STAFF at a day care service for adults with learning disabilities were scared about speaking out about alleged mistreatment of service users and felt there would be repercussions if they did, a court was told.
Barbara Sykes, who was manager of Reach Day Centre, is on trial at Sheffield Crown Court accused of neglecting ten clients, aged between 18 and 66, between 2008 and 2017.
The service, based at the Elliott Centre on Badsley Moor Lane, is operated by Rotherham Council and provides therapeutic activities and care for adults with learning difficulties and behavioural issues.
Sykes (64), of Church Street, Rawmarsh, is said by the prosecution to have bullied and belittled her staff and punished clients by putting them in the garden or by denying them food.
The alleged offending came to light when care worker Lynsey Sutheren contacted Rotherham Council’s then-head of service for adult care, Janine Moorcroft, the court heard today (Tuesday).
Mr Tom Storey, prosecuting, asked Mrs Moorcroft about a follow-up meeting she had had with Ms Sutheren and other members of staff on October 10, 2017.
Mrs Moorcroft said: “She [Lynsey Sutheren] said how staff felt they couldn’t talk to management because they were scared to do so.
“She felt there would be repercussions to them if they disclosed what they were aware of.
“They were told that if they reported concerns, the day centre they worked at might be closed down.”
Julie Paul-Slack, who was Barbara Sykes' assistant manager, is also on trial at Sheffield Crown Court
Mrs Moorcroft said that the consultations that had taken place at the time around the future of adult care services provided by the council had in fact excluded Reach.
She said there had been no basis for staff to have such concerns.
Mrs Moorcroft said: “One of the things Lynsey Sutheren said was that they had concerns around Sykes but they felt they weren’t able to address that with her.
“One of the examples she gave was that Sykes used to tell staff that they shouldn’t believe anything I said, in reference to the consultation, in that I was talking a load of nonsense and would potentially have the day service shut down.”
Mrs Moorcroft said she was told that one member of staff had been given anti-depressants by their doctor because they were so worried about losing their job.
Under cross-examination by Mr Patrick Williamson, representing Sykes, Mrs Moorcroft said there was no reason why any member of staff couldn’t have reported their concerns to the safeguarding department at Rotherham Council, a social worker or the police.
Sykes denies eight counts of ill treatment of a person by a care worker and three counts of ill treatment of a person lacking mental capacity.
Her assistant manager at the time, Julie Paul-Slack (56), of Middle Lane, Clifton, denies ill treatment of a person lacking mental capacity and wilful neglect of a person lacking mental capacity.
The trial continues.