Care firm branded ‘inadequate’ by inspectors: Service for people with disabilities in Sunderland put in special measures

Athelstan Court, Ryhope Street South, Ryhope.

Athelstan Court, Ryhope Street South, Ryhope.

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A service which provides support to Wearsiders with learning and physical disabilities is in special measures after it was labelled “inadequate” by a watchdog.

Athelstan Court, in Ryhope Street South, which is run by Voyage Care, offers help to those living on their own or in shared accommodation and was visited three times in November by Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspectors.

Risks to people’s safety were not always assessed or were not kept under review.

CQC report

A report issued this week said the inspection had been brought forward due to several safeguarding incidents raised by the provider and serious concerns from Sunderland City Council, which had led to the reassessment and relocation of some people.

Bosses at the company say that “immediate action” has been taken since the CQC visit in November, when 30 people were found to be using the service.

The service was deemed not to be safe by inspectors, with the report stating: “Staff could tell us how to recognise and respond to abuse.

“However, we found people were not protected as the provider had not followed appropriate procedures to safeguard people.

“Risks to people’s safety were not always assessed or were not kept under review.

“It was not possible to ascertain that there were enough staff because the provider did not have a record of how many support hours each person had been assessed for.”

The inspection was triggered after a new operations manager discovered a failure to report safeguarding incidents.

The provider then made retrospective referrals about safeguarding incidents to Sunderland City Council, as required by local safeguarding arrangements.

The referrals included 38 incidents of physical incidents by service users at one shared house.

The service was also found not to have a registered manager at the agency at the time of the inspection.

The report added: “A service manager and team leaders were covering the management of the agency until a new manager was appointed.

“The provider had systems in place to assess and monitor the quality of services provided but these had not been effective, and had not been undertaken on a regular basis.”

Inspectors have also said the service requires improvement in terms of how effective and responsive it is, although it was rated “good” in terms of care.

Bosses at the organisation will now be given six months to improve the service before it is given another inspection.

“The overall rating for this service is ‘Inadequate’ and the service is therefore in ‘special measures’,” added the report.

“Services in special measures will be kept under review and, if we have not taken immediate action to propose to cancel the provider’s registration of the service, they will be inspected again within six months.”

Company ‘disappointed’ with evaluation

In response to the report, Voyage Care’s managing director for the North East Karen Harkin said: “Nothing is more important to us than providing high quality care for the people we support and we take our responsibilities extremely seriously.

“This is why we were so disappointed to receive the CQC’s latest report and why we took immediate action to address the findings following last year’s inspection.

“Together with our staff in the region we have developed and implemented a thorough action plan – against which we are making good progress.

“As part of this, we have already undertaken a review of all care plans and introduced a new training programme. In addition, we are in regular contact with the CQC and we are also working closely with Sunderland City Council and Durham County Council to address all the suggested areas for improvement.

“We are currently one of only three adult social care providers to have more than one care home rated as outstanding by the CQC and 86% of our services have been rated good or outstanding by the CQC in comparison to the national average of 66%.

“We are committed to ensuring that the people we support benefit from the best and most professional care possible and we will do everything we can to achieve this.”

Councillor Graeme Miller, portfolio holder for Health, Housing and Adult Services at Sunderland City Council, said: “While it would not be appropriate to comment on individual safeguarding issues, the council works closely with the Care Quality Commission ensuring care providers and services across the city are regularly monitored and inspected.”