The CQC has been criticised for fining rather than prosecuting a charity following allegations of the mistreatment and abuse of some residents.
The watchdog issued a £4,000 fine to the National Autistic Society (NAS) following a review by the Somerset Safeguarding Adults Board last year that assessed allegations of bullying and disrespectful behaviour towards residents at Mendip House.
Shadow Minister for Mental Health and Social Care Barbara Keeley told The Guardian: “People are very angry and disturbed about this. People with autistic children are horrified there has been no prosecution.”
In her letter to the CQC she described it a “serious and high-profile case”, adding: “The National Autistic Society has an income of over £50m in relation to social care services. Your fine represents 0.1% of this income, equivalent to only one or two weeks’ fees for one of the individuals formerly resident in Mendip House. Given the scale of the problem encountered in Mendip House, many interested parties will feel that a fine of this size does not recognise the reality of the situation.”
The CQC began steps to cancel the registration of the home in 2016 after receiving safeguarding concerns from staff members but the NAS decided to close the service and it was removed from the register in November of that year.
Debbie Westhead, Interim Chief Inspector of Adult Social Care at the Care Quality Commission (CQC), said: “The people who lived in Mendip House were very badly failed by those whose responsibility it was to care for them.”
Ms Westhead said the CQC had insufficient evidence to prosecute the NAS.
She added: “The descriptions of abuse at Mendip House are extremely distressing and the final decision not to proceed with the prosecution was a complex and difficult one. Separately, the police explored the possibility of criminal prosecutions against individuals but were also unable to proceed due to lack of corroborating evidence.
“The action that we were able to take was a Fixed Penalty Notice against the provider for failing to protect people from financial abuse, resulting in a fine of £4000, which is the maximum amount allowed in law.”