Couple `unfit' to run care home

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THE DIRECTOR of a private registered care home for violent and disturbed adults lied about his qualifications, broke health regulations and accepted children into his unit, even though it was not licensed to care for juveniles, according to a report.

An investigation by Wiltshire County Council has uncovered 33 serious breaches of regulations at Everleigh Manor home, including deception, misconduct, financial mismanagement and inadequate medical care.

The home took mentally ill patients from social services departments and top-security units across the country, including Rampton. It is claimed that during his five years as owner and director, Andrew Gunther regularly exceeded the maximum number of people allowed in the home and made false benefit claims which were paid to his company on behalf of the residents.

For the past year, local GPs have refused to accept new patients from Everleigh after officially complaining about its staff. They say the staff knew little about their residents' medical condition and failed to keep appointments. Last year Everleigh's electricity was cut off after unpaid bills of more than pounds 10,000, though it is claimed this was due to power surges.

Wiltshire County Council has now ruled that Mr Gunther, aged 36, and his wife Tracey, aged 32, are unfit to run a residential care home. Their registration for Everleigh and its sister unit, The Willows in Warminster, has been cancelled. They are appealing and local authorities are still funding placements there.

Mr Gunther is said to have claimed he had three A-levels and also a degree from Bristol University. Both are invented; he was a private with the Royal Transport Corps before moving into social work. Yet though he has completed courses in social services he does not hold any significant social work or medical qualifications.

His wife has also been able to work under false credentials. In 1993 when Everleigh Manor was first registered, as a small care home, Mrs Gunther admitted that she had no qualifications. But two years later she applied to register Everleigh as a larger home; as manager, she needed two years' full-time experience and a recognised formal qualification. She suddenly discovered an NVQ in social work gained in 1990.

Last July inspectors went in search of a patient known as B, a 29- year-old with significant disabilities. They were told by Mr Gunther that he was no longer at the manor. However, B's mother confirmed that B was livingin an unregistered cottage in the home's grounds. When the inspectors threatened Mr Gunther with prosecution, he told B's family that they had to move him out and that it was the council's fault.

But B's parents and many of those with family at Everleigh stand by the home. "We want our son to stay there and we think they've done a wonderful job with him," said his mother Angela who recently sent her son back there. "We blame the council for the way they have heartlessly enforced regulations without thinking about standards of care and the good of those living there."

Mr Gunther told The Independent on Sunday that he that he was unable to make an official statement butfelt he had been the victim of a hate campaign by the registration and inspection unit.