Charity Commission launches inquiry into mental health provider

Charity Commission launches inquiry into mental health provider
Charity Commission launches inquiry into mental health provider

The Charity Commission has opened an investigation into Richmond Psychosocial Foundation International (RPFI) following the death of Sophie Bennett in May 2016.

The 19-year-old had been cared for at Lancaster Lodge in Richmond, west London, a therapeutic residential home run by the foundation since April 2015.

Following a three-week inquest with HM Coroner for West London, John Taylor in February, the jury concluded that neglect on the part of RPFI contributed to the teenager’s death.

Sophie had been diagnosed with bipolar affective disorder, social anxiety disorder, and atypical autism. When she was first under the care of the home it was rated Good by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) in September 2015.

In January 2016, changes were made to the home following an audit, including cancelling all external therapies. This resulted in a new regime in which residents were to wake up early and exercise. Sophie described it to her family as being like a ‘boot camp’.

Following protests from residents and staff the standard of care at the home fell to Inadequate in March 2016.

Giving evidence at the inquest, a CQC inspector described the home as ‘chaotic’, while a former member of staff described it as ‘falling apart’ and a ‘shambles.’

The charity regulator’s inquiry will focus on governance and compliance under charity law.

It is considering the trustees’ compliance with their duties and responsibilities, their oversight and governance of safeguarding arrangements; and their response to the coroner’s report into the death and the governance changes that are necessary as a result.

Director of investigations, monitoring and enforcement at the Charity Commission Michelle Russell said: ‘This coroner’s report made for highly distressing reading. Those that run charities must put the safety and well-being of vulnerable people in their care first at all times.

‘The coroner found that governance failings at the charity directly contributed to Sophie’s death. We want to see the charity address those failings as a matter of urgency.

‘The opening of this inquiry reflects the seriousness of the coroner’s findings and our concerns.’