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Charity Commission opens inquiry into care provider after beneficiary death

08 Apr 2019 News

The Charity Commission has opened an inquiry into Richmond Psychosocial Foundation International (RPFI), which managed the care home where 19-year-old Sophie Bennett took her life in May 2016.

Its inquiry opened last month following a coroner's report which cited failings by RPFI trustees to keep its beneficiaries safe.

The inquest into Bennett's death concluded in February 2019.

Michelle Russell, director of investigations, monitoring and enforcement at the Commission said: “This coroner’s report made for highly distressing reading.

“Those that run charities must put the safety and wellbeing 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.”

The Commission’s focus will be on governance and compliance at RPFI under charity law and will investigate:

  • Trustees’ compliance with their duties and responsibilities, including oversight of safeguarding arrangements
  • Trustees’ response to the inquest and necessary changes in governance

RPFI continues operations in Twickenham

According to the Care Quality Commission (CQC), RPFI no longer manages Lancaster Lodge, the therapeutic and residential care home for Bennett and adults suffering from mental health problems.

The last resident at the home moved out during the summer of 2016, according to gov.uk.

An inspection by the CQC at Lancaster Lodge in May 2016 found that standards of safety, effectiveness and leadership were inadequate.

RPFI still provides services at 89 Heathfield North and The White House, both in Twickenham, and services are reported to be at good standards according to CQC inspections in 2017.

Bennett’s family said they wanted to see action from the Charity Commission.

In a statement published by charity Inquest, they said: “The Charity Commission has been conspicuous by its absence from this inquest, despite our urging it to attend and hear the evidence.

“It has known about the issues surrounding the governance of RPFI since well before Sophie’s death.

“I hope that it will now apply the full force of its powers to take action against those trustees who have clearly been negligent in their responsibilities.”

The Charity Commission said it had been engaging with RPFI on a number of matters since 2016 and is working with the CQC and the adult social services teams at Richmond and Wandsworth.

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