Small residential care homes are not checked as rigorously as
larger ones writes Roger Dobson
Social workers who paid a surprise visit to a registered home
for three people with learning difficulties found a Rottweiler on
the stairs, the door knob removed from the inside of one resident’s
room, and two clients had been given money to get fish and chips as
a main meal.
The door handle on the side of one elderly man’s room had been
taken off and a hook fixed to the outside. They also reported that
residents were left to look after themselves for large parts of the
day, and had been ordered not to open the door.
The case, which occurred in South Glamorgan, has raised concern
about the inspection and supervision of homes, which have
proliferated over the past four years. There are worries that not
all are being inspected as they need to be and that standards of
inspections are not as rigorous as they are for larger homes.
Age Concern England says inspections and conformity of standards
are crucial in the operations of all homes.
Mencap says there should be a uniform two inspections a year,
including an unannounced visit, unlike the single visit required
for homes with fewer than four residents. Brian McGuiniss, Men-cap
special adviser, said: ‘I think it is good that people are living
in something like a small family home, but at the same time because
it isn’t a family, then there simply has to be monitoring and
accountability. You cannot escape from that.
‘Ideally you ought to be having contact twice a year with a
small home, as you do with a larger home. That includes the
informal, unannounced call.’
Just how many homes have failed inspections and been closed is
not known because figures are not kept centrally and the issue is
complicated by the right of appeal to a Registered Homes
When social workers first called at the home in South Glamorgan,
the proprietor was not home and there was no one else on duty. The
case has highlighted the value of a surprise visit. The alarm was
raised when a member of a resource centre team had visited the home
and had been concerned about the quality of care. Inspection unit
staff visited the home the same day.
The report of the inspection says the social workers looked at
the bedroom of one of the residents.
‘The door handle had been removed from the inside of the door
and a cabin hook was fitted to the outside of the door. When the
proprietor was asked about this she replied that she had used this
to prevent a confused resident from wandering.’ That resident had
died more than a year previously.
The social workers also noted that one of the residents had
fallen down the stairs and added: ‘Access to the first floor would
have been made even more difficult by a Rottweiler who was lying on
The inspection team said that the residents were asked about
food provision because one of them was very thin and had appeared
to have lost weight compared to an earlier photograph.
They were told that one of the residents had been given £2
at lunch time on the previous four days, to buy two lunches from
the chip shop. The residents said that in the evening they had just
It has been recommended that registration of the home is