Carer with ‘violent offence’ conviction sent into home by failing care agency

Allicare, in Mulbarton, was hit with a shock inadequate rating after a visit from the Care Quality C

Allicare, in Mulbarton, was hit with a shock inadequate rating after a visit from the Care Quality Commission (CQC) in July. Photo: GOOGLE STREETVIEW - Credit: Archant

Elderly people placed at risk of 'significant harm', no records of medications, and a staff member with a conviction for violence.

These were just some of the litany of horrors inspectors uncovered at a failing care agency plunged into special measures.

Allicare Ltd, in Mulbarton, was given an inadequate rating after a visit from the Care Quality Commission (CQC) in July saw inspectors slam the agency as unsafe, ineffective, and poorly-led.

But the agency's management has hit back at the regulator and the local authority, claiming their response contesting the report was ignored by inspectors.

And owner Jon Herbert claimed the agency, which was previously rated good across the board at its last inspection in 2016, hit a rocky patch after being overloaded with new care packages by the county council and receiving "a stream of complaints".

cllr Jon Herbert

cllr Jon Herbert - Credit: Archant

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The CQC report, published on September 26, revealed:

- Understaffing meant carers were failing to turn up with users at "significant risk of harm";

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- Managers failed to ensure staff were recruited safely - with carers knowingly sent into people's homes without criminal checks;

- One employee was sent into someone's home who had a conviction for a violent offence;

- 56 of the 87 staff members had done no safeguarding training, with whistle blowers sharing safety concerns prior to the visit;

- Staff didn't check if correct medicines were being given - with errors taking weeks to be spotted and medical advice over potential ill-effects not sought;

- While complaints were ignored or not responded to and incidents were not properly investigated.

Inspectors found the manager "was aware of the decline in the quality of care" following the expansion of the service from 60 to 130 users over the past four years, but had "failed to take action".

Staff were too intimidated to raise concerns with management, and basic induction training was also cut from three days to one, the report found.

Regulators have demanded sweeping improvements be made within six months, including to medication safety and staffing, for the provider to avoid having their registration cancelled, and the county council said they had suspended all new placements with Allicare.

Mr Herbert claimed the failings noted in the report were a consequence of being asked to take on extra care packages by Norfolk County Council (NCC).

"This whole report is based on something that we were trying to help them out with," he said.

"They had a provider failing in north Norfolk and asked us to take on 17 care packages.

"We were meant to take on all seven staff members but after undergoing our training, on the Sunday night before they were due to start, three of them told us they wouldn't transfer over and that left us with not enough staff.

"All our managers went out to cover the care."

He added that the company, who provided home care to around 130 people, had a "stream of complaints" due to users not receiving the same care as before, but said: "When we told CQC what had happened and sent a 29-page response [to the report] they completely ignored us.

"We were being punished for something we had no control over."

Mr Herbert also denied the company knowingly sent employees in without DBS checks, and claimed records had been falsified by a disgruntled employee who later revealed the checks had not been in place.

He added: "The conviction was two years ago.

"It was a spent conviction and we did send him in on one call but we didn't do it knowingly.

"He shouldn't have gone in but we were told he had a DBS check."

He added that best practice guidelines state people with spent convictions should be encouraged to work in the care industry.

Mr Herbert also said only 10 staff had no safeguarding training, with the remaining employees having taken an online course, and that induction training was only cut to one day as a refresher for experienced staff.

And he added that medicine audits were done regularly but problems arose from staff not always signing off on the charts, while he claimed the only complaints that hadn't been responded to were when the complainant was at fault.

"We've had very few calls missed and those were when the client said they wouldn't have that person in," he added.

"It is easier for ongoing care just to let the matter slide."

He added: "I want to reassure clients and staff that we are no longer inadequate and we have already taken action and will continue to deliver excellent care.

"Our next inspection report will prove that."

A spokesperson for Norfolk County Council (NCC) said: "We have been working closely with our partners including the CQC to investigate concerns regarding Allicare.

"We have suspended all new placements with Allicare and are reviewing all packages of care to ensure service users are happy with the quality of care they are receiving."

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