February 9, 2018
Burnham-On-Sea MP slams 'reprehensible' Mendip House over abuse

Burnham-On-Sea MP James Heappey has spoken of his shock at the scale of abuse at Brent Knoll's Mendip House care home after it was revealed in a new safeguarding report.

As reported here, autistic residents were subjected to "cruel behaviour", bullying and humiliation at the care home.

A "gang of controlling male staff" had dominated the home, the Safeguarding Adults Review said. Staff were said to have made one man crawl on all fours, threw cake at another and used residents' money to buy themselves meals.

The report says the National Autistic Society was "primarily responsible and accountable" for the mistreatment at the home.

MP James Heappey told "I knew some of the awful things that happened at Mendip House as I was asked to help two of the residents at the time."

"Even so, it is alarming to see the scale of abuse and I’m glad that the Somerset Safeguarding Adults Board have been so robust in their findings. What happened at Mendip House is reprehensible."

"The National Autism Society have accepted that what happened at Mendip House was unacceptable but there are lessons that need to be learned outside the NAS too."

"All of the residents at Mendip House were from outside Somerset and it is clear that their parent local authorities did not do enough to ensure that they were being cared for in the appropriate way."

"There are also questions about the appropriateness of large campus style accommodations for some of the most vulnerable people in our society."

He adds: "Whilst I intend to discuss the lessons from Mendip House with Ministers in Westminster, I have already spoken to Somerset County Council to make sure that we are already doing as we should. I have been reassured that only 50 of the 6,500 adults requiring support in the county are accommodated outside Somerset."

"The majority of them are accommodated very nearby in Devon, Dorset or North Somerset. I understand that around 20 are accommodated further afield in the Midlands or South Wales. None of those adults have been accommodated outside the county in the last two years, all are checked on regularly by their Somerset social workers and the county council is actively looking at options to bring people back to Somerset if that is what they wish."

"Mendip House is a shocking failure by the National Autism Society and the local authorities who had sent vulnerable adults to be cared for at the centre. We’ve already put most of the lessons into action here in Somerset but clearly it’s important that these lessons are urgently learnt by other local authorities around the country too."

The home closed down on 31st October 2016 - five months after whistleblowers contacted the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and safeguarding teams.

Stephen Chandler, Director of Adult Services at Somerset County Council, said: "We responded rapidly and robustly to these allegations, coordinated the multi-organisational response, taking steps to ensure the safety of residents in the other homes that made up Somerset Court."

"Social care supports some of the most vulnerable people in our communities. This will have been a traumatic experience for the residents at Mendip House, their families and loved ones."

"It is imperative that everyone involved in the care system does everything they can to make sure they are not put at risk of abuse."

Councillor David Huxtable, Cabinet Member for Adult Services, said: "Cases like this are thankfully rare and these reviews are carried out to reduce the chance of them happening in the future."

"The report makes important recommendations for change that would bring more clarity on the responsibility for placing authorities to monitor the care being provided to the people they place. I hope that the care system well beyond Somerset will learn from the weaknesses that this review has highlighted."

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