The National Autistic Society has said it is “very sorry” for the “bullying culture’ in one of its care homes, where staff threw cake at residents with autism and made them crawl on all fours.
Mendip House in Somerset, which closed back in 2016 after the authorities were alerted to the abuse, cared for six people with autism and complex support needs. It was one of seven units on a residential care home campus, called Somerset Court, for adults with autism run by the National Autistic Society (NAS).
In May 2016, the Care Quality Commission received an anonymous letter from a member of staff, which revealed a resident at the home in Highbridge, was pushed, slapped and made to eat chillies as well as being repeatedly thrown into a public swimming pool by staff.
In addition, residents were manipulated into paying for their meals, a man in his 50s was given an onion to eat instead of the biscuit which he had asked for and cake baked by a resident was thrown at fellow residents.
‘We are very sorry’
Mark Lever, chief executive of the NAS, said: “We want to run the best possible residential services for autistic people, where they are safe and can thrive. We are very sorry that in May 2016 it became clear that we had failed to achieve this for the people living at our Mendip House care service, who were not shown proper care and respect and were mistreated by a group of our staff.
“When people raised the alarm to our charity and to other agencies, we took immediate action to make sure residents were safe and to investigate what went wrong.
“We brought in different staff, who knew the people living in the house, to ensure they were well supported. We also disciplined and then dismissed staff. After deciding to close the service, we supported families and their home local authorities while they found the six residents alternative places to live, helping them through what could have been a difficult transition to their new homes in October 2016.”
In the wake of the abuse, Somerset Safeguarding Adult Board commissioned a review which has now been published.
‘Cruel and disrespectful’ staff
The review, which called the behaviour of staff “cruel and disrespectful” has called for the Department of Health and Social Care, NHS England and the Local Government Association to carry out a national consultation on steps to regulate the commissioning of care placements.
It also wants commissioners to be required to notify the local authority in the area where a placement is being made and for the Care Provider Alliance to give its members guidance about roles and responsibilities in quality assurance and safeguarding.
In addition, there needs to be a way of working by which information about grievances, disciplinaries and complaints can be shared with the CQC and pooled with local authority safeguarding referrals and intelligence from police and others.