Autistic campaigners are to protest outside the headquarters of a national autism charity next week to highlight what they say is its abhorrent failure to act on a regime of abuse that took place at one of its care homes.The protest in London on 29 March by two autistic-led organisations – Autistic Inclusive Meets and AutisticUK – will highlightthe lack of justice for those abused at Mendip House, in Highbridge, Somerset. Officialreports show the National Autistic Society (NAS) failed to share the results ofinternal investigations into Mendip House with Somerset County Council or theCare Quality Commission (CQC).But there isalso anger that CQC decided earlier this month not to prosecute the charity,and instead fined it just £4,000 for financial abuse by staff, despite theregime of “taunting, mistreatment and humiliation of residents”.After awhistleblower came forward three years ago, a council investigation revealed [PDF] widespread abuse at the home.CQC had failedto uncover and halt the abuse through its inspection regime, and had not inspected the home for morethan two years bythe time it was contacted by the whistleblower.It thencarried out an urgent inspection in May 2016 and began civil enforcement actionto close Mendip House.A councilinvestigation discovered that staff had thrown cake at autistic service-users,taunted them with food, and used their money to pay for staff meals on outings,with nearly £10,000 later having to be repaid.One residentwas sent to his room because he refused to eat an onion, another was made tocrawl on the floor on all fours, and a resident “absconded” from the homewithout staff realising.Medication wentmissing, and one resident was said to be “known to flinch in the presence ofparticular employees”.Newspaper reports also suggest that one resident was “slapped,forced to eat chillies and repeatedly thrown into a swimming pool”.One report suggests that one service-user was forced toeat a pizza covered in mustard, and yogurt mixed with mustard, and when theywere sick, had to drink their vomit in a glass of water. An audit byNAS in October 2015 identified “43 areas for improvement”, but the charityfailed to report this to CQC. And althoughfive members of staff – including the manager and deputy manager – were sacked,and Mendip House was closed in August 2016 before CQC could take any furtherregulatory action, concerns have also been raised about six other services on NAS’slarge Somerset Court site, which remain open.Asafeguarding review commissioned by the council revealed that “criticalinformation” about the wider Somerset Court site, including “poor staffconduct, alleged assaults and drug use or sale”, had not been shared beyondsenior managers at Somerset Court, who took no action.The council’sown inquiry concluded that NAS was “a large provider where the risks of themnot investigating and managing safeguarding incidents effectively in theirservices remains high”.It also highlightedconcerns about the charity’s “staff recruitment, incident reporting,decision-making, disciplinary procedures and the attitude of the seniormanagement”.EmmaDalmayne, chief executive of AIM, said CQC’s decision to fine NAS only £4,000,and not to prosecute the charity, was “disgusting”.She said: “Weneed to say this can’t happen again. We can’t take this lying down, we can’tjust say nothing.”She added: “Ican’t understand as an autistic adult, as an owner of an autistic organisation,how this could happen. “There’s nojustice for the victims, no justice for their families. “The NAS isworth millions, £4,000 is what it costs approximately to keep someone of highlycomplex needs in care for two weeks and that’s all they were fined, that’s allthey were worth: £4,000. I’m devastated.”Errol Kerr, chairof Autistic UK, said: “The entire situation surrounding Mendip House isabhorrent. “Not onlyhave the NAS attempted to suppress knowledge about the abuse, but they haverefused to take moral responsibility even in the face of a CQC investigation. “What isworse, however, is that the body that is supposed to enforce codes of goodpractice, the CQC, has let us down on every level. “Ruling thata fine of £4,000 was all that was needed in this situation clearly shows that theCQC has no regard for the years of inflicted trauma, manipulation andexploitation of at-risk, vulnerable autistic people.”He said itwas “of paramount importance” to defend the autistic people who were affected.NASapologised for the abuse, which it said was “appalling”, and the failure oflocal managers to take action when abuse was reported to them.An NASspokesperson said the charity “should not have allowed this mistreatment andabuse to happen” and that it had introduced a “range of improvements” since2016.He said itwas still running the other services at Somerset Court because “there is aneed”. Asked how NAScould speak on behalf of autistic people on rights issues after what hadhappened, he said: “We will never stop campaigning with and for autistic peopleand their families.“We don’tbelieve that withdrawing from active campaigning would benefit anyone.”Askedwhether its long-serving chief executive, Mark Lever, should consider his ownposition, the spokesperson said he had already announced – last month – that hewould be leaving the charity.Thespokesperson added: “We want to make sure that any protest runs as smoothly aspossible and are of course ready to cooperate in any way we can. “As at lastyear’s protest, we will be ready to hear their concerns and welcome theopportunity to discuss the changes we’ve made to our systems and practicessince 2016.”CQC has declinedto say whether its failure to inspect Mendip House for more than two yearsbefore the whistleblower came forward had helped the abusers avoid exposure.It has also declinedto say why it allowed the other Somerset Court services to stay open and why itfailed to expose the abusive regime through its regular inspection process,rather than having to be alerted by a whistle-blower.But Debbie Westhead, CQC’s interim chief inspector of adult social care,said in a statement:“The people who lived in Mendip House were very badly failed by thosewhose responsibility it was to care for them. “When CQCinspected in May 2016 we rated Mendip House as inadequate, and began action tocancel the registration of Mendip House. “This actionwas overtaken by the National Autistic Society decision to close the service; adecision that we supported.“We alsoinvestigated whether we could prosecute the National Autistic Society forfailing to keep people safe, but were not able to do so due to insufficientevidence. “Thedescriptions of abuse at Mendip House are extremely distressing and the finaldecision not to proceed with the prosecution was a complex and difficult one. “Separately,the police explored the possibility of criminal prosecutions againstindividuals but were also unable to proceed due to lack of corroboratingevidence. “The action that we were able to take was a fixed penalty notice against the provider for failing to protect people from financial abuse, resulting in a fine of £4,000, which is the maximum amount allowed in law.”A note from the editor:Please consider making a voluntary financial contribution to support the work of DNS and allow it to continue producing independent, carefully-researched news stories that focus on the lives and rights of disabled people and their user-led organisations. Please do not contribute if you cannot afford to do so, and please note that DNS is not a charity. It is run and owned by disabled journalist John Pring and has been from its launch in April 2009. Thank you for anything you can do to support the work of DNS…
YOU can watch top level Super League action for a couple of quid more than a console game.Why bother with the latest fad when you can enjoy 26 matches – that’s all Saints home and away fixtures – in the open air, in some of the best facilities Rugby League has to offer?Junior Season Tickets for 2013 are simply superb value.For £1.93 a match you can see all Saints games in 2013, home and away, and secure a spot in the West or East Stands at Langtree Park.If you want to sit, then it’s just £3.65 per game in the Silver Blocks of the North and South Stands.Season Ticket Holders can also enjoy half priced Magic Tickets, five per cent off all Saints ISC leisurewear, reduced Match Day fares on Arriva bus services in St Helens, priority for cup and playoff tickets and discounted away travel.So what are you waiting for? Messi and his mates can wait… get down to the Ticket Office at Langtree Park, with your folks, and sign up for 2013.For details on season tickets click here, or pop into the Ticket Office at Langtree Park. You can buy here.
A SAINTLY welcome to our sponsors for this Thursday’s Super League clash with Catalans Dragons.MATCH SPONSORS – Haydock ParkWe are proud to announce a partnership with Haydock Park.Haydock Park is ideally situated just off the M6 at Newton-Le-Willows and also the East Lancashire road A580.Part of the “Jockey Club”, Haydock Park isn’t just a racecourse, they host many different events throughout the year with some great artists performing.To find out more about what is coming up this year visit their website at www.haydock.thejockeyclub.co.ukMATCH BALL SPONSORS – Warrington AudiWe are also proud to welcome tonight’s Match Ball Sponsors Warrington Audi.Part of the Jardine Motors Group, Warrington Audi have taken up the opportunity to become the Match Programme Sponsor at every league game throughout 2016 – and today will sponsor the ball.Situated just off the Gemini Retail Park in Warrington, they are committed to delivering an exceptional level of customer service, worthy of the Audi brand.Their experienced personnel will assist you wherever and whenever they can, as they strive to make your visit to their centre as enjoyable as possibleTo find out more why not visit them at Warrington Audi, Charon Way, Gemini Retail Park, Westbrook, Warrington, Cheshire, WA5 7YD or click here.MATCH PROGRAMME SPONSORS – Enterprise Credit UnionWelcome this week to our Programme Sponsors for the first time, Enterprise Credit Union.Enterprise Credit Union is a financial co-operative that exist for the benefits of its members.ECU is open to those who live and/or work in the Knowsley, Liverpool and St Helens Boroughs of Merseyside.The Credit Union is owned and controlled by its members.Its mission is to provide its members with access to safe, affordable financial services and encourage the development of good financial practice.To find out more about the service they provide visit their website at www.enterprisecreditunion.orgCORPORATE SPONSORS – Pet Identity InsuranceThis week’s corporate sponsors are a familiar name at the club now, Pet Identity Insurance.Pet Identity are also the main sponsors of Boots and also supply the benefits of our Pet Membership PlansBased in St Helens, Pet ID are a local insurance company that specialise in dog chipping and other pet care services with many years of experience in the veterinary sector.For further information visit their website at www.petidentityuk.info/insuranceTHIS WEEK’S FEATURED PLAYER SPONSOR – Luke Thompson & Atelea VeaMark Thompson transport is a family run local business currently operating in transport, logistics and supply chain.Fleet size is continually increasing due to the success of their operating model, which is built upon customer focus, reliable cost effective service, using state of the art technology, underpinned by knowledgeable friendly staff.Based in Stretton, Warrington, they are in an envious position, allowing them to operate nationally, benefiting from maximising both drivers hours and working time directive effectively.From multi-national blue chip companies to smaller individual firms, they have maintained a loyal customer base, which is underpinned by their professional long serving staff.Mark Thompson Transport operate environmentally friendly vehicles, fitted with the latest technology enabling the team to monitor tracking, driver performance, completion time and vehicle management.Mark Thompson transport can be contacted on Tel: 01925 266 595 or visit their website for more information www.markthompsontransport.co.uk
SUPER League (Europe) is delighted to announce that UK based bookmakers Betfred will become the title partner of Rugby League’s elite club competition, the Betfred Super League, for the next three years.Since brothers Fred and Peter Done opened their first store in Salford in 1967, Betfred has grown to become the world’s largest independent bookmaker, with over 1,300 stores nationwide and Head Offices in Birchwood, Warrington.The company will have naming rights to the Betfred Super League in their 50th year of trading and will be showcased at grounds across the country in front of more than two million spectators each year. The brand will also benefit from featuring across TV and radio through Super League partners Sky Sports, BBC TV, BBC 5Live Radio and talkSPORT.Following the announcement of the partnership, Chief Executive Nigel Wood, said: “Betfred is a well-recognised household name and I am delighted to welcome them to the sport as the new title sponsors of the Betfred Super League. Building on increased financial investment from the previous title sponsor, Betfred is the latest major company to recognise the advantages of associating their brand with Rugby League and shows the strength of our sport in the commercial market. I’m sure this new exciting partnership will bring great benefits to both parties.“I have met with owner Fred Done, who is passionate about Rugby League and we look forward to working closely with him, everyone at Betfred and our member clubs to continue to increase the visibility of our sport over the next three years.“Finally we would also like to pass on our sincere thanks to First Utility for their support of Rugby League for the previous three years.”The deal, which will begin in 2017, will complement Betfred’s other partnerships which include being UK horseracing’s biggest sponsor and their current sponsorship of the Betfred World Snooker Championships.Topping the list of the North West’s Top 200 Businesses for the fourth year running, Betfred has previously supported the game for a number of years at club level and in a number of advertising campaigns and they are committed to assisting Super League in driving the competition’s profile.Speaking about the partnership, Betfred boss Fred Done, said: “Next year will be Betfred’s 50th birthday and what better way to celebrate than by becoming title sponsor of the Betfred Super League! I am delighted to sign such a high profile deal and, having met with Nigel Wood and his team I truly believe that we are a perfect fit for Super League where we will hope to match the real passion displayed by the fans, players, media partners and everyone involved throughout the Rugby League.”Betfred will become the official Super League title partner from 2017 – 2019.