A WIRRAL care home which locked its doors and gates for fear of residents escaping was given the worst possible rating by inspectors.

Dukes House in New Brighton was found to have "systematically breached people’s human rights", in a damning report by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

The care home was said to operate in a "very restrictive environment", taking away people’s abilities to make decisions over care.

Dukes House is run by Lifeways – who provide support for people with complex needs across the country.

The care home provides accommodation and support for six people who have a learning disability, autism or a mental health support need.

It borders Dukes House Three, another care home run by the same provider.

This home was also rated 'inadequate' by the CQC and both premises were inspected at the same time.

The two care homes share the same staff, management, outdoor space and office.

One of the home's major problems was its failure to follow the rules on when they can make decisions on people’s behalf.

The report read: "People can only be deprived of their liberty to receive care and treatment when this is in their best interests.

"By not following [the] legal procedures the provider had systematically breached people's human rights and was depriving people of their liberty, when they had no authorisation to do so."

This failure to follow the proper process created confusion among the care home’s management.

The report added: "Senior staff and support staff had no oversight of, and were confused about, who had legally authorised restrictions in place and who did not.

"Everybody was treated the same and as if they had restrictions of their liberty in place.

"One staff member told us 'No people come and go [without staff].

"There is a locked door and gates, because people escape'."

Residents were however able to go outside if accompanied by staff.

The report read: "One person told us 'We do lots of activities'.

"Another said, ‘I get to go out with somebody'."

Worryingly, the report said there was no record of staff being trained with regard to best practice in how to support a person with a learning disability, autism or a mental health support need.

For this reason: "One staff member told us that in their role they 'felt unqualified and out of my depth'."

Documents showed staff had restrained people without getting the training to ensure they did so safely.

There was "inadequate" learning from instances where "significant physical interventions" were used, even when staff raised safety concerns.

At Dukes House Three, an allegation of abuse was not properly investigated.

The care home’s management failed to find out when the incident happened, who was involved and if any witnesses were present.

There was also no evidence that the person who made the allegations or staff had been spoken to in order to get to the bottom of the issue.

The report said: "The investigator [at the care home] had made their conclusions that the significant allegation was unsubstantiated without conducting a full and proportionate investigation."

Returning to Dukes House, further poor record keeping was evident in the case of a person’s surgery.

There was no date recorded for the operation, nor was there any comment on what effect it may have on their life and support needs at the home.

Another person had an emergency information document which contained key information that staff would need to know about a person to keep them safe.

However: "There was no information about the person's health conditions such as asthma, their risk of choking, dietary requirements and their lack of awareness of dangers within a kitchen or outside with road safety."

The report said cases like this meant staff "may not always have the best information to support people with their health."

A clear problem with Dukes House and Dukes House Three, was the management.

The inspector's conversations with staff are revealing.

The report read: "Staff including senior staff told us that there had been a very negative culture at [both homes].

"One senior staff member told us, 'Staff didn’t feel like they could talk openly. They didn’t feel that anything would happen if they did.' 

"Another senior staff member said 'Some staff did not get on with managers.' 

"A third told us 'Staff did not get any praise or encouragement.’ A fourth told us that the service was ‘rudderless’.”

A spokesperson for Lifeways, said: “We were already working to improve our services at Dukes House before the CQC Inspection, and since receiving our copy of the report we have continued to make improvements.

“We have in place a clear plan, backed up with considerable extra management support, to make the necessary improvements to the service.

“We have met with local authority colleagues to explain our plan, and we are absolutely committed to delivering a high standard of support at Dukes House.

“We will keep everybody concerned, including the families and carers of the people we support, fully informed as we continue to implement our plan.”

Following this report, both services have been placed in special measures.

This means the CQC will keep them under review and re-inspect them within six months to check for significant improvements.