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June 19th 2014

Care Home Abuse

Care homes operator pays compensation to family of elderly resident subjected to ‘sickening’ abuse

Simon Wilson

Simon Wilson

Head of Inquest Services Group & Senior Solicitor

Care homes operator pays compensation to family of elderly resident subjected to ‘sickening’ abuse

The owners of a care home where staff were caught on camera physically and verbally abusing an 89-year-old woman have finally agreed a compensation settlement with her family. Staff at Oakfoss House Residential Care Home (now named Trees Care Home), in Weavers Road, Pontefract, West Yorkshire, were secretly filmed by the family of Ivy Robinson and caught subjecting her to neglect and abuse over a five day period in November 2011.

The owners of a care home where staff were caught on camera physically and verbally abusing an 89-year-old woman have finally agreed a compensation settlement with her family.

Staff at Oakfoss House Residential Care Home (now named Trees Care Home), in Weavers Road, Pontefract, West Yorkshire, were secretly filmed by the family of Ivy Robinson and caught subjecting her to neglect and abuse over a five day period in November 2011.

Emma Bryan was jailed for her part in the abuse, described in court as ‘sickening’, with colleague Katherine Wallis handed a community order.

Mrs Robinson was assaulted and neglected, with video footage showing her being dragged across a room, making her scream in pain, and being threatened with violence.

Despite the clear evidence, the admission of ill-treatment and the subsequent court sentences, it has taken until now for East Yorkshire-based owners, Denestar Ltd to admit their liabilities and pay compensation to Mrs Robinson’s daughter Angela Wood, and son-in-law Simon.

Neil Hudgell Solicitors has acted on behalf of the family, and the settlement comes after a survey of people across the country revealed almost two thirds of people would not trust care home staff to provide a safe and adequate service to an elderly relative.

Less than a quarter of people questioned across the country said they would feel comfortable putting a loved one into care.

Simon Wilson, the solicitor who handled the case, says the results are unsurprising given the number of cases of neglect and mistreatment making the headlines, with this being one of two cases handled by Neil Hudgell Solicitors – at homes ran by different owners – involving relatives making secret recordings to uncover poor treatment.

“Both were very troubling and saddening cases,” said Mr Wilson.

“Not only have we seen elderly patients treated disgracefully, but we have also seen the impact it has on the relatives too. These are usually sons and daughters, and they are left feeling they have let their parents down by not being there for them. Nothing could be further from the truth though.

“When families put their elderly relatives into care, they do so because they have recognised they cannot commit the time to looking after them adequately. They quite rightly expect the very best care when they are placed in a home.”

Growing mistrust around the care elderly people currently receive in homes across the country was also evident in the survey, which was carried out amongst more than 1,000 people across the UK aged from 18 to 55.

80 per cent of those questioned admitted stories of abuse and neglect left them feeling ‘frightened’, whilst only 23 per cent of people said they would be comfortable putting a family member into care.

Mrs Robinson has since died, but her family are now campaigning to end suffering to the elderly, and are fighting for better care for others living in care homes across the country.

They say the agony of their two-and-a-half year fight for justice has underpinned their belief that major changes need to be made across the care home industry, calling for CCTV cameras to be made compulsory in all residential care homes.

“My wife and I have made a pact after all of this that neither of us will ever go into a residential care home, we won’t let it happen to one another,” said Mr Wood.

“We would advise relatives to ask questions of their relatives’ care, demand the best service, and if you see any signs of nervousness or upset in the one you love, demand answer.

“We were labelled ‘complainers’ and ‘moaners’ when we raised issues. It was only when we took action and filmed the abuse taking place that the truth came out and our worst fears were confirmed.

“CCTV cameras have to become compulsory across the board, as it is the only way of people seeing a true picture of what goes on when visiting times are over. People will always point to intrusion, but the footage would only need to be viewed by professionals, with random pieces of footage selected for viewing.

“The home owners will object of course, because they are businesses at the end of the day and the focus is on making money and not care, we have seen that first hand.

“We haven’t given up fighting yet. We are convinced there is a much bigger picture to emerge and we will continue fighting to ensure elderly people get the care they deserve. We owe it to mum to carry on campaigning, and that is what we intend to do.”

Given his involvement in recent cases with Neil Hudgell Solicitors, Mr Wilson – who secured compensation for both the pain and suffering caused to Mrs Robinson, and for the time her daughter Angela had to spend at the home herself due to her being concerned over her care – believes the residential care home industry has a tough challenge ahead to win back public confidence.

“The results of this recent survey send out a very clear message that the general public have a deep mistrust of the care elderly people are currently receiving in care homes across the country,” he said.

“This is somewhat saddening given the amount of great work done by many carers who provide excellent care, often on low wages and in difficult circumstances, with patients who can be aggressive and violent themselves.

“It appears that going forward, these damaging incidents of abuse will lead to more people feeling they need to care for relatives themselves, something which will clearly put more pressure on their home and work life.”

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