Mum's anger after holiday club staff left four-year-old behind on trip to farm (From Andover Advertiser)
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Fun House left Jessica Neal behind at Manydown Farm
A MUM is fuming after her four-year-old daughter was left behind on a trip by holiday club staff who failed to realise she was missing for more than an hour.
Jessica Neal was visiting Manydown Farm, in Worting Road, Basingstoke, with a group from Fun House Limited on August 19 as part of the holiday club which she had attended for around three weeks.
She was due to arrive back at the nursery, in Whitney Road, on Daneshill Industrial Estate at 3pm – but it was only when her mother’s partner, Craig Tribe, arrived to pick her up at 5pm, that staff realised she was missing.
Jessica’s mother Amy Neal said a search began for her daughter at the nursery, before the manager drove off to look for her at the farm. Mr Tribe, 28, was only told about the situation when he questioned what was going on.
Jessica, who now attends South View Infant School, was found at around 3.30pm, alone and crying. The police had been called when Manydown staff realised she was on her own. Mrs Neal, from Shooters Way, South View, said the traumatic incident has left Jessica unable to sleep properly. The 27-year-old added: “Her behaviour has become very clingy. She gets upset when she thinks we are going to leave her anywhere – even with close family and friends who she has known her whole life.”
Mrs Neal, who works for a Basingstoke finance company, said she has not received a proper apology or explanation from the nursery, despite asking various questions in a letter as to how the incident happened.
She also claimed staff had tried to play-down the drama, adding: “The amount of time she was left at the farm is irrelevant. We know it was between one and one-and-a-half hours before they were aware of what had happened.
“I don’t know why the staff had to keep repeating that it was only 40 minutes. One minute is too long for them to have lost my child.”
When Jessica returned to Fun House with the manager, Mrs Neal said: “She was white as a sheet and only had one shoe on.”
She added: “All we wanted was for Jessica to be kept safe and happy and they failed to do that. They completely betrayed Jessica’s trust and let her down in the worst possible way. And the worst part is that until Craig arrived, they had absolutely no idea of what they had done.”
Mrs Neal has been told that a member of staff has been disciplined, but added: “There is a whole catalogue of errors that have occurred and every one on that trip, and those at the nursery for failing to notice she hadn’t returned, need to be held accountable.”
In her letter, sent on August 27 to Cath Mowbray-Williams, owner of Fun House, Mrs Neal asked various questions including whether a member of staff was allocated to watching Jessica. But in her reply sent on September 10, Mrs Mowbray-Williams failed to answer the questions, or apologise. She did, however, agree to refund the money Mrs Neal had paid for the three weeks at the holiday club, and offered to explain what had happened in person.
Mrs Neal did not take up the offer to discuss the incident because she wanted confirmation of what had happened in writing. She said: “Even if they hadn’t refunded the money, I still want answers.”
Mrs Mowbray-Williams sent an email to The Gazette, describing “her version of events.”
She said a member of staff had allowed children to play on the trampolines at the farm after they had been counted up, and added: “We never usually do this.”
She said Jessica took off a band with a contact name and number on it, and told Manydown staff she was with her parents, which was why Fun House was not contacted.
Mrs Mowbray-Williams confirmed that staff have been disciplined, and that children will now wear T-shirts with Fun House’s name and telephone number whilst on trips. She added: “I am extremely sorry for any stress and upset this has caused the family.”
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