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'Culture of abuse' at two care homes, sparks RCN warning

Thirteen people responsible for abusing residents with significant learning disabilities and putting them into isolation without toilet facilities have been sentenced.

The RCN has warned that 'the right people' need to be recruited to care for those with learning disabilities, as 'a culture of abuse' at two care homes in Devon is exposed in a court case

The court case has raised further concerns over treatment of the most vulnerable in society after the cruelty revealed at Winterbourne View in Bristol back in 2011.

RCN professional lead for learning disabilities and criminal justice nursing Anne Norman said that 'extreme cuts' to social care budgets and nursing may put more people at risk.

A total of 13 people were convicted and sentenced in relation to abuse in which residents with significant learning disabilities were kept in isolation sometimes over night.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said residents at the Atlas Project Team Limited run

The RCN has warned that 'the right people' need to be recruited to care for those with learning disabilities, as 'a culture of abuse' at two care homes in Devon is exposed in a court case


The Veilstone home near Bideford in North Devon. Picture: Alamy

The court case has raised further concerns over treatment of the most vulnerable in society after the cruelty revealed at Winterbourne View in Bristol back in 2011.

RCN professional lead for learning disabilities and criminal justice nursing Anne Norman said that 'extreme cuts' to social care budgets and nursing may put more people at risk.

A total of 13 people were convicted and sentenced in relation to abuse in which residents with significant learning disabilities were kept in isolation – sometimes over night.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said residents at the Atlas Project Team Limited run Veilstone and Gatooma homes in Holsworthy, Devon were repeatedly and systematically detained in seclusion rooms which had no heating or toilet facilities during 2010-11.

Whistleblowing

The two care homes were investigated by the Care Quality Commission before the authorities closed them down after a whistleblower raised the alarm.

The CPS worked with Devon and Cornwall Police to analyse thousands of incident records and interviews with former staff, finding excessive and inappropriate seclusion was a result of training by senior figures in the company.

One of the company's directors, Jolyon Marshall, was convicted of perverting the course of justice and sentenced to 28 months in prison, concurrent with a ten month sentence for conspiracy to falsely imprison.

The CPS said that Mr Marshall encouraged one of the residents of Veilstone to run away and, along with two of his staff, made a false complaint of criminal damage against the man in order to have him arrested and removed from the home.

Two other directors received suspended sentences, while a third received a fine of £12,500 for a health and safety offence of failing to discharge a duty, plus prosecution costs of £105,000. Nine more people received suspended sentences or conditional discharges.

'Culture of abuse'

CPS spokesperson Huw Rogers said: The directors and managers at the Atlas care homes created a culture of abuse – unlawfully detaining residents in poor conditions for long periods of time.'

Anne Norman has warned such abuse may not be historic.

'Sadly, I will not be surprised to see more examples of this going on, because the cuts have been so extreme and so severe. I have real concerns for people's welfare. Something has to change.

'This was an abhorrent abuse of trust and power over vulnerable people.

'We need to make sure there is recruitment of the right people, because clearly anyone can get a job in these places at the moment.'

Guidelines

The RCN has introduced guidance on the needs of those who have learning disabilities.

Ms Norman has now urged district nurses and GPs to take an active role in trying to spot abuse, but also emphasised the need for learning disability nurses.

When called to the homes in Devon, the CQC found most standards had not been met, including at Veilstone, where comprehensive protocol for the administration of medication had been lacking and continence issues were not raised with a district nurse.


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