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(UK) Cornwall: Bad reports on autism residential care homes

July 24, 2022, Cornwall Live: Rise and fall of Spectrum - the revolutionary charity housing Cornwall's autistic people

SW England

Spectrum, started off as a cherished charity set up by concerned parents but now faces investigation by the Charity Commission after claims of mismanagement, neglect, understaffing and abuse.

Disabled people allegedly locked in rooms, overworked staff falling asleep on duty - and a management which won’t step in. These are some of the claims levelled against a well-established and once beloved local autism charity and care home provider which is facing a fall from grace.

A slew of reports criticising unclean, unsafe and understaffed care homes have hit Devon and Cornwall Autistic Community Trust, more widely known as Spectrum. Accusations of abuse and neglect have come hand in hand with an investigation into the mismanagement of people’s care at homes run by the charity.

Around 50 years ago, a band of parents came together to form a charity to support their children who had autism in Cornwall. Their concerns, at the time in the 1970s, centred around a lack of provision for autistic children in both Cornwall and Devon.

Its website narrates the impressive story of the parents coming together to form Spectrum. They fundraised and cobbled together the money to buy, at first, a boarding school in Devon, and, then, in 1982, a small property in Cornwall for the live-in care of autistic people in the county.

This property, the St Erme Campus near Truro, became Spectrum’s first specialist care service. The trust hired professionals and carers to look after its residents and it grew….

CEO Mary Simpson also said the charity "has a clear action plan, which has been created in partnership with Cornwall Council and the Care Quality Commission, and we have also enlisted the support of specialist care consultants. We are working hard to rectify the issues identified by the Care Quality Commission."

She went on to lay the blame for much of its current challenges at the feet of the Government. (See full statement below)

Spectrum, in 2022, looks after over 100 people in 16 homes across Cornwall. It’s also been hit with a string of bad reports from health and social care watchdog, the Care Quality Commission (CQC), that shows a very different story inside Spectrum’s homes in the present day.

As well as this, former staff at the homes have told horror stories of brutally long shifts and “filthy” homes. And last week, the Charity Commission announced a formal investigation had been opened against Spectrum, with claims of inaction on the CQC reports.

The issues inside Spectrum were first known to the public at large when, last June, Cornwall live reported on the ‘inadequate’ rating that High View care home, Truro, received. The CQC report detailed the crippling understaffing issues present at the home.

One carer told CQC that they were mid-way through a 60-hour shift and acknowledged that it was incredibly unsafe to be so short on personnel. “With two staff I would say it’s definitely unsafe,” they told inspectors. “If [resident’s name] are in a great mood they may be okay, but it is definitely not safe.”

Three of the criticised care homes were in Truro


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