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Lawyers to meet families with concerns about alleged abuse at Spectrum care homes

Lawyers investigating claims of abuse at Spectrum care homes in Devon and Cornwall will be in Truro to meet families whose loved ones have been affected by alleged negligence and mistreatment on 21 November 2022.

Posted on 16 November 2022

Human rights solicitors Alison Millar and Catriona Rubens will be in the city to meet families and advocates who have called for help about allegations of abuse which chiefly concern possible unlawful deprivation of residents’ liberty, neglect, understaffing, and concerns about the use of residents’ finances. Spectrum provides care facilities specifically for learning disabled and autistic people.

The team will host a meeting which will be open to anyone with concerns about the welfare of their loved ones while resident in Spectrum care homes across the region.

Catriona, who works in law firm Leigh Day’s abuse team, has been contacted by families whose loved ones were resident at St Erme in Truro, The Beach in Alexandra Road, Newquay, Trelawney House in Polladras, Breage, Helston, and Springfield House in Perranporth.

Their stories include residents not being taken outside for prolonged periods, a lack of social interaction and activities, failures to attend to personal care and arrange medical appointments, misuse of finances, insufficient funds for food and activities, and missing possessions.

Families have also reported self-harm behaviours by their loved ones which they believe is linked to anxiety as a result of lack of contact with other people. They also report residents being traumatised by having to quit Spectrum homes at very short notice, something that is particularly difficult for autistic clients for whom planning and preparation for significant changes is very important – for many of the clients, Spectrum had been their home for more than 10 years.

Emma Brokenshire, of Southampton, says her severely autistic brother-in-law, aged 55, appears to have been isolated at Spectrum’s St Erme care home and, like other residents, was traumatised by the decision to move him out of the only home he has known for the past 40 years. “Our relative was one of the luckier ones as we had realised early on closure was inevitable and worked with his social worker to arrange new accommodation for him. However, other residents had no transition opportunities with only 17 days’ notice given, and I have heard heart-breaking stories of residents breaking down in tears when told they had to leave,” she said.

The CQC has rated several Spectrum run homes as ‘Inadequate’ in 2021 and 2022, and has placed several homes in ‘special measures’ due to concerns about residents’ safety. The CQC reports detail severe understaffing at many of the homes leading to residents being unable to go outside in the garden or take part in external activities because there are not enough staff to supervise.

Spectrum homes were run by a charity, Devon and Cornwall Autistic Community Trust, that has since reportedly stopped providing adult care to instead focus on youth facilities. Another company is reported to have taken over 12 of its 16 homes, and the CQC has reported that it is working with Cornwall Council to ensure people’s safety while improvements are made.

In July 2022, the Charity regulator, the Charity Commission, opened an inquiry into Spectrum over safeguarding concerns following the CQC’s inspections.

Leigh Day’s investigations of allegations of abuse at Spectrum care homes are with a view to bringing legal claims against the charity on behalf of former residents who have been affected by poor care and neglect.

At the meeting in Truro on 21 November Catriona and Alison will provide more information about the potential legal claims and listen to families’ concerns about their loved ones’ treatment at Spectrum run homes.

They would also like to welcome families whose loved ones were resident in other Spectrum homes: Carrick, Silverdale and Heightlea, which like Trelawney House, were rated inadequate by the CQC.

Emma Brokenshire said:

“Our family hopes to take legal action against Spectrum because of the shameful way in which our family member was treated. Although he is now starting to settle in his new accommodation, he has clearly been traumatised by isolation and continues to suffer the effects of the way he appears to have been treated during the pandemic.”

Catriona Rubens said:

“The accounts we have heard from relatives of Spectrum residents raise a catalogue of serious concerns about the care provided to learning disabled and autistic people in Spectrum run homes across Devon & Cornwall and echo the recent criticisms of Spectrum’s services by the CQC.

“It seems tragic that this specialist charity, originally set up by parents to ensure their relatives could lead fulfilling, empowered lives, appears to have badly failed in its safeguarding duties towards residents.

“Learning disabled and autistic people deserve to live in safe, suitable and caring accommodation, and not to be subjected to abuse or neglect in their own homes.

“We look forward to meeting with affected families and advocates on 21 November to explore legal options that may be available to them, and to learn more about their concerns.”

If you wish to attend the meeting, please RSVP in advance by contacting Catriona: crubens@leighday.co.uk

This article was updated on 28 February 2023. Since the meeting last year, the team is also working with families whose loved ones were resident at Trewithen House, Treslothan in Camborne, Silverdale in Trewirgie Road, Redruth and Tanglewood, Coombe Road, Lanjeth, St Austell.

Alison Millar
Abuse claims Human rights

Alison Millar

Alison Millar works in the human rights department at Leigh Day, where she is the head of abuse claims

Cat Rubens
Abuse claims Human rights

Catriona Rubens

Catriona Rubens is a senior associate solicitor in the abuse team.

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