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Ipswich care facility for vulnerable adults was ‘failed’ by everyone involved, report concludes

PUBLISHED: 00:01 15 October 2020 | UPDATED: 10:48 15 October 2020

The inquiry into the Stella Maris supported living facility in Ipswich took several months and the findings have been released today. Picture: CHARLOTTE BOND

The inquiry into the Stella Maris supported living facility in Ipswich took several months and the findings have been released today. Picture: CHARLOTTE BOND

Charlotte Bond

Tenants and neighbours of a supported living facility in Ipswich were “failed” by the agencies responsible, according to an inquiry.

The independent inquiry, led by Anthony Douglas CBE, Independent Chair of the Suffolk Safeguarding Partnership, was commissioned by Suffolk County Council in mid August after pressure from local councillors and residents appalled by the anti-social behaviour and disturbances.

The report is critical of the agencies responsible for the provision of the serivce saying they failed residents and neighbours during a “perfect storm” which developed during an 18-month period.

Suffolk County Council commissioned the independent inquiry,

Between December 2018 and August 2020 emergency services were called to the facility – housing eight vulnerable adults with complex needs – more than 300 times. Police were called 163 times, ambulance 108 times while the the remainder of calls were to the fire service and the RSPCA.

Anthony Douglas CBE, Independent Chair of the Suffolk Safeguarding Partnership, led the inquiry into the supported living setting and said the blame lay with all agencies involved. Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCILAnthony Douglas CBE, Independent Chair of the Suffolk Safeguarding Partnership, led the inquiry into the supported living setting and said the blame lay with all agencies involved. Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL

Behaviours included instances of self-harming, suicide threats, allegations of sexual assault and rape, racial abuse, fire-setting, fighting, harassment, threats, foul language and long periods of sustained screaming.

Several agencies were involved in providing care at the Ipswich address including Suffolk County Council, Babergh District Council, Swanton Care, Inclusion Housing and the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust – however according to the inquiry they all failed to see the ‘bigger picture’.

Mr Douglas’ 62-page report criticises the decisions which led to Swanton Care being awarded the contract, the failure of each organisation to escalate the situation and how residents complaints were “largely ignored”.

The report included shocking personal stories from residents whose emotional well-being suffered considerably as a result, and said the district and county councils failed in their duty of care to them.

Matthew Hicks, Suffolk County Councils leader, said the council was sorry for it's role in the situation and offered a sincere apology to those impacted.. Picture: GREGG BROWNMatthew Hicks, Suffolk County Councils leader, said the council was sorry for it's role in the situation and offered a sincere apology to those impacted.. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Stories from several tenants at the facility also shed light on the difficulties they faced when living there.

Mr Douglas said the blame could not be placed solely on any one agency, but that it was the “comprehensive failure” of everyone involved.

He did not advocate the closure of the facility. However, he did make 30 recommendations for the future including a new service be commissioned at Stella Maris as a “matter of urgency”.

The emergency services escaped much of the criticism but recommendations were made to upgrade logging systems to better flag incident hot-spots.

John Ward, Babergh District Councils leader, said they would be implementing Mr Douglas' recommendations and wanted Babergh to be a place people are proud to call home. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNJohn Ward, Babergh District Councils leader, said they would be implementing Mr Douglas' recommendations and wanted Babergh to be a place people are proud to call home. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

What did the agencies involved say?

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Swanton Care has apologised once again to the local community and said the issues at the facility “snowballed”.

A spokesman for the company said: “This report rightly identifies that there are multiple learning points for all the organisations involved in the commissioning and delivery of supported living services.

“We fully accept our part in the systems and service failures identified in the report and we have already implemented a robust action plan to ensure these issues could not happen again.”

The care provider is bringing in new local leadership at the Ipswich facility.

Matthew Hicks, leader of Suffolk County Council, said the report was “sobering reading” and demonstrates months of upset and distress for the tenants and residents.

He said: “Suffolk County Council commissioned this report because, clearly, things were not right and we wanted to fix them as a matter of urgency. I’m grateful to Anthony Douglas and everyone who contributed to the report.

“For Suffolk County Council’s role in this situation, I offer a sincere apology to those who have been impacted. What has happened shouldn’t have.

“We are fully committed to working with partners to improve the support provided to these vulnerable tenants and restore the peaceful homelife that Stella Maris residents deserve.”

John Ward, leader of Babergh District Council, said: “We are already appointing an additional caseworker to lead on complex anti-social behaviour, are reviewing our internal and multi-agency procedures for dealing with such cases and, importantly, strengthening the way we escalate problems to senior management.

“By implementing Anthony Douglas’ recommendations, we firmly believe that, in future, any such cases will either be avoided or dealt with much quicker and with more effective and efficient partnership working.

“We always want to do the best we can for our residents because we want Babergh to be a place that people are proud to call home.”

Mr Ward added the council will play its part in righting any wrongs in Stella Maris.

Mason Fitzgerald, deputy CEO at the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, said they always want to work with everyone involved in a person’s care, but accept the report shows there is work to do to improve those partnerships.

He said: “The report also highlights the need for a personality disorder strategy for Suffolk. I am pleased to say that a new way of caring for people with personality disorders is due to start in Suffolk in 2021.

“We welcome the opportunity to create training packages for our partners. We will start work on this with Suffolk County Council as soon as possible.”

Christopher Hudson, councillor for Belstead Brook, was the one who first called for an inquiry into the supported living setting and said he welcomed the findings, adding: “This is a cautionary tale for the unwary.”


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