A health trust has agreed to pay compensation to at least three disabled people who were allegedly abused by staff at an NHS day centre.
The alleged abuse took place between 2005 and 2007 at Doncaster’s Solar Centre, in the grounds of St Catherine’s Hospital, and involved at least 18 adults with learning difficulties and high support needs.
The news of the settlements came as police finally confirmed that they have reopened their investigation into the alleged abuse.
South Yorkshire police originally investigated allegations of physical assault in 2007, but failed to produce enough evidence to press any charges.
Last year, lawyers for some of the abuse survivors threatened to seek a judicial review if the police did not reopen their investigation.
Disability News Service understands that South Yorkshire police are now investigating possible charges of ill-treatment under the Mental Health Act, which has been used to bring charges successfully in several high-profile cases of abuse of people with learning difficulties.
A report by the trust that runs the Solar Centre – Rotherham Doncaster and South Humber Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust (RDaSH) – described how staff allegedly hit service-users and used “inappropriate force”, as well as detailing other allegations of ill-treatment.
Allegations were made against four members of staff, although all four were said to have denied all the claims of abuse.
Information in a “safeguarding” report seen by Disability News Service details how one disabled man was allegedly slapped, punched, threatened by staff and deliberately pricked with needles.
A second safeguarding report describes how a second young disabled man was allegedly kicked in his wheelchair from “one side of the room to the other” causing him to “crash into patients and the walls”; was lifted out of his wheelchair and thrown onto the floor; and was grabbed by two members of staff from his wheelchair and thrown onto a trampoline.
David Greenwood, from Jordans Solicitors, who is representing three former users of the day centre, welcomed the trust’s decision to settle the compensation claims.
He said: “It could have become a fairly complex investigation, but once the trust had finished their liaison with the police they came to a fairly swift decision. They have to be given credit for getting on with a decision to compensate victims.”
A court has approved settlements agreed between the trust and two of his clients, with a third settlement likely to be approved by a judge this autumn.
The nephew of one of Greenwood’s three clients said he had been told his uncle was treated “very badly” at the Solar Centre.
He said: “He used to always lean away whenever you came near him.”
His uncle will receive a smaller sum – £5,000 – than other claimants, as there is believed to be less firm evidence of the alleged ill-treatment he experienced, even though it is accepted that he was probably abused.
An RDaSH spokeswoman said the trust was aware of five claims for compensation, and added: “A number of clients and former clients of the Solar Centre have brought claims against [RDaSH], alleging that some time ago they were the subject of acts of abuse carried out by a small number of carers who worked at the centre.”
She said events at the centre had “been the subject of a detailed enquiry carried out by the trust, following which systems have been reviewed and changed”.
She said two claims had been concluded, while three other cases were “in progress”.
A number of other relatives of former or current users of the Solar Centre are also believed to be considering or taking legal action against the trust.