Improved staff checks came too late to prevent abuse

Two care workers were last week convicted for abusing residents at a Hampshire care home, which the Commission for Social Care Inspection had criticised for unsafe recruitment practices.

Zonke Nzimande and Wimon Hill will be sentenced next month for assaulting residents at Cornelia Lodge in Southsea, Hampshire. Portsmouth social services led a multi-agency investigation into the home after allegations were raised in September 2006.

Portsmouth Magistrates’ Court heard how one carer, Mqobile Mavuso, said she witnessed Nzimande punch, slap and mishandle the residents, while other carers described how the two women treated residents as if they were animals on a “cattle farm”.

The home, which has since made significant improvements, received damning reports from CSCI on inspections in May, September and December 2006.

The May 2006 report said: “Recruitment procedures for the home are not thorough enough to protect service users and some files lacked essential information about new staff.”

The care home received an enforcement notice after the December inspection for employing staff who had not completed satisfactory criminal and Protection of Vulnerable Adults checks.

But an inspection this April found “robust staff recruitment procedures had been implemented to ensure that as far as possible people considered unsuitable to work with adults would not be employed”.

Steven Geach, managing director of the care home group, Cornelia Care Homes, which runs Cornelia Lodge, conducted a review after CSCI’s criticisms. He said the home had the wrong leadership at the time of the poor inspections, and he had since recruited a new manager and head of care.

He said: “The key is to select the right leaders with both the right attitude and aptitude. I put my hands up – I didn’t have the right people. But no one feels worse than I do. I did everything I could possibly do as soon as I knew about the abuse.”

Nzimande was found guilty of seven charges of assault and Hill convicted of one assault charge, and they were also jointly convicted of one charge of assault.

CSCI inspection 30 May 2006:

● Outcomes for service users poor in all areas of service.
● Recruitment procedures not thorough enough.
● Lack of privacy and dignity for residents.

CSCI inspection 18 April 2007:

● Clear leadership.
● Robust recruitment.
● Privacy and dignity promoted.

Related information:
MPs and peers: Care staff must blow whistle on abuse
Essential information on older people’s services

Contact the author
Caroline Lovell

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