Hackney Council’s head of social services faces furious showdown over ‘unsafe’ ‘Housing with Care’ home
- Credit: Polly Hancock
Angry residents and their families came face to face with Hackney’s social care chief to discuss a care home in special measures. The Gazette was there.
“Last year the lift broke down in this block for 10 days and I was trapped on the third floor.”
Wheelchair-bound veteran Jake Rolfe is talking to a packed meeting about the council’s Housing with Care scheme, which has been put into special measures by Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspectors.
“I had to pay people to come in and bring me food,” he continues.
“The management in this unit went home over two consecutive weekends and left me and another man in similar circumstances just trapped up there.”
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Jake, 57, has lived at Rose Court in Holly Street, Haggerston, for six months – since he had a stroke.
“On another night the lift broke and I had to sleep in a room on the ground floor in this chair. What is being done about the sheer incompetence and neglect and basically abusive behaviour by the staff?
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“People have got to pay for this, and some of them are in here now, and they should hang their heads in shame.”
Head of social services Ilona Sarulakis replied: “We have a colleague here who is logging what people are saying in terms of their concerns and comments.”
This was the second of nine meetings to allow residents to share concerns about the supported housing scheme run by Hackney Council. It provides care in 14 separate homes for 250 vulnerable adults aged over 55 with issues like learning disabilities, dementia and mental health problems.
Others also had issues to raise.
“My mother has motor neurone disease, and they gave her a drink on Sunday,” said one attendee. “They put it in front of her and she had to tell them: ‘I can’t drink on my own. I need help with it.’ Every weekend it’s the same with agency staff.”
“There are some good carers but there are some not good carers and there shouldn’t be that inconsistency,” chipped in another woman who claims her mother’s health has “gone downhill” in the 14 months since she has been in the home.
Adult social services have raised a safeguarding concern about her care, and her daughter was so concerned about the state of play at Rose Court she tried to report Housing With Care independently to the CQC – but was told they “don’t respond to individual comments”.
“My mum worries when she knows some carers are going to be on,” she added. “She gets stressed out on a daily basis. She has serious mobility problems and she has to explain every single time there’s someone new.”
These are exactly the problems pinpointed by CQC inspectors, who found care plans didn’t explain the impact of people’s health conditions on their support needs.
“I’m really sorry. That’s not good enough,” apologised Ms Sakaris, who told the 30-strong crowd gathered she was “gutted” at the “inadequate” rating.
“How did it get to this state?” asked one of them.
“You know, that’s a very valid question,” she replied. “Certainly the regulations have changed. The CQC carries out its investigations like Ofsted and it’s very rigorous, so we didn’t change anything in the last two years [since the last inspection]. We basically have been, you know, doing the same forms. Because the feedback last time was good, we had no reasons to believe that we are not doing anything good.”
The relative of another resident pointed out: “But what you weren’t doing is listening to the service users, and if you had listened to and acted on what the service users were saying you would have been outstanding.”
The council must make “significant” improvements to the centres by March 10 or risk being deregistered. A social worker has been enlisted to help draw up personalised care plans.
But Jake said: “My personalised care plan says I should be bathed once a month and I have been here six months I have never once been bathed.”
“We do use a lot of agency staff and that’s the reality,” said Ms Sarulakis later in the meeting.
“That’s the issue,” replied another man.
“And who are they?” asked Jake. “No one here wears a name badge. You do not have a clue who you have spoken to. One day someone is shouting at you and they disappear you don’t know who it is. There is no accountability.”
“Well thank you for those comments,” said Ms Sarulakis.
“I hope you do something,” said Jake.
Hackney Council’s response:
T”his was a meeting for service users, their families and advocates to update them on our response to the recent CQC inspection. It would not be appropriate to comment on individual cases, some of which were raised in confidence, but of course we take any concerns seriously and will follow these up as a priority.
“We are holding a number of these sessions to make sure we can update those affected face-to-face. Healthwatch Hackney and The Advocacy Project have been invited, with service users’ consent, to all of the meetings to act as advocates on their behalf and will be producing an independent report. Making immediate improvements to the service is our highest priority and extra resources have been put in place to fully address the issues as quickly as possible. We are supporting service users, their families and staff, as improvements are brought into place and we are working with CQC to ensure improvements meet their guidelines.”