London mental health facility to be investigated over teenager’s suicide

London mental health facility to be investigated over teenager’s suicide

Family photo of Sophie Bennett, 19.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

A charity responsible for a mental health facility where a teenager was found hanged is being investigated.

Sophie Bennett, 19, took her life in Lancaster Lodge in Richmond, west London in May 2016, just over a year after she was admitted.

The Richmond Psychosocial Foundation International (RPFI), the charity in control of the home, is now the subject of a statutory inquiry by the Charity Commission after an inquest found its leadership and oversight was "grossly inadequate".

Ms Bennett had told her mother before her death it was being run like a "boot camp" with strict rules and mandatory exercise with reduced levels of psychotherapy.

During the inquest, West London Coroner's Court heard a consultant to the charity’s board, Elly Jensen, had previously been forced to step away from her own psychiatric charity in the 1980s due to allegations of financial mismanagement and misappropriated funds.

It also emerged that Ms Bennett had self-harmed in April 2016 and said she was experiencing suicidal thoughts, but staff had ignored advice to admit her straight to hospital for an assessment - instead keeping her under "close observation".

A report by a Care Quality Commission inspector in March 2016 found care at the home had deteriorated rapidly in the space of six months and raised numerous concerns such as kitchen items not being locked away and poorly qualified junior staff.

The inquest revealed several other residents at Lancaster Lodge became "very ill" amid the disruptions in 2016.

Michelle Russell, director of investigations, monitoring and enforcement at the Charity Commission, said the coroner's report into Ms Bennett's death "made for highly distressing reading".

She added: "The coroner found that governance failings at the charity directly contributed to Sophie's death. We want to see the charity address those failings as a matter of urgency.

"The opening of this inquiry reflects the seriousness of the coroner's findings and our concerns."

The Bennett family welcomed the inquiry but expressed their anger that it had taken so long for Ms Jansen to be investigated by the Charity Commission.

They added: "We believe that it is only due to our persistence that it is finally launching this formal inquiry."

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