Sunderland autism agency placed into special measures after inspectors question no face masks decision

A Sunderland agency providing care for children and adults with autism has been placed into special measures after it was labelled ‘inadequate’ following an inspection by care watchdogs.

Friday, 26th March 2021, 11:58 am

Include ‘In’ Autism was found to be poorly led and unsafe following an inspection by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) which took place in December 2020 and January 2021.

Inspectors discovered the provider had not safely managed risks relating to not wearing face masks during the Covid pandemic, did not follow safe recruitment processes and concerns were raised over the consistency of care adult users received.

The organisation has been warned if it does not improve the CQC could close the service down.

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Include 'In' Autism is based at Plains Farm Youth and Community Centre, in Sunderland

Director and CEO Marie Jevon has apologised to service users and families and said an action plan is now in place.

In the damning report, inspectors highlighted that safe recruitment procedures were not followed and confirmation of the appropriate level of DBS check was not always recorded.

Some staff had begun employment prior to completing application forms and necessary checks, records indicated.

At the time of inspection, the service was responsible for supporting two adults and eight children with personal care as the pandemic had led to a number of care packages being suspended.

Marie Jevon founder and CEO of Include in Autism has apologised but said changes have been made

During the Covid-19 crisis, generic risk assessments had suggested that service users could not tolerate staff wearing masks.

However, the report says staff had not assessed individual needs or explored alternative solutions – such as clear face masks or working with users to reduce their anxiety – meaning people were not protected as much as possible from the risk of Covid.

Individual risk assessments for staff who were not wearing face masks were also not completed and the provider ‘failed to protect staff’ who were at a greater risk.

The report also found adult users were not always supported by a regular staff team and the service had a high turnover of employees.

Inspectors said: “One adult was supported by nine different staff members over a 12-day period. Their relative told us this had a negative impact on their family member.”

The report did note that this was not the case for children using the service.

Placing the organisation under special measures, inspectors also found the manager was unable to provide the CQC with a ‘clear account of the actual number of people’ who were receiving personal care.

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The report added: “Important conversations regarding people's care and support were not always recorded which led to confusion for people and relatives, which impacted negatively on the quality of care they received.”

The CQC issued two warning notices as the service ‘failed to have robust systems to assess the risk of infections’ and ‘failed to maintain accurate, complete and contemporaneous records and have effective systems to assess, monitor and improve the quality and safety of the service’.

Ms Jovan, on behalf of Include ‘In’ Autism, said: “We were disappointed with CQC findings and wholeheartedly apologise to all our service users, families and stakeholders.

"However, the CQC audit was a historic review of incidents and issues that we have already remedied through the appointment of a new management team and working practices. We have an action plan in place that has been provided to the CQC and we look forward to the next inspection.”

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