Call for inquiry into care homes

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The Independent Online
Residential care home owners are calling for an independent government inquiry into the Buckinghamshire abuse scandal which ended with a string of convictions last week.

Angela Rowe, the director of two homes in Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire, was convicted of ill-treating mentally disabled residents. Two other former members of staff, Lorraine Field and Desmond Tully, were also found guilty of ill-treatment.

The Association for Residential Care, which represents home owners, said yesterday that lessons must be learned for the future.

James Churchill, its chief executive, said: "The regulatory framework failed vulnerable residents over a long period of time. All agencies must learn from this case."

The association intends to raise the matter at a meeting planned with Paul Boateng, the minister with responsibilities for the mentally disabled.

Among the questions it wants answered is why the ill-treatment, which included mental, physical and sexual abuse, was allowed to continue for 10 years before social services ordered a full report.

Although Buckinghamshire social services has said its law-yers advised against closing the homes after the abuse was discovered, the association believes de-registration should have been carried out. It repeated calls for a new national inspectorate, independent of social services departments.

Mr Churchill said: "This case proves that locally controlled inspectorates are not up to the task of protecting vulnerable people in such cases.

"How can we have any confidence that it is not happening somewhere else?"