People with learning disabilities have been subjected to “institutional abuse” at three privately-run Devon care homes, the Commission for Social Care Inspection has found.
The CSCI has served notice to cancel the registration of the homes, run by Surecare Homes (Devon), which effectively closes them, after a series of inspections uncovered evidence of a “restrictive and controlling regime”. The company is appealing to the Care Standards Tribunal and said it should have the right to be presumed innocent.
Unnannounced inspections on 26-34 Mills Road, Devonport, 4 Amherst Road, Pennycomequick, and 9 Kemyell Place, Keyham, found residents were punished if they did not comply with instructions and experienced “demeaning” treatment.
In one case, a service user was prevented from attending his birthday meal because his colostomy bag was leaking. He was not provided with spare bags, clothing or cleaning materials and was made to pay for bags with a DVD or computer game.
The severity and frequency of punishments at Kemyell Place was “worrying”, with one service user reporting that residents were barred from taking holiday because of their behaviour.
Residents at the homes were also made to do repetitive domestic chores beyond cleaning their own personal areas.
One man described how a resident was “reluctant to do his jobs until it was explained to him that he had to pull his weight or his mother may not have him home to visit”.
Residents’ access to food, drink, medication, their own money and the wider community was also restricted at the homes.
The managing director of Surecare Homes (Devon), Patricia Hawkins, “used intimidation to stop complaints issues being properly addressed,” the CSCI said.
The CSCI said the management and the director had allowed “through failure, misdirection and inappropriate example a culture to develop that is demeaning to people” and that was “inappropriate and unprofessional”.
All 10 residents from the homes, who were placed by different local authorities, were referred to the Plymouth adult protection team last year and a case conference in November concluded that the people supported by Surecare Homes (Devon) were “suffering institutional abuse”.
This week the CSCI said the residents had been found, or were being found, alternative accommodation by the councils responsible for them.
Kerrie Todd, safeguarding adults manager at Plymouth Council, said the council had wanted to work with Surecare but the firm had rebutted the findings of the inspections and the case conference. “We hoped that Surecare would come back after the case conference with a positive action plan and acknowledge that some things weren’t right, but that didn’t happen,” she said.
Hawkins said: “We are appealing to the Care Standards Tribunal and feel we should have the right to be presumed innocent unless and until proven otherwise.”
A familiar tale
In January, a Healthcare Commission investigation found “institutional abuse” at services for 186 people with learning disabilities at Orchard Hill long-stay hospital and 11 campus homes run by Sutton and Merton Primary Care Trust, south London.
The commission said a “failure of management” had encouraged a culture of dependency, including strict mealtime regimes and restrictions on exercise.
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