Care charity under investigation following teenager’s death

The Charity Commission has launched an investigation into a therapeutic care charity following an inquest into the death of a teenager in its care.

Sophie Bennett was found hanged in Lancaster Lodge, a registered care home in west London run by Richmond Psychosocial Foundation International, two days after the 19-year-old was admitted in May 2016.

An inquest into her death was critical of the charity for failings in keeping beneficiaries safe and labelled its leadership and oversight of the charity’s board as “grossly inadequate”.

Following publication of the coroner’s report the charity regulator has opened a statutory inquiry focusing on the charity’s governance.

Being looked at is trustees’ compliance with their legal duties under charity law, their response to concerns raised by the coroner and any changes that are being put in place as a result.

The Charity Commission is also working closely with adult social services at the London Boroughs of Richmond upon Thames and Wandsworth as well as health watchdog, the Care Quality Commission.

“This Coroner’s report made for highly distressing reading. Those that run charities must put the safety and wellbeing of vulnerable people in their care first at all times,” said Michelle Russell, the Charity Commission’s director of investigations, monitoring and enforcement.

“The coroner found that governance failings at the charity directly contributed to Sophie’s death. We want to see the charity address those failings as a matter of urgency. The opening of this inquiry reflects the seriousness of the coroner’s findings and our concerns.”

The Charities Commission adds that it has been in contact with the charity on a number of matters since 2016 but scrutiny of safeguarding governance had been put on hold pending the inquest and action by other agencies.

The charity no longer cares for people at Lancaster Lodge, with the last resident moving out in 2016.

It currently runs a Twickenham residential home and supported living service, called White House, which during its last CQC inspection, in 2017, was found to be “good”.

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