Angry relatives have hit out after Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood criticised a Tonypandy care home without ever going there.
Since speaking out in the media Ms Wood, who is also the local AM, has been invited to visit the Taliesin home in Bridge Street but she has not yet responded.
The findings of an inspection sparked negative comments from Ms Wood about the home which provides care for 18 elderly people aged over 65.
Registered manager Paul Phillips says every critical point raised in the report by regulatory body Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales (CSSIW) had actually been dealt with before it was published.
Mr Phillips, who has been in charge at Taliesin for the past 12 years, says Ms Wood highlighted negative comments made in the CSSIW report when he stresses there are “many positive points” about the home which has been open for the past 25 years.
He said it was unfair of Ms Wood to criticise Taliesin in the press without ever having visited the home and branded her comments as “totally unnecessary”.
Since the story appeared many relatives have been in touch with Taliesin to pledge their support for the way it is run.
The husband of an 82-year-old lady with dementia who is a resident at the home described the care she receives there as “excellent” while the son of another dementia sufferer said he has “no qualms” at all about the way she is being looked after.
One person even sent a bunch of flowers to the home with a card attached saying “simply the best” and a local parish priest had called in to wish them all the best.
Leanne Wood’s intervention has also been blasted by one of the most senior figures in the social care sector, Mario Kreft MBE, the Chair of Care Forum Wales which represents around 500 independent providers.
Mr Kreft believes that a positive and encouraging approach could be helpful to the sector, whereas negative, critical reports such as this one will only ever be damaging.
He is determined to move towards a different approach to supporting the sector through what he calls relationship-centred care.
He said: “This approach is already being used in Essex and its success has been flagged up by an important report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.
“The relationship-centred approach focuses on building positive relationships and connections between and among older residents, care home staff, managers and with commissioners and stakeholders like politicians.
“It is the opposite of what we do currently in Wales and it is about building people up to do better not knocking them down all the time. The more we hit out at people working in the sector, the more we will stop people wanting to do these jobs.
“It is very disappointing when politicians try and make political capital without checking the facts first.
“We recently had another example of Plaid Cymru trying to exploit a similar situation in North Wales so it suggests they have decided that the social care sector is an easy target for cheap political shots.
“Let’s not forget these premises are actually home to the people who live there and should be accorded the respect they deserve.
“I would urge Ms Wood to take up the invitation to visit the Taliesin home and see what it is really like – it is a good home run by decent people who provide excellent care for frail and vulnerable people with complex needs.
“Care homes like Taliesin are important community-based resources that need our support and not derision.”
In the case of Taliesin, the inspection was carried out on October 7. The subsequent report published on November 6 said the home had failed to comply with a number of regulations.
One of the key areas of non-compliance was said to be medications management and storage, another was the way staff had restrained a frail elderly resident after she became aggressive towards them and a third area was the home’s failure to keep full reports of events affecting the well-being of service users for the CSSIW.
All these points were mentioned in a press report, which appeared on November 27.
However, manager Paul Phillips said: “I dealt with each and every one of the non-compliance issues raised within just a week of the inspection, which was before the CSSIW report came out.
“The issue of medications management and storage related to there being no lock on the fridge where we keep residents’ medication and that was resolved immediately after it was highlighted in the CSSIW report with a lock being fitted.
“We also immediately addressed the matter of the elderly resident being restrained by staff by arranging for all the members of our team to have special training in restraint techniques.
“In fact, part of the training is that physical restraint should be the last resort in a case like this after other methods such as distraction and diversion of the person have been tried.
“It is actually our policy at Taliesin not to take people who are aggressive because we aim for a tranquil, homely atmosphere. However, the resident concerned in this incident did not have a history of aggression but unfortunately developed a medical condition which changed her behaviour after some time of being with us.
“Immediately after the inspection we also dealt with the issue of failure to keep full reports of events affecting our service users. Our care plan was modified to take all this into account.”
Paul added: “Myself and our 22 full and part-time staff have been totally deflated by the negative coverage we have received and I am currently going to great lengths to keep up morale at the home.
“It came as a real shock to read about Taliesin in this way because we do our very best to provide a happy, homely and safe place for people to live and be cared for.
“The report concentrated on the bad points, which were anyway urgently addressed, without mentioning any of the good things said about Taliesin in the CSSIW report.
“For instance, the inspector said that she had observed a large number of books, games and music for residents to enjoy. She also said that she saw staff interacting warmly with people and noted that the home was decorated with objects and items that would be relevant to the lives of residents.
“The inspector also said she discovered that we were due to hold a film show for residents on the afternoon of her visit and she noted that some residents had been on a caravan holiday.
“We try to go out of our way to ensure residents are happy and we regularly take them on two week-long holidays a year to Porthcawl or on day trips to a caravan we rent there.”
Paul said he regretted that in the report local AM Leanne Wood had made some highly critical comments about Taliesin as a result of the CSSI report and he responded: “I think what she said was totally unnecessary and she made her comments without ever having visited Taliesin.
“I have since invited her to come here and see for herself the caring way in which the home is run by myself and my staff. As yet I haven’t had the courtesy of a reply.”
Paul said that since the story appeared he had received a number of messages of support from relatives of Taliesin residents which had come as a boost to himself and his staff.
Among those who have given their full support to Paul and his team is Stephen Brooks, a 55-year-old semi-retired teacher from Gelli near Tonypandy.
He said: “My mother, Patricia Gillard, who is 77 and has onset vascular dementia, has been a resident at Taliesin for the past six months and I have no complaints whatsoever about the care she is receiving there.
“I was surprised about the nature of the press coverage and can only say that since my mother went in there the staff have always been really helpful. Nothing is too much trouble for them.
“She is always very well taken care of and nicely washed and dressed. With her condition it is vital that she gets a very high level of care and I am absolutely certain that she receives it at Taliesin. I have no qualms at all about leaving her there.
“I also think Leanne Wood should have gone to visit the home before making comments about it.”
Another relative giving his backing to Taliesin is 82-year-old retired businessman Kenneth Owen of Penygraig near Tonypandy whose wife Cecilia, also 82, has been a resident there since last September.
He said: “She suffers from dementia and has special needs but I know that she receives some excellent care at the home. If I thought there was anything wrong with her care believe me I’d pursue it but I just can’t fault it.
“I visit Cecilia three times a week and phone the staff three times a day to check she has had her breakfast and been given her medication and there’s never been any problem.
“I believe the criticism was unwarranted and politicians like Leanne Wood should keep out of things like this.”
Assistant manager Tom Thatcher with relative Ken Owen and his wife, Cecilia, who is a resident of the Taliesin care home.
Assistant manager Tom Thatcher with relative Ken Owen