Mendip House image
Credit: Stephen Morris/The Guardian

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has issued the National Autistic Society (NAS) a £4,000 fine over the situation at Mendip House, where autistic residents at the care home were seriously mistreated, bullied and humiliated.

However, the CQC has come under fire for only issuing a fixed penalty notice to the charity, with various people expressing deep concerns that nobody has been prosecuted due to the severity of the situation.

Barbara Keeley MP, Shadow Minister for mental health and social care, wrote to the CQC to highlight her concerns regarding the £4,000 fine.

She said that families of autistic people were horrified that the NAS were not prosecuted over serious failings at the care home and that she was planning to raise the matter with the government.

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According to a report in 2018 looking into the situation at Mendip House, it revealed a series of failures and mistreatments towards the residents. Workers were found to have thrown objects at residents, teased them and swore at them. Another incident remarked that a staff member put a ribbon around a resident’s neck and rode him “like a horse.”

Ranked as ‘Inadequate’ by the CQC, Mendip House was closed down as a result and the residents were found new placements.

Staff were dismissed and whilst the police investigated the situation, nobody was charged. Officers explained there was insufficient evidence to do so and handed the matter over to the CQC.

As seen in the Guardian, the CQC then issued a £4,000 fixed penalty to the NAS as a result of its mistreatment.

In response to this, Barbara commented: “People are very angry and disturbed about this. People with autistic children are horrified there has been no prosecution.

“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, however, also has the power to prosecute, which later acknowledged by its interim chief inspector of social care, Debbie Westhead.

She said: “We also investigated whether we could prosecute the National Autistic Society for failing to keep people safe, but were not able to do so due to insufficient evidence. 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 £4,000, which is the maximum amount allowed in law.”

Mark Lever, Chief Executive of NAS, said: “What happened at Mendip House was appalling. We should not have allowed this mistreatment and abuse to happen. We’re deeply sorry that it did and, alongside regulators, local authorities and other agencies we are responsible for doing all we can to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

He said that the charity has paid the £4,000 fixed penalty notice issued.

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