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Tribunal blocks plans for ‘institutional’ care home for people with learning disabilities

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A tribunal has backed a decision by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) to block the opening of a “campus style” care home.

Lifeways Community Care (Lifeways) had applied to vary a condition of its registration by opening an additional location to provide accommodation and personal care to young people with learning disabilities and autism.

However, the tribunal panel’s unanimous view was that the care home looked “institutional” and had characteristics of a “campus style setting”.

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The panel also felt that the care home and the extent to which it “departs from national policy and guidance” creates “unacceptable and series risks to service users in the provision of care”.

The Spring Lane facility, previously an NHS care home, was proposed for Walsall, West Midlands. It would have accommodated nine people and split up in to three units, offering three en-suite bathrooms with a shared kitchen and living room facilities and three self-contained flats.

When the plans were submitted in April 2018, the CQC visited the location and found that the proposed care home looked “more like a hospital” and did not follow national guidance which advocates small domestic models of care.

On 21 September 2018, CQC confirmed with Lifeways that they would refuse the variation in registration.

As part of the appeal hearing the Tribunal panel carried out a site visit at the proposed care home; it was only after this visit that the panel heard oral evidence on behalf of both Lifeways and the CQC.

The tribunal concluded: “The national policy and guidance is (and is supposed to be) aspirational. It seeks to transform existing care provision going forward. The panel accepts that the evidence establishes that the small domestic model of care promoted by the policy and guidance is (despite the challenges involved) realistic, workable and achievable”.

Welcoming the decision, Joyce Frederick, deputy chief inspector for Registration at CQC said: “I am delighted the First-tier Tribunal has recognised that our decision to refuse this variation in registration was justified and in the best interests of those who would have potentially used this service.

“The panel agreed with the analysis of CQC witnesses that to allow registration in these circumstances would not promote the “Transforming Care agenda” and that “if we accept Good Enough we can’t transform the service and achieve the necessary change.”

“This recognises the important role that the CQC has in making decisions about registration that protect and promote the health, safety and welfare of people with complex learning disabilities and/or autism.”

A spokesperson for Lifeways said: “Lifeways are disappointed by the tribunal decision, as we felt strongly that the homes we are providing are of a high standard, meet the needs of local people, and also meet the principles of ‘Registering the Right Support’, principles that we support.

“The homes were developed in close collaboration with the local authority, who are clear that they meet the needs of the people in the Borough. We will continue to work with both commissioners and the CQC to ensure that future developments are of a high quality and meet the needs of the people we support.”

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Sarah Clarke

The author Sarah Clarke

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