Safeguarding Vulnerable Adults: Care Homes

Part of Speaker’S Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority – in the House of Commons at 8:48 pm on 26th February 2019.

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Photo of Rosena Allin-Khan Rosena Allin-Khan Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) (Sport) 8:48 pm, 26th February 2019

I thank the hon. Lady—I will call her my hon. Friend—who is tireless in fighting against loneliness and for people to have dignity in their communities, and she makes the most essential of points: we are at the start of a ticking timebomb.

While all this was going on, my father was admitted to hospital one afternoon for a routine issue. As we were undressing him, we found bruises all over his body. Did the Ensham House care staff phone to check on him? No. Did Optivo show any care? No. Instead, we were served an eviction notice, detailing a list of allegations against my father without any evidence. How heartless is it to receive an eviction notice while in hospital? What did Wandsworth Council do at this time? Nothing. What was London Care doing? In the space of just five months, London Care had five separate managers at Ensham House. This all started after the first incident with my father. One manager after another came and went, unfamiliar with my father’s safeguarding cases. Some were hostile, others made up incidents involving my father being difficult. Dementia is a degenerative illness, but it does not spiral downwards overnight. Prior to those incidents, as I previously mentioned, not a single issue regarding my father’s difficult behaviour had ever been reported.

In all meetings, it was agreed that the extra care setting was appropriate for my father as he still knew his way around the area, he had a level of independence and my very young daughters felt comfortable visiting him there. Why deny someone their last few months of independence? The extra care setting was deemed by the social services team and everyone involved to be entirely appropriate for him. However, each time we interacted with Ensham House care staff following the first incident in which we found my father beaten, and when we had not been called, we felt as though we were on trial, that we had somehow made up the fact that he was acting afraid, and our concerns were dismissed by a different manager every month.

We found multiple examples of my father’s medication not being written on the drug chart, with London Care saying that he had refused medication when we had seen him take it. We even found one manager had written a note in the staff communication book asking staff to write negative comments about my father in his care notes. The final nail in the coffin, and the point of no return, was when we found my father unconscious on the floor, with blood on the walls and the floor, and a carer’s set of keys left next to him. Following this, he spent one month in hospital.

Four months after that final event in October, there was nothing from Wandsworth Council addressing any of these concerns. The catalogue of disasters crescendoed last week, when the director of adult social services at Wandsworth Council, Liz Bruce—who had refused to look at photos of my father’s injuries, did not know how many open safeguarding complaints there were relating to my father, did not talk to anyone else who knew my dad and had never met him herself—declared that my father had sustained the injuries because “he had asked for it.” Despite police voicing their concerns in the meeting and saying that they cannot rule out abuse, despite her failure to investigate London Care fully and despite her clearly having no detailed knowledge of the case, she chose to use Optivo’s letter, which was full of unsubstantiated claims in the language of the Ensham House managers, as her proof. Well, I think we can all agree that this is a dangerous, highly unprofessional and highly unsatisfactory approach.

Of course it is easier to blame the patient and the family, anything other than looking inwards and accepting responsibility for the fact that the council is awarding care contracts to organisations that are, frankly, unsafe. Quoting CQC ratings in safeguarding communications, when it is well known that patients are fearful to talk, is frankly unacceptable. If this were happening to the UK’s children, the country would be in uproar, and rightly so. Someone living with dementia is just as dependent in their final years as children are in their first years.