Over the past few months Healthwatch England has been learning of vulnerable people in England living in unacceptable conditions and receiving poor levels of care.
The reason? A lack of regulatory scrutiny and quality assurance to cover all services.
In England there are 122,085 adults with serious mental health conditions living independently, the majority of whom will either be living in supported living accommodation and receiving home care and support from an agency, or using day care centres.
Concerns have come from across the country. Healthwatch Richmond has heard that there are a number of supported living environments classed as private residences where residents receive care from a home care agency. Because the residences are not registered with the Care Quality Commission, the CQC is unable to inspect them.
The health and wellbeing of people who live in these places is at risk because no one is accountable if things go wrong.
Healthwatch West Berkshire was contacted by a woman named Pearl who was shocked to discover that her son, who has schizophrenia, was living in squalid conditions despite an agency being employed to support him to maintain his home.
Pearl tried to complain to the CQC but no action could be taken as neither her son’s residence nor the agency were subject to regulatory inspection or supervision. She has since launched a campaign to improve mental health services.
In Northamptonshire, local Healthwatch was contacted by its local authority expressing concerns for day care centre users after a woman contacted them because her daughter had experienced verbal and emotional abuse from staff at a centre. Her concerns did not meet the council’s safeguarding investigation threshold so it was unable to investigate her complaint.
The councils we have spoken to are frustrated by these incidents where an individual is at risk but no statutory action can be taken. We share their frustrations.
While I recognise that supported living and personal budgets are making an important contribution to giving people more control over their lives, it is crucial that is balanced with quality assurance.
We have asked the Department of Health to look into regulatory arrangements for services.
Now, we are calling on councils in England to gather evidence. If you have similar concerns about gaps where your regulatory powers may fall short, get in touch with Healthwatch, so we can continue to put pressure on the system and work with the new government to ensure appropriate measures are put in place to address these concerns.
Katherine Rake, chief executive, Healthwatch England