Landmark legal claim settled over abuse at Devon care home

A landmark legal claim settlement has been achieved on behalf of a mother and her son who was subjected to a regime of abuse and harm at the Veilstone House care home in Devon.

The settlement was approved by a judge at the Royal Courts of Justice on 1st November.

silhouette, man, child

Ben lived at Veilstone for 17 months during 2010 and 2011 after he was moved from Winterbourne View, which itself later became the subject of an abuse scandal. During his time at Veilstone, Ben suffered a regime of abuse.

Veilstone House staff controlled Ben’s access to his family and prevented his mother, Claire from seeing him. This was part of a rigid culture of behaviour management at Veilstone, where residents like Ben were routinely punished and controlled by staff.

The abuse Ben suffered included:

  • The use of a ‘quiet room’ against him: a small, locked room without natural light, a bed or toilet facilities. Ben’s records showed he was sent to the quiet room on at least 117 occasions, including overnight
  • Repeated physical restraints
  • Being denied family visits or phone calls when Ben hadn’t complied with staff orders
  • Punishments for not being able to read or spell certain words when Ben didn’t have the capability to do so
  • Having his toys and DVDs taken away from him

Ben has been diagnosed with PTSD because of the abuse he suffered.

The parent company responsible for Veilstone, Atlas Project Ltd, was dissolved after a criminal case was brought over abuse allegations. In 2017, 12 managers and carers at Veilstone were convicted of mistreating learning disabled residents including Ben.

Ben and Claire’s legal claims were settled with the commissioners of Ben’s care, Devon County Council and the local NHS partnership trust. As the NHS trust no longer exists, the secretary of state for health accepted responsibility for the claims.

The claim was brought under the Human Rights Act, Article 3, prevention against torture, and Article 8, the right to a family life.

Under the terms of the landmark settlement:

  • The defendants have admitted breaches of Ben’s rights under the European Convention of Human Rights, Articles 3 and 8
  • The defendants have admitted breaches of Claire’s right to a family and private life due to her inability to see Ben while he was at Veilstone
  • Devon County Council has made a full written apology
  • The health secretary has agreed to make an apology

Ben’s sister Emma said: ’11 years on from the abuse Ben and others suffered in Veilstone, and in other homes run by Atlas Projects, we are relieved to have reached a settlement with one of the commissioning bodies responsible for Bens’s care, and with the secretary of state for health on behalf of the other.

‘It has taken a long time and has not been easy to reach this point – our family, particularly Ben, is much changed, and traumatised by all that he has experienced in the social care system. A system designed for care, that let him down so badly.

‘When the system fails, it is people with learning disabilities and their families who pay a high price, with little or no accountability by those responsible – so the apologies and acknowledgement that breaches of human rights occurred for Ben, and for our mother, are important to us.’ Leigh Day solicitor Catriona Rubens said: ‘The rights of learning disabled and autistic people like Ben to live good, fulfilled lives, must be upheld by the state. Ben’s case is a stark reminder of the devastating consequences that occur when institutions fail to uphold human rights protections and ignore the concerns of families.’

Image: geralt

More on this topic:

Adults health at risk following a poor care home inspection 

Care home with dried faeces on the floor rated inadequate


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