Charity claims Cornwall pays 'less than half' cost of autism care
An autism charity is taking unprecedented legal action against Cornwall Council over claims it has underfunded service users.
Spectrum – the Devon and Cornwall Autistic Community Trust – runs 25 homes with 100 users relying on its services.
Chief executive Mary Simpson told the charity's 358 workers in an email that it was taking legal action because of alleged "consistent underfunding" over six years.
She wrote: "Spectrum has battled over many years with the consistent underfunding of some Cornish service users, who receive less than half the funding that has been assessed to be appropriate.
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"Despite trying to work with Cornwall Council to rectify this underfunding, we have been ignored and our requests fallen on deaf ears. We have now, reluctantly, taken the unprecedented step of issuing legal proceedings against Cornwall Council, as the total underfunding over the past six years is substantial."
The organisation refused to comment further.
According to its latest financial report published on the Charity Commission website, the charity's expenditure for 2011 was £8.7m against an income of £10.5m – a rise of 15 per cent on the previous year, although its costs had also gone up by 8.4 per cent.
Cornwall Council said it would "respond privately to Spectrum about any concerns that they may raise with us".
The charity is also pursuing a complaint against the Care Quality Commission (CQC) following critical reports by inspectors at three of its sites – St Erme Campus in St Erme, Pendarves in Camborne and Bawden Manor Farm in St Agnes.
Mrs Simpson said the charity was "surprised and disappointed" by the CQC findings that she described as a "tick-box exercise".
She told employees: "We feel strongly about this and have issued a stage two complaint to CQC regarding their inaccurate reporting and negative comments and the failure to recognise progress that service users have made with your support."
The CQC inspectors highlighted several failings at the sites including shortcomings in training and safety and the supervision of residents.
The CQC said it would look into any complaint about the accuracy of its reports.
"Any assertion that a CQC inspection is a tick-box exercise suggests that we need to do more to help them understand the process and the issues which we have found on inspection," it added.