West Sussex County Council this week said it was ‘looking in detail at care at a number of services’ run by Sussex Health Care which operates an independent group of care homes in the county including two in Horsham.
Concerns over two of Sussex Health Care’s homes - The Laurels in Guildford Road, Broadbridge Heath, and Orchard Lodge in Dorking Road, Warnham - were first raised last month.
Sussex Police confirmed they were investigating as West Sussex County Council suspended placing people at both homes which care for young adults with physical and learning difficulties.
And a police spokesman confirmed this week: “Enquiries are still ongoing.”
Meanwhile, the council’s deputy leader Peter Catchpole - who is a paid adviser for Sussex Health Care - has relinquished his council post as cabinet member for adult social care to ‘to ensure that there is no risk of any actual or perceived conflict between his cabinet role and his declared work with the company.’
A county council spokesman said: “New placements remain suspended with a number of services run by Sussex Health Care due to serious safeguarding concerns.
“Together with partners including police, health and other local authorities, we are looking in detail at care at a number of services run by the organisation including the two homes (The Laurels and Orchard Lodge).
“The police investigation is ongoing so we cannot say anything further at this time.
“Responsibility for adult social care has been taken up by the leader of the council Louise Goldsmith as a temporary arrangement.
“The portfolio has, until now, been held by Peter Catchpole. Mr Catchpole has, for a number of years, formally declared a personal interest in the private care home organisation Sussex Health Care as he acts as a professional adviser to its board.
“Throughout that time Mr Catchpole has avoided any decisions or briefings that may relate to Sussex Health Care, the council’s leader stepping in whenever required.
“Due to the ongoing investigation concerning Sussex Health Care which the county council is assisting, the responsibility for safeguarding and adult social care has transferred from Mr Catchpole to Ms Goldsmith to ensure that there is no risk of any actual or perceived conflict between his cabinet role and his declared work with the company.
“This is an appropriate action for the county council to take in this situation. Mr Catchpole will continue to have responsibility for health integration and will continue to serve as deputy leader.
“This arrangement will be kept under review.”
A spokesman for Sussex Health Care said: “We are working openly with all parties to assist the investigation.
“It would not be appropriate for us to comment on the investigation whilst it is still underway.
“However, we can confirm that we have put measures in place to ensure residents’ safety and wellbeing are prioritised, which is our absolute focus in all aspects of our work.
“We have taken the additional step of appointing an independent expert to carry out a comprehensive review of procedures at all levels, and to support the staff and management teams to provide best practice going forward.”
The Laurels can care for up to 41 people aged over 18 and specialises in caring for people with autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, epilepsy and ‘challenging behaviour’.
Orchard Lodge can care for up to 33 young people aged over 18 and offers specialist care for those with autism, cerebral palsy, motor neurone disease and multiple learning disabilities.
Both were previously rated ‘good’ by the health watchdog group, the Care Quality Commission.