Three care homes for people with learning disabilities have been rated inadequate overall and placed in special measures by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

The unannounced inspections were carried out after the CQC received concerns about the safety of people using the services, staffing levels and the management of services.

Inspectors visited S.E.L.F Limited 14, 15 and 16 Park View, which are all situated in the North East of England, in September and October. The CQC dropped the rating from good to inadequate following their findings.

The CQC received concerns about the safety of residents

They found unfair restrictions placed on residents, including the enforcement of allocated time slots for smoking and vaping and giving fixed timings for mealtimes and receiving medicine.

Debbie Ivanova, CQC’s deputy chief inspector for people with a learning disability and autistic people, said it was “very disappointing to see that people were not supported to have maximum choice and control of their lives” and that these “restrictions must be addressed by the management team as a matter of priority to give people more independence and control.”

The inspectors also found that there were no effective systems in place to prevent and control the spread of Covid-19, including a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) and no designated area for staff to change.

There was also no system for recording staff Covid-19 results which meant the provider had no accurate record of who had tested positive.

The provider also reported that there wasn’t enough staff to meet people’s needs, and there were times when care workers were unable to leave the home due to these staffing shortages.

The CQC will take further action if the necessary improvements are not made

Ms. Ivanova added: “We expect health and social care providers to guarantee autistic people and people with a learning disability the choices, dignity, independence and good access to local communities that most people take for granted and we didn’t see this at S.E.L.F Limited.

“Since the inspection, the provider has told us they are working with the local authority to make improvements to ensure people are safe. We will continue to monitor the services closely and will take further action if we are not assured it is making the necessary improvements.”

The CQC will now closely monitor the three care homes while they are in special measures to ensure that its residents are safe. If fundamental improvements have not been made by the time of the next inspection, CQC will take further enforcement action to protect people.