Child A as “not an isolated incident”.

The home had previously been closed by Ofsted after multiple failed inspections, one of which included an allegation made against Ms Pickston, 42 – who found fame in ITVX series The Real Housewives of Cheshire from 2015 – that she had “blurred boundaries” by taking a child back to her home.

AP Care Homes Ltd was also criticised by Ofsted for the lack of monitoring of children in its care. Rooms were not inspected, allowing children to vape and keep drugs within the property and staff failed to monitor internet usage, potentially allowing vulnerable children to be exploited online.

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Mr Simkin implored the Tribunal, which took place on 4 and 5 June, to make an expedited decision on reopening the home due to the expense of keeping the business running while it was unable to accommodate children.   

Judge Melanie Lewis said the panel would attempt to return a decision within three working days.

There is no suggestion that David Sullivan, 75 – who has an estimated £1.2 billion fortune and who owns a 38.8% majority stake in West Ham – has any involvement with AP Care Homes beyond the provision of financing.



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