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Shoosmiths was instructed by a very concerned parent to investigate a claim involving mis-treatment of his adult daughter, a vulnerable adult who suffers from Down’s syndrome and autism, in a specialist care home for adults with autism.
Our client, Mr W, became concerned for the welfare of his daughter shortly after she moved into the care home in September 2013. She had lived in care environments for almost three years before this and her family were told that no placements other than this particular care home could be made available and that local authority support would be withdrawn from their daughter unless she moved into that home.
Covert Video revealed abuse
Mr W noticed that his daughter became unsettled following her move and raised his concerns with the staff on various occasions. However, he was so worried that his concerns were being ignored that he set up a covert video recorder in his daughter’s bedroom.
In November 2013, over two months after she had moved in, Mr W reviewed the video imaging that had been recorded. He was shocked and angered when that video showed a member of staff at the care home physically abusing his daughter: grabbing her by the left bicep, shouting in her face, pushing her onto the bed and slapping her calf.
As a consequence of her Down's syndrome and autism she was extremely vulnerable and had been unable to tell anybody, including her parents, about the abuse. Mr W informed the local authority’s safeguarding officer who watched the majority of the video footage.
Local Authority safeguarding team noted further concerns
The extremely concerning behaviour of the care staff was noted including the fact that Mr W’s daughter was left unattended in her room for hours at a time with no checks and no interaction. In addition, despite the fact that she had local authority funding for two carers, night-time checks were not being undertaken at all but were being falsely logged on her records.
The video evidence also revealed that a contractor was allowed unsupervised access to her bedroom and put stickers on her electrical equipment to state it had been PAT tested when, in fact, it had not. The footage also showed our client’s daughter was repeatedly ignored by various members of staff, including requests for food and drink; and there was a suggestion that she was being given covert medication in drinks.
Mr W removed his daughter from the care home immediately and set about trying to find her alternative accommodation. In the meantime, the police prosecuted one of the employees of the care home who was dismissed. A criminal trial was held but the employee was subsequently acquitted.
Shoosmiths initiate civil claim
Shoosmiths was instructed by Mr W to investigate a civil claim on behalf of his daughter, who, due to her vulnerability, lacked the capacity to instruct solicitors herself. Rebecca Sellers, a clinical negligence expert, assisted Mr W in investigating and pursuing the claim.
Whilst the facts of mis-treatment in this case appeared clear Rebecca had to instruct a psychiatrist specialising in patients with learning difficulties to report on the harm Mr W’s daughter had suffered as a consequence of that mis-treatment in the care home, given that she was unable to communicate this.
Settlement secures a brighter future for vulnerable adult
Aided by this expert evidence, Rebecca ultimately succeeded in obtaining a five figure settlement for Mr W’s daughter’s experiences. The damages award enabled Mr W to make adaptations to a property bought for his daughter to live in outside the care sector which, together with a support package, would improve the quality of her life and remove the risk of any future abuse in a care home environment.