Leadership blamed for care home abuse
8:56am Tuesday 16th October 2012 in News
A DAMNING report has blamed poor leadership and weak management for the “dreadful” abuse of vulnerable adults at a council-run care home.
The independent report comes three months after two care workers, Joanne Robinson and Ann Leach, were jailed for the abuse at the care home in Worsley Road, Farnworth.
According to the report, a lack of “organisational grip” meant Leach and Robinson were able to operate “as they felt fit”, meaning they effectively “ran” the care home.
Leach, aged 48, of Piggott Street, Farnworth, was jailed for 21 months and Robinson, aged 47, of Bolton Road, Kearsley, was jailed for 15 months.
They had both been found guilty of abusing two severely disabled vulnerable adults in their care.
Bolton Council’s chief executive Sean Harriss has personally apologised to the families of the victims for the past inadequacies, and also to the members of staff, whose reports of the abuse to managers fell on deaf ears for more than five months.
He said the council took “full responsibility” for the concerns highlighted in the report.
Bolton Council has promised swift action to carry out improvements within the service to prevent anything like this happening again, and at its cabinet meeting yesterday, the action plan was recommended for approval.
No one has been sacked following the abuse, but The Bolton News understands a senior figure within the council is currently facing disciplinary action.
Last month John Rutherford, the director of adult services, left his £130,000-a -year post with a severance payment. Bolton Council’s severance package is one week for every year’s employment. Mr Rutherford had been in post since 2003.
As part of the sweeping changes, adult services has been merged with children’s services, and will be run by interim director Margaret Asquith.
The report, which was undertaken after Leach and Robinson’s criminal case ended, was completed by Steve Jones, the former chief executive of Wigan and Blackburn Councils and the current chairman of an NHS Mental Health Board.
Although the report says there was an overall good service and the majority of staff provided compassionate care, it also states its service lacked clear leadership and strong management and required a fundamental review.
According to the report, there was a “propensity for something untoward”
to happen in the service due to absent or inadequate management, supervision, training, monitoring systems and escalation procedures.
Quality assurance systems, spot checks and internal inspections were almost completely absent.
Staff were not listened to and appropriate action was not carried out.
Mr Jones said he had been thorough in his report and no barriers or obstacles had been put in his way. He added he was pleased the council had decided to look at “radically reviewing the service”.
He said: “What happened at Worsley Road was dreadful.
“The people we are talking about are very vulnerable people.
“The way in which the service was organised meant if something inappropriate started, there were insufficient things to stop it and to nip it in the bud and make sure service users were safe.”
The action plan will include two phases. The first, between now and February, will include ensuring training and supervision is enforced.
An independent person to act as a go-to for whistleblowers will also be introduced.
The second phase, between December and April, will involve restructuring the service to deliver savings.
An interim assistant director of provider services will be appointed for six months to lead the turnaround of the service.
Mr Harriss said: “While we acknowledge this report has highlighted significant flaws, which we will rectify, we would like to thank those employees that work within the service who do provide a compassionate, warm and caring environment for the residents. We would like to reassure all families who receive adult social care that we will make significant, rapid improvements to ensure that this should never happen again.”
Cllr Cliff Morris, leader of Bolton Council, added: “We accept the report’s recommendation for a fundamental review of the service and are confident that immediate action will result in clear improvements for what is generally a good network.
“We have apologised to the families concerned and will be working hard to reassure them and others that any inappropriate behaviour will be picked up and dealt with immediately in the future. We will also be training staff to feel confident they can raise any concerns and that they will be dealt with.”