A Croydon care home has been rated "inadequate" after inspectors found that part of the building had been converted into a home for third-party residents.

Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspectors said the home, which specialises in disability care, had living quarters for two tenants at the back of the care home’s garden, contravening CQC rules.

Inspectors from the care watchdog found that North Downs Villa in West Croydon failed to protect its vulnerable residents from the risk of abuse from the tenants living in the small building.

Your Local Guardian: CQC inspectors found residents were at risk of falling out of their bedroom windows due to lack of correctly fitted window restrictors (Credit: Alistair Macrobert)CQC inspectors found residents were at risk of falling out of their bedroom windows due to lack of correctly fitted window restrictors (Credit: Alistair Macrobert)

While the residence was fenced off from the care home, inspectors felt the lack of proper safeguarding measures bolstered their belief that the home was "unsafe" for residents.

Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) a representative from North Downs Villa said: “The report sounds a lot worse than it is.

"If you are to look at the front of the building, at the side of it there’s a completely sealed-off door that leads to a path that has a six-foot fence along it towards a rear building.

"We have sent CQC proof that we have been paying council tax on the building for the last six years.

“It’s been conveyed as if there’s a hut in the back of the garden, and a free-for-all with access.

"This is not the case. The landlord just decided to divvy up his land, the tenants have nothing to do with us.”

The recent report, published in December, was the first CQC report conducted on the small care home since it received a ‘requires improvement’ grade in October 2020.

North Downs Villa is a small provider run by Surrey Mental Health Limited.

It has 10 beds and specialises in care for those with mental health conditions and learning disabilities.

Besides concerns over protection from third-party tenants, inspectors discovered persistent failures in the care home’s safeguarding policy.

Inspectors noted that the care home failed to notify the watchdog after a number of serious safeguarding incidents took place on the premises.

In its report, the CQC stated: “These included incidents where the local authority safeguarding team substantiated abuse allegations.

"By failing to notify CQC, in line with the conditions of their registration, the provider prevented us from fulfilling our regulatory function to keep people safe.”

These incidents in question include occasions where residents had experienced neglect, financial and psychological abuse.

These incidents were disclosed to social workers but were not relayed to the CQC.

In its report, the watchdog admitted: “Had we been aware that people had experienced neglect, financial and psychological abuse, we may have inspected the service sooner.

"By failing to submit timely notifications, the provider prevented the CQC from carrying out our regulatory function to make sure people received safe care.”

Inadequate staff training on the management of behavioural support needs was another reason that contributed to the negative report.

It was found that staff did not receive the supervision detailed in the provider’s policy, and it was noted that the home failed to “learn lessons when things went wrong”.

The watchdog also identified numerous health and safety-related risks present throughout the premises.

In particular, they discovered a window on the first floor that posed a risk of falling because it didn’t have a correctly fitted restrictor.

Inspectors also discovered a large hole in the carpet at the top of the first flight of stairs.

This presented a trip hazard to people who used the stairs to go to and from their bedrooms under the Health and Social Care Act 2008.

North Downs Villa told the LDRS that it has since addressed all issues. It also mentioned that it had previously received a good inspection rating from Croydon Council.

They also told the LDRS that while the provider acknowledges it has made some mistakes concerning procedure and health and safety, it maintains the home has been marked harshly under CQC’s new assessment guidelines.

They added: “If anything we have got better since we were last reported. Given a different inspector and way of inspecting it might have been different but that’s what happened.”

Whilst the home was rated as inadequate overall, it received good rating regarding the question of whether it is ‘caring’.

They expect a follow-up CQC inspection within the next six months.