A recent inspection of a care home in the north east of England saw the facility branded “inadequate” by the Care Quality Commission. The inspection, which took place before the current coronavirus pandemic, highlighted several serious failings at Burbank Mews care home in Hartlepool. The facility cares for adults with learning disabilities and autism and was previously rated as a “good” in a previous inspection.
One of the main failings at the care home was around record keeping. The care home, in common with many other care homes, relies heavily on agency staff to cover shifts and adhere to the minimum staff to resident ratio. The CQC found that insufficient checks had been made on staff to ensure they were both properly qualified and background checked for the work.
There is no suspicion that the staff at the care home were anything but honest, trustworthy and held valid enhanced disclosure certificates. The issue was that the care home had no paper or electronic records backing up their checking process and showing that they had followed the appropriate steps to safeguard the vulnerable residents.
Care Home Staff and Disclosure Checks
Care home staff are all required to have an enhanced DBS check before starting work with vulnerable residents. An enhanced disclosure check is the most detailed level of checking. Checks are made on not only the applicant’s current and unspent criminal convictions but on past crimes and intelligence too. The police will look at the job the applicant is thinking of taking and consider which convictions may be relevant in that case.
One common misconception is that your criminal record must be completely clear in order to secure a job which requires an enhanced disclosure. This is not the case – employers are allowed to exercise discretion based on the length of time since the conviction, and what the applicant has been doing since. However, a lengthy list of convictions would almost certainly rule you out.
Importance of Record Keeping
Smaller care homes usually have just one manager looking after everything from recruitment and payroll to ordering the food and bandages. Issues such as record keeping to prove that DBS checks have been carried out, or ensuring that risk assessments are regularly updated can be easily overlooked. However, paperwork is one of the first things which the CQC, or Care Inspectorate in Scotland, will ask to see when they arrive for an unannounced inspection. Care homes which don’t have the paperwork, or whose paperwork is in a mess, can expect a very low rating.
When disclosure certificates are printed, they are sent out to the applicant’s home address. The employee then takes their certificate to work. At this point, work should look over the certificate and have some way of noting in a file that the certificate has been seen. Some homes just take a photocopy of the certificate, others will note down the certificate number in a register. There is no definite method for recording DBS information, as long as records are kept.