Care home owner hits out at council 'cruelty'
THE owner of a troubled care home near Cirencester whose residents were removed for their own protection has spoken out for the first time.
Earlier this year, Gloucestershire County Council removed 12 adults with learning disabilities and dementia from Greyhound Farmhouse in Barnsley to protect them from the possibility of harm, following an inspection two days previously.
That inspection uncovered financial and physical abuse against residents by a senior staff member, although a subsequent police investigation found insufficient evidence to press charges.
Now Greyhound Farmhouse owner Wendy Williams has hit out, saying GCC's actions were "downright cruelty" that failed to protect the needs of those residents.
"It was the most distressing thing," the former headteacher said. "They came with vans and minibuses. We had two hours to prepare them for what was happening and they couldn’t take all their things because there wasn’t room for them.
"The people who lived here were very much a family – a lot had been here for 15 or more years – and suddenly they were being split up and taken to different places to people who knew nothing about them."
She said the unnamed senior staff member had been suspended from duty before GCC's raid, as soon as she became aware of the allegations.
She added that the physical abuse related to the way in which a "challenging" resident had been put into a car to take them to hospital, after they had cut themselves during a tantrum.
Mrs Williams labelled GCC’s system as flawed for failing to respect the individual needs and wishes of the residents.
Senior support worker Phil Day worked for three years at the care home until August this year.
He said: “It was awful. It happened so quickly. The ones that could were saying they didn’t want to go.”
But Chris Haynes, Learning Disabilities officer for GCC, strongly denied these claims.
He said the residents were fully aware of the situation and had made their own choice to move.
"The circumstances and options were clearly explained to them and an independent advocate was on site to ensure each person, along with their views and wishes, was treated with respect and dignity," he said.
"There were a number of concerns which were the subject of a police investigation and which led us to believe that the need to offer alternatives was both warranted and immediate.
"The health, well being and safety of each individual is our primary consideration."
Health watchdog the Care Quality Commission visited Greyhound Farmhouse ten days after GCC's action. It published its report in June highlighting a catalogue of failings, including filthy and inadequate living conditions.
Mrs Williams said that was unfair and inaccurate as at the time the company was taking advantage of the residents' absence to redecorate, ready for their return.
CQC spokesman Nick Kerswell said: "Our inspectors stand by the report. We had very serious concerns that went well beyond a bit of paintwork, which she needed to address."
But members of staff at the car home also defended the way in which the home had been run.
Former deputy manager John Hall said Greyhound Farmhouse was one of the best places he had worked at in 17 years in the industry. He retired from the care profession late last year.
"It was a real home," he said. "Wendy was seen as big mum by the people living here."
Mrs Williams voluntarily closed the home in April but is continuing to run Gloucestershire-based Options Holidays Limited, which provides holidays for adults with learning disabilities and dementia.
• The company is being taken to an employment tribunal in Bristol next month, by four former employees of Greyhound Farmhouse who claim they are owed thousands of pounds worth of redundancy payments and outstanding wages.