THE full scale of abuse directed at residents at a Somerset care home for people with autism and complex support needs has emerged today (Thursday).

Mendip House, at Brent Knoll, near Highbridge, was closed down by the National Autistic Society after whistle blowers reported a shocking catalogue of mistreatment of vulnerable residents.

READ MORE: No charges against Mendip House staff after autistic resident was 'rode like a horse'

A review by Somerset Safeguarding Adults Board into the goings-on at Mendip House released today reveals:

  • an employee forcing Resident A to crawl around on all fours and being made to pay for staff meals during outings - staff were suspended and Resident A was reimbursed £2,030.54;
  • staff threw cake made by a resident at Resident B's head, put crayons in his coffee, gave him an onion when he asked for a biscuit and sent him to his room when he refused to eat it, and also made him pay for staff meals during outings - he was reimbursed £1,620.84;
  • an employee offered cake to Resident C, then took it away, while she also paid for staff meals outside - she was reimbursed £715.40;
  • staff threw cake at Resident D, causing him to spill tea over himself, while he also paid for staff food - he was reimbursed £1,560.75;
  • when Resident D was taken to hospital following an accident in a car driven by a co-resident, the incident was not reported to the Care Quality Commission.
  • employees being unaware when a resident absconded twice;
  • employees suspended for "bullying and disrespectful behaviour" towards six residents;
  • a member of staff swearing and giving an "unprofessional response" to a resident masturbating;
  • Resident E flinching in the presence of particular employees;
  • Resident F's anti-convulsant medication missing.

Burnham and Highbridge Weekly News:

Several members of staff were sacked. All the residents were found new placements in Somerset or further afield.

The review has sparked calls for nationwide changes to the way care placements are managed.

READ MORE: Calls for national change after shocking report

It also highlights weaknesses in the system by which authorities making care placements outside their local area monitor the care being provided.

Recommendations in the review include:

  • a national consultation on steps to regulate the commissioning of care placements;
  • the CQC should make clear that it will no longer register 'campus' model care arrangements as was the case at Mendip House;
  • commissioners should be required to notify the local authority in the area where a placement is being made;
  • The Care Provide Alliance should issue members with guidance about roles and responsibilities in quality assurance and safeguarding;
  • a way of working be agreed by which information about grievances, disciplinaries and complaints can be shared with the CQC and pooled with local authority safeguarding referrals and intelligenve from police and others. 

Richard Crompton, independent chairman of the SSAB, said: "These reviews are not about apportioning blame. They are about making sure lessons are learned and improvements made.

"This happened in Somerset, but the weaknesses in the system are nationwide and must be considered at that level.

"That is why some of our key recommendations are addressed to the Department of Health and Social Care and national bodies.

"This board exists to protect vulnerable people and reduce the risk of incidents like those at Mendip House happening again.

"This will have been tremendously upsetting for the victims and their families and the board very much thanks them for the support they gave the investigation.

"I know that the agencies involved have learned lessons and I hope that they can be learned nationally too."

Mark Lever, chief executive of the National Austistic Society, which runs Mendip House, has issued a statement.

He 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.

“All the agencies involved have worked hard to prevent this happening again. Since this situation first came to light almost two years ago, we have continued to examine and improve our own practice. Somerset County Council set up an intensive enquiry to investigate what had happened which, alongside our and other agencies’ input, has fed into the Somerset Safeguarding Adults Board (SSAB) Safeguarding Adults Review (SAR).

“We welcome the SAR report’s recommendations addressed to national agencies aimed at improving and monitoring the safety and quality of care placements. All of us who provide and commission care services need to make sure we have the right staff and robust systems in place as well as being prepared to take swift action if there are any signs that standards are dropping.

“We want to take this opportunity to repeat our previous apologies to the residents at Mendip House and to their families for the distress they experienced. We want to reassure them that we share fully the commitment of the Somerset Safeguarding Adults Board to making sure that the lessons are learned and that improvements continue to be made across the country.”