A confidential report by Buckinghamshire County Council, which has been leaked to the Independent, reveals that men and women at the homes, run by Longcare Ltd, were raped, forced to eat outside and locked in their rooms - sometimes for days at a time.
The document, compiled by the council's social services inspection unit, reports that one man suffered severe anal bleeding for days before he was taken to a doctor. The inspectors' report concludes that residents were 'continually subjected to a catalogue of abuse, deprivation, humiliation and torment'.
Council officials believe the allegations of abuse - which amount to the worst residential care scandal since systematic child sex abuse was discovered in Leicestershire homes in 1991 - are well founded. But the council has decided not to revoke the homes' licence.
It has also refused to publish the report, researched over several months and completed in June, based on witness testimony from former members of staff at the homes, and others. Residents were not interviewed. In an internal memo, Jean Jeffrey, director of social services, advises no action should be taken to close the homes because it would require proof that the new managers were 'unfit', and although 'there is sufficent material to conduct such a case, there is also absolute certainty that it would be vigorously defended'.
Buckinghamshire has four residents at the homes and, according to the documents, is 'having their placement reviewed'. The authority has taken the homes off its approved contractor list and will not be sending any further placements. At least five London boroughs use the homes. Richmond, which has three placements, said: 'We are aware of the allegations and take them very seriously.' Hackney, with three residents, said: 'We are looking for more appropriate placements.'
In a statement issued last night, Buckinghamshire County Council said it had acted in the best interests of residents, and that legal advisers had recommended against taking action to close the home.
Gordon Rowe and his wife Angela, who set up the homes and managed them until late last year, were yesterday said by a relative to have gone away for a few days. The homes are now formally managed by their son, Nigel, and a family friend, Ray Craddock, both of whom were working in non-management capacities during the period of alleged abuse. Mr Rowe and Mr Craddock were not prepared to comment. Neither was alleged in the report to have abused residents. Both they and Gordon and Angela Rowe deny the allegations. Thames Valley Police has been passed a copy of the inspectors' report.
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