A CARE home for adults with learning disabilities and autism is closing after a damning report found it was unsafe and was putting people at risk.

The Care Quality Commission visited Delphine Court, in Darlington, to investigate concerns by whistleblowers.

A raft of concerns were raised, including unsafe staffing levels, poor food hygiene and safeguarding issues.

Lifeways, which runs the home, says it is now in the process of closing the facility in Cockerton Green and is looking for new homes for the four people who live there.

Last week, the CQC warned that the number of services for people with learning disabilities being rated as inadequate had shot up across the country.

It said 13 per cent of the specialist services were rated as inadequate, up from four per cent – and said it was mostly due to the deterioration of independent services.

Delphine Court, which caters for people aged between 20 and 34 with learning disabilities and autism, was inspected in July following “serious whistleblowing concerns”.

The CQC, which published its report this month, said the home had also failed to follow guidance on Covid-19, with staff not wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) and not following social distancing recommendations, including when looking after one resident who was in the extremely vulnerable clinical category.

The CQC report said: “Serious whistleblowing concerns were received by the local authority safeguarding team in relation to management of the service and the quality of care and support that was being provided.

“There had been a number of safeguarding concerns raised by other professionals.

“The overall rating for the service has changed from requires improvement to inadequate. We have found evidence the provider needs to make substantial improvements.”

In a recent report by the CQC on the state of care across the country, it revealed the overall proportion of services for people with learning disabilities and autism being rated as inadequate had shot up from four per cent to 13 per cent, mostly due to the deterioration of independent services.

A spokesperson for Lifeways, which is the UK’s largest supported living specialist, said: “We have taken the decision to close our residential care home at Delphine Court.

“We are working with CQC, the local authority, and the families of the people we support in order to carefully plan how the four people who live at Delphine Court will be supported in the future.

“All of our staff at Delphine Court will be offered jobs at Lifeways in the local area.”

A spokesperson added the decision had been taken because it was in the "best interests" of all concerned.

The visit was a targeted inspection, which means only the areas which were highlighted as concerns were looked at.

While a range of problems were identified, inspectors also said they saw people appeared to be "comfortable and happy" with staff interaction while relatives said carers were kind and supported people in a positive way.

Some of the concerns highlighted by the CQC:

  • Staffing levels were unsafe - staffing was not provided at the levels for which they were commissioned. Staff reported they had not always felt safe with staffing levels and staff rotas and signing in records we viewed were not completed and confusing
  • Staff members concerns about alleged abuse had not always been fully investigated or alerted to the local authority safeguarding team. Staff told inspectors about some of these concerns when they visited
  • Support plans were not person centred
  • Risks affecting people’s health, safety and wellbeing were not being addressed or mitigated
  • Staff not trained or assessed to support people with medicine administration.
  • Insufficient infection prevention and control measures
  • Government guidance in relation to Covid-19 was not followed.
  • Handover records were poor and inconsistent and relatives we spoke with all reported a lack of communication with the management of the service
  • Medicines were not managed safely
  • Unsafe practices in the kitchen such as a defective fridge and inappropriate storage of food.
  • One person's bathroom contained significant levels of black mould
  • The service had not addressed issues from previous inspections. Issues from 2018 were still apparent relating to providing a homely environment and documentation such as maintaining a comprehensive training matrix for staff.
  • People had access to the community either visiting shops or going for a drive but there was little in the way of meaningful activities reflecting the development of life skills or using people's interests or choices taking place