22 Jun 2021

Autistic man wins payout over ‘horrific’ care he received from charity

Health and Social Care Editor

The sister of a man with autism, who received a payout from his supported living provider after they were accused of neglect, has said there are “so many failings” across the “whole” care system.

Speaking exclusively to Channel 4 News, Jules Hussey said she was shocked by the “horrific” care her brother Martin, 54, received in his supported living accommodation.

She started legal proceedings against the National Autistic Society (NAS), who ran the south London service, after compiling a list of failings in Martin’s care including failure to protect him from physical abuse and sexual harassment.

The NAS settled before it reached court and agreed to pay £70,000 in compensation, but Ms Hussey believes their case illustrates a systemic failure that is potentially exposing thousands of vulnerable people to neglect.

NAS Chief Executive Caroline Stevens apologised to Mr Hussey and his family, adding that they “worked hard” for years to resolve the family’s concerns and were “rigorous in our reporting to the authorities”.

‘He was not safe’

Mr Hussey’s family believed he would receive the best possible care when they secured a place for him in a supported living home in Croydon in 2015 run by the NAS.

In the ensuing years Ms Hussey documented numerous failings in her brother’s care including a time when he was locked out of his home at night, occasions when he missed medical appointments and “poor assistance” with his personal hygiene.

“It sickens me, the notion of taking a charity to court,” she told this programme. “(But) he was not safe, he was not safe in his own home at all.”

She added: “Within three months of Martin moving in, his toenails were so long they were cutting into his skin.”

A former carer at Mr Hussey’s accommodation, who we are not naming to protect their identity, has supported Ms Hussey’s accusations and said they left because they didn’t think the residents were safe.

‘So many failings’

Supported living accommodation for people with learning disabilities is not regulated by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

Last year the NAS said that residents are at risk of abuse because homes are not inspected.

Ms Hussey said: “There are so many failings across the system… Supported living falls into a bit of a gap and people aren’t really checking up on it that regularly.”

She added: “It scares the living daylights out of me how many hundreds, if not thousands, if not more older people with autism are just stuck in a supported house and left to have the minimum done to them.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has promised to overhaul the adult social care system.

Local authority, charity and care leaders have repeatedly warned that the sector is on its knees and facing a funding crisis.

The Prime Minister was due to meet Health Secretary Matt Hancock and Chancellor Rishi Sunak today to make decisions on adult social care funding, but the meeting was cancelled.

‘We are very sorry’

NAS Chief Executive Caroline Stevens said: “We are very sorry that we didn’t get things right for Martin.

“Our staff team worked hard over a number of years to address the family’s concerns, as we would with any worried family, and apologised where we could have done things better. And we were rigorous in our reporting to the authorities.”

She added that the charity felt it was not in “anyone’s interest” to go through a “costly and potentially lengthy legal process”, and so they agreed to settle the legal proceedings.

She said: “We do everything possible to make sure that all our services meet the high standards that are expected by the people we support and their families.

“Most of our services are rated as good by regulators and family satisfaction is high – but we didn’t get it right for Martin and his family and we want to reiterate our apology to them.”

Reporting: Victoria Macdonald

Producer: Toby Bakare

Camera Operator: Stephen Hird