'Stomach churning abuse': New law demanded to protect vulnerable care home residents

Dementia patient Ann King was abused at Reigate Grange, a Surrey care home run by the Signature group. Credit: ITV News

A new law is being demanded to protect vulnerable care home residents after "stomach churning" abuse of an 88-year-old was caught on a hidden camera - but no one was arrested.

Dementia patient Ann King was suffered months of horrific abuse at the hands of her carers at a care home in Surrey, and a secret camera installed by her son revealed how they mocked, teased, and manhandled her.

Despite the horrific evidence, no one was ever changed with a crime, and it took the Care Quality Commission (CQC) almost a year to launch a criminal investigation into Signature's Reigate Grange care home.

An ITV News investigation last year found just 1.4% of allegations of neglect and abuse at care homes result is someone being charged with a crime.

Ann's children, Richard Last and Clare Miller, have been campaigning for a set of changes in the care sector which they think would protect vulnerable people from suffering similar abuse to their mother.

Now Liberal Democrats leader Sir Ed Davey has urged Rishi Sunak at Prime Minister's Questions, to implement "Ann's Law".

Explaining the lack of action, despite footage of "stomach churning" abuse, Sir Ed asked the PM to help him drive change.

"Will the prime minister join me in backing 'Ann’s Law' – a proposal that would include a national register to professionalise the care workforce and hold those staff who are abusive to account?" Sir Ed asked, "And will he meet with Ann’s family and me to discuss this?"

The prime minister indicated the government would listen to Ann's family on their calls for Ann's Law.

"I’ll make sure the Department [of Health and Social Care] engages with him and Ann’s family on the proposed law," he said.

"He’s right to say we should have high standards across the care industry and we’re walking towards more investment to support our care home staff, making sure that they have training, qualifications and development and we have a regime in place that can hold everyone to account," he added.

'Ann's Law': A campaign to change the care sector

Ann's children, Clare and Richard, were baffled by the lack of charges made by police, despite them being passed substantial evidence.

They've told ITV News they've seen cases where people have been sent to jail for behaviour they believe is just as bad as what happened to their mum.

In a separate case, four care workers were jailed last year after a hidden camera revealed an 89-year-old resident had been "roughly handled, hit with a pillow, and treated with and utmost lack of dignity and respect."

"How can one force in one part of the country decide that's enough evidence to charge, and a judge can send them to jail, but another can see our footage and not even arrest anyone," said Clare.

So she and Richard are campaigning to create 'Ann's Law', which would make care home abuse and neglect a specific offence and give officers better guidance on how to investigate such crimes.

They also want a register for care workers from which they can be struck off if they behave badly and mandatory CCTV in care homes to be overseen by independent third parties.

Sir Ed Davey, who is the care home's local MP and has been working with Ann's family in their campaign, said police "haven’t taken the evidence seriously enough".

On their calls for a law change, Sir Ed told ITV News he is "determined to work with the family to achieve justice and make sure wider lessons are learnt so that no family has to go through this horrifying situation again".

What happened to care home resident Ann King?

Ann's son Richard suspected something was amiss with his mum's care at Reigate Grange care home so installed a hidden camera near her bed in early 2022. The footage brought him to tears.

It revealed a harrowing catalogue of abuse at a care home charging £8,000 a month to look after her.

This video contains distressing images

Staff made lewd gestures, flickered light switches to confuse her, and left her struggling on the floor for nearly an hour.

Reigate Grange told ITV News it was an "isolated incident", police were "immediately" informed and the individuals involved had been "removed" from the home.

Surrey Police investigated but no-one was charged with committing a crime.

Freedom of Information requests by ITV News revealed there is a charge rate of just 1.4% for allegations of this kind.

The 16 forces which responded told us they had received 1,080 allegations in 2022 - but just 16 charges were made.

Richard and Clare have been campaigning for change after learning how widespread the problem is.

And the problem is likely to be much more widespread, given the majority of the 43 forces in England and Wales said they were unable to respond to our request for information.

The National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC), which represents forces in England and Wales, insisted any report of abuse is taken "incredibly seriously".

NPCC lead for adults at risk, Chief Superintendent Jim Gale, told ITV News forces work closely with agencies including the CQC and local authorities to "consider issues raised by safeguarding leads and identify best practice".