West Midlands homecarers face allegations

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Media captionHealth Minister Norman Lamb MP defends the quality of elderly care

More than 500 allegations of abuse have been made against West Midlands care companies in the last year, a BBC investigation has revealed.

Freedom of Information requests showed cases of assault and neglect against carers visiting people in their homes.

Some companies were also failing to complete criminal record checks, Care Quality Commission inspectors found.

The United Kingdom Homecare Association (UKHCA) said most carers were doing a good job.

Barbara Warr, from the industry body, said: "I think we should put this in the context that most homecare is very high quality and most people receiving homecare are satisfied with the care they receive."

She added, however, that the number of allegations suggested "clearly there is a problem".

Not all allegations reported to councils were substantiated, but those that were included cases of abuse, neglect, thefts and administering the wrong medication.

'Fundamental review'

In one case a man was knocked to the ground by a carer. When he tried to seek refuge in the bedroom, the worker tried to break the door down.

In other cases clients had plastic bags or pillows placed over their heads.

Ms Warr said: "Obviously we are worried about any incidents where it is not going right.

"We need a fundamental review of social care. It has to be led by government, it has to be properly funded."

Of 516 allegations made against homecarers last year, more than 130 were in Birmingham.

On 29 May 2011, Peter Taylor found his mother Dorothy, 87, on the floor of her Birmingham home after a fall. A week later Ms Taylor died in hospital.

Peter Taylor said he blamed himself for his mother's death, but added that the number of allegations made against companies showed "it was not an isolated incident".

An inquest in July 2012 found she died as a result of the fall after suffering hypothermia, dehydration and low blood pressure.

Birmingham and Solihull Coroner Aidan Cotter was told that while Ms Taylor could not have been saved by carers, Perry Barr-based Care 4U had failed to send staff for two days before she was found.

The company was visited by the Care Quality Commission, just seven weeks after Ms Taylor's death.

Inspectors found it failed to meet seven essential standards, including systems "to manage risks and assure the health, welfare and safety" of clients.

'Significant changes'

Care 4U in Perry Barr - not to be confused with similarly-named companies - blamed a previous member of staff and said it had "learnt valuable lessons" and "made significant changes".

Another visit by CQC inspectors in January 2012 revealed the company had made progress, but was still failing to meet essential standards.

It added that it was continuing to monitor the company and would use "enforcement powers" if further improvements were not made.

A Freedom of Information request revealed that the company had received more than £800,000 by Birmingham City Council in the last year.

It is one is of 50 care companies used by the local authority, which launched a joint investigation with the CQC in the wake of Ms Taylor's death.

The council said it had worked with the company to make improvements and said "appropriate policies and procedures were in place".

See the full investigation on BBC Inside Out West Midlands at 19:30 BST Monday 15 October on BBC One.

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