Care home owners may face ban over 'financial abuse'

An NI couple could be banned from operating care homes after the regulator found they had been responsible for "significant financial abuse of six vulnerable adults".

An NI couple could be banned from operating care homes after the regulator found they had been responsible for "significant financial abuse of six vulnerable adults".

The investigation focused on Bawn Cottage Residential Care Home at Hamiltonsbawn and its sister home, Hebron House, in Markethill.

The regulator has deemed the owners, Norman and Mildred Wylie, unfit to run the County Armagh homes.

A police investigation is under way.

The body responsible for inspecting health and social care services is the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA).

It has given notice of a proposal to cancel the registration of Mr and Mrs Wylie.

The notice was serviced after an investigation by the Southern Health and Social Care Trust into suspected financial abuse of six residents' money.

It concluded that "on the balance of probability, significant financial abuse of the six vulnerable adults did take place" in the two homes.

The trust said this took the form of "unjustified and significant overpayment" in relation to meals, when this was included in the weekly tariff.

It also involved "inequitable, unjustified and significant charges" in relation to the home's transport scheme.

It added that there had been "inequitable, unjustified and significant supervision charges".

In a statement, the PSNI said: "Police can confirm they are aware of the allegations and an investigation is under way."

Interview

BBC Newsline District journalist Gordon Adair, who has been working on the story, said: "I've spoken to several people close to the inquiries into Hebron house in Markethill and in Bawn cottage.

"One man I spoke to, who had a relative at Hebron House, said the vast majority of families were supportive of the owners.

"He said they didn't believe anybody had been duped and that the level of care shown to their relatives had always been exemplary.

"However, another source close to the inquiry told me that while that did reflect the position of some of the families, it wasn't the view of all of them."

No-one from Hebron House was available for interview by the BBC.

The police confirmed that a man and woman had been arrested, questioned and released on police bail pending further inquiries.

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