Hundreds of vulnerable social care residents were allegedly sexually assaulted over a period of just three months, a report from the CQC revealed.
According to the report, Promoting sexual safety through empowerment, 899 sexual incidents were reported to the CQC by social care homes between March 1 and May 31 2018, including 47 cases of rape.
The CQC said that in 16% of cases, members of staff or visiting workers were accused of carrying out the abuse.
One care worker said she specifically targetted ‘the most vulnerable’ service users because they would not be able to report the serious sexual assault.
The watchdog said she filmed the assaults on three residents, including ‘Jane’ an elderly woman with Alzheimer’s, on her mobile phone.
The abuse only came to light a few months after Jane died. Her family was contacted by the police who told them that footage of the abuse had been found, by chance, on a computer.
The report authors said: ‘The care worker had worked on her own at night, visiting people in their rooms and abusing several residents, while her colleague slept.
‘The care worker admitted that she had specifically targeted the most vulnerable because they would not be able to complain about the assaults.
‘Jane’s family were devastated, not only by the loss of their mother, but also by the fact that she had been sexually abused in a care home that the family had trusted to provide safe end of life care for her.’
The woman was presecuted and given a prison sentence, the CQC said.
The authors said they hoped the report would create a culture where all people, including staff, feel empowered to talk about sexuality and raise concerns around safety where necessary.
Kate Terroni, chief inspector of Adult Social Care at the CQC, said: ‘Supporting people as individuals means considering all aspects of a person’s needs, including sexuality and relationships.
‘We know that an open culture, where staff feel they can share concerns without fear of reprisal, where people and families are empowered to speak about their wants and needs in a sensitive way, and where managers and providers proactively enable conversations about sexuality to take place are the conditions that lead to people being empowered to stay safe and supported.
‘However, our report also shows all too starkly the other side of this, the times when people are harmed in the very place they should be kept safe.
‘This is utterly devastating, both for the people directly affected and their loved ones. While we are aware that sexual incidents in services are not common, we know from speaking to those affected that the impact and consequences can be life-changing.
‘Their message to us is that more needs to be done to prevent sexual abuse happening.
‘It is not good enough to put this issue in a ‘too difficult to discuss’ box. It is particularly because these topics are sensitive and complex that they should not be ignored.
‘We are clear that abuse in any form can never be accepted and we must act on the findings of this report to help providers and care staff protect people from sexual harm, while enabling people to continue or develop intimate relationships.
‘We are confident that with the right commitments across the sector we can achieve both.’
The CQC said the report follows on from the 2019 report, Relationship and Sexuality in Social Care guidance, which was developed to help care services and staff support to the sexual and relationship needs of those they work with. And to enable conversations that can help develop trust and improve care planning in this area.
Veronica Gray, deputy CEO of Action on Elder Abuse, said: ‘We at Action on Elder Abuse very much welcome the CQC even looking at the issue of sexual safety, and we wholeheartedly support their call to initiate an open culture in adult social services around sex and sexuality.
‘It is critical that this issue – so often hidden from view – is brought out into the open.
‘However, while we endorse the CQC’s message of supporting people in expressing their sexuality whilst in care, more needs to be done to protect those most vulnerable to sexual abuse. The first priority of adult social services must be the safety and wellbeing of those in their care.’
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