Nursery manager at centre of Humza Yousaf discrimination row still working

A Scottish Government minister has described the lack of communication from the nursery he accused of discrimination as “deafening”, as it emerged that the manager at the centre of the row is still working at the facility.
Humza Yousaf and his wife believe the nursery refused their daughter a place because of her name. Picture: JPIMediaHumza Yousaf and his wife believe the nursery refused their daughter a place because of her name. Picture: JPIMedia
Humza Yousaf and his wife believe the nursery refused their daughter a place because of her name. Picture: JPIMedia

Little Scholars nursery in Broughty Ferry came under fire from Scottish Government health minister Humza Yousaf, who claimed his daughter’s application was turned down due to her having an Asian name. The politician put in other applications, under both white-sounding names and Asian names and found that while the “white” names were offered places and nursery tours, the Asian families were turned down.

A spokesman for the Glaswegian family behind the nursery - registered with Companies House as Sword (nursery) Ltd – told Scotland on Sunday that manager Michelle Mill, who had refused a place to Mr Yousaf’s daughter and the other Asian applicants, was still working at the nursery.

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The Care Inspectorate is currently “considering information” surrounding the complaint from Mr Yousaf about the nursery amid calls for a formal investigation, although the nursery has said it “stands by” manager Ms Mill.

Whitehills Care Home in East Kilbride is owned by the Fowdar family.Whitehills Care Home in East Kilbride is owned by the Fowdar family.
Whitehills Care Home in East Kilbride is owned by the Fowdar family.

However, Mr Yousaf said that he and his wife, Nadia El-Nakla, had not been given an explanation of the situation.

He said: “So far, we are yet to receive an explanation from the nursery as to why this has happened. There has been no investigation, no apology and no confirmation that protocols are being introduced to make sure this doesn’t happen again in the future.

“In fact, the lack of communication from the nursery has been deafening and, unless we receive answers to our wholly reasonable questions, we will be left to draw the only possible conclusion that we have been discriminated against by either company policy or a rogue employee.”

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Humza Yousaf demands investigation into nursery over alleged discrimination clai...

The Fowdar family, which is believed to have Indo-Mauritian origins, also owns chains of care homes, including Thistle Healthcare, which was criticised by staff whistleblowers after 23 elderly residents died of Covid-19 at an East Kilbride facility last year.

Whitehills care home was listed in figures released by the National Records of Scotland in May as one of the five care homes with the highest number of deaths - at a total of 25.

The Fowdar family - Dr Ajay Fowdar, Saraswattee Fowdar and Usha Devi Fowdar - are all listed as directors of both Sword and Thistle Healthcare. The family is also linked to other care home chains across Scotland, while Dr Fowdar is also understood to be a GP at Loudoun Medical Centre in Ayrshire, where he has a specialism in medicine for the elderly.

Last year, a whistleblower branded Whitehills care home “absolutely filthy” and claimed staff were bringing in their own cleaning supplies in a bid to control the Covid-19 outbreak.

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The source said staff were at “breaking point” with 39 colleagues absent at the peak of the virus, with the home “packed” with agency workers to try to plug the gaps.

The incident was not the first time one of the Fowdar family’s care homes has come under scrutiny for its practices. In 2007, a nurse at Greenhills nursing home, owned by Thistle Healthcare, was reported to the Care Commission amid allegations that dementia patients were being ordered out of their beds at 5.30am.

The complaint was upheld, although a member of the Fowdar family was quoted as saying that the Care Commission had been wrong in upholding the complaint and insisted patients had chosen to get up early.

A spokesperson for Little Scholars Day Nursery said: “Our nursery is extremely proud of being open and inclusive to all and any claim to the contrary is demonstrably false and an accusation that we would refute in the strongest possible terms. We also stand by the member of our staff, named by the media, who has been with us since the nursery opened 14 years ago. She is professional, compassionate, incredibly hard working and a valued member of our team.

“In addition to our owners being of Asian heritage, across more than a decade we have regularly welcomed both children and staff from a range of different religious, cultural, ethnic and racial backgrounds including two Muslim families currently. We have also regularly made arrangements to accommodate different lifestyles by, for example, providing a halal menu for those children who come from Muslim families."

He added: “We note Mr Yousaf’s call for a Care Inspectorate investigation and this is something we would absolutely welcome. We have nothing to hide and look forward to the opportunity to demonstrate the policies and procedures we have in place to ensure we are a nursery that is open and welcoming to all.”

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