Safeguarding concerns spark investigation into autism charity

The Charity Commission has launched an inquiry into the running of a charity that supports adults with autism amid a raft of concerns over safeguarding.

The Devon and Cornwall Autistic Community Trust, which is known as Spectrum, has been subject to several critical inspection reports by the Care Quality Commission over its management of residential homes across the Southwest of England.

A lack of action to deal with allegations of abuse, low expectations for autistic adults it supports, and staff shortages are among failures highlighted by inspectors.

The charity runs 16 homes in the South with five handed the inspectorate’s lowest ranking of “inadequate” and eight “requiring improvement”.

Concerns include a failure by the charity to “appropriately report and investigate incidents of alleged abuse”, at its Helston based Trewlawney House.

In ranking the home as “inadequate” last year the Care Quality Commission said that poor staffing levels were restricting the freedom of residents who were regularly “locked in their room”.

Among the charity’s other homes to be graded “inadequate” is its St Erme facility in Truro.

Last year inspectors criticised St Erme’s “poor culture” and “low expectations” for those it is supporting. Staff shortages at the home were also criticised.

Meanwhile, inspectors found that the charity’s Truro based Carrick, was “regularly short staffed and frequently operated at minimum safe staffing levels”.

One member of staff at Carrick worked “routinely worked in excess of 84 hours per week” which “exposed people to a risk of harm and poor quality of life”.

A failure to effectively manage fire risks was among concerns raised by inspectors who visited the charity’s “inadequate” Rose House site in Redruth this year.

At another “inadequate” Truro home run by the charity, called High View, inspectors found that staffing levels “were unsafe and insufficient to meet people’s support needs”.

The Charity Commission is concerned that the charity’s trustees “may have failed to fulfil their legal duties and responsibilities under charity law” following the CQC’s critical inspections.

The regulator says that the trustees “have failed to take sufficient action” to address inspectors concerns, which has sparked the inquiry into whether there has been misconduct and mismanagement in the charity’s administration and governance.

Its inquiry will focus on trustees’ decision making around safeguarding concerns.

In a statement Spectrum’s board said: “We are working closely with the Charity Commission and are confident they will find no misconduct and mismanagement in the administration and governance of our charity.

“Spectrum 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.

“Many of the issues identified by the Care Quality Commission have already been rectified and we believe the Charity Commission will recognise the exceptional effort and progress that has been made by the board of trustees and our leadership team since the Care Quality Commission’s inspections.

“We would like to thank the people we support, their family members and staff for their on-going support of our charity.”

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