The abuse lawyer who represented victims of abuse at both Winterbourne View and at Veilstone residential care home has joined calls for the Care Quality Commission (CQC) to use its powers to prosecute following reports in the Times newspaper that an autistic man was raped by a high-risk sex offender, and fellow resident, at a care home in Enfield, north London.
Alison Millar from law firm Leigh Day who specialises in claims on behalf of vulnerable adults and children in residential homes said that if the allegations were true then the CQC had once again failed to be a regulator ‘with teeth’ against the company responsible for the care of the severely autistic 23-year-old alleged victim.
However, she also said it was important for the commissioners, who will have paid for the provider to have the contracts with local authorities, to also be held responsible for potential systemic failures when awarding contracts to companies who do not meet fundamental standards of care.
According to yesterday's Times newspaper the sexual assault was one of many sex alerts at residential homes owned by Hillgreen Care, a private company that specialised in the care of young adults with learning disabilities. The Times claimed that it had seen confidential police documents and agency reports linked to the suspected rape and other incidents at three homes run by the company.
More than 20 months after the alleged attack, according to reports, no charges have been brought against Hillgreen by the CQC, despite new criminal powers under which it can prosecute companies.
According to the Times the CQC has said it was “actively pursuing what criminal action can be taken in relation to the failings” at the Enfield home. It said its desire to be “open and transparent” needed to be balanced alongside a risk of “compromising ongoing investigations”.
Alison Millar, head of the abuse team at Leigh Day said: “If these reports are true then the CQC has failed, thus far, to show it is a regulator with teeth. Too many times we have seen private companies making profit by running homes without appropriate safeguards. They need to be looking over their shoulder for the CQC.
“The reports in the Times suggest that a serious sexual assault went unreported for a number of days. There should be a mandatory reporting obligation applying to people employed in regulated activities, protecting them against managerial instructions not to inform for commercial reasons.
“There is also a systemic issue of how do companies like this get care contracts – I would argue that it is often by accepting a pricing structure that reputable companies could not accept, based on employing unsuitable people and failing to comply with proper staffing and supervision ratios. If this is the case then this is a systematic failing which commissioners for care need to take responsibility for.
"Someone needs to be accountable for failings should children or vulnerable adults be let down in residential care.”