Thanks for the comments to my previous blog. There’s been lots of reaction to the programme, including learning disability organisation BILD calling for an urgent government review of the legislation and inspection process (see the article in today’s Society Guardian).
Another article in the Guardian, on ‘mate’ crime, shows that it isn’t only institutions which can be breeding grounds for abuse. But I agree with Mencap that there is no place for locked ‘hospitals’ housing 24 people. The £3- 3500 per week spent on housing patients in an environment with no attempt to provide any semblance of ordinary life, staffed by unskilled, unqualified workers, could have purchased fantastic community based care. By way of comparison, Shared Lives costs around £250- 450 per week. We have great case studies of people who have been labelled ‘challenging’ when living unhappily in institutional care thriving without incident in a Shared Lives setting. For instance, South Tyneside recently saved £50k per year on the cost of one ‘challenging’ individual’s support.
This morning we hear that four people have been arrested. Why only four? It is an offence under the Mental Capacity Act for anyone caring for a person who lacks capacity (including family carers, healthcare and social care staff in hospital, care home or person’s home), a deputy or attorney, to neglect or ill treat them whether the behaviour is likely to cause, or actually causes, harm or damage to their health. Any social care professional witnessing abuse of that kind and failing to report or prevent it (including the BBC journalist) has an obligation to intervene. People need to understand that having knowledge of that kind of behaviour and not preventing it is inexcusable even if you don’t directly take part.
I am also wondering why we have not yet heard of an inquiry into commissioning practice in the local authority concerned. Even if you witnessed no abuse, it is impossible to see how anyone purchasing a place at Winterbourne, with its dearth of activities, liberty, skilled staff or any other apparent facilities, could believe they were purchasing high quality, personalised care likely to be in the best interests of the individuals involved. The council’s website has no mention of the abusive care it commissioned and were not even questioned by the Panorama team.
Not everyone agreed with my view that the BBC should have stopped filming earlier and called the police. The BBC’s investigation ensured that abuse which would otherwise have gone unnoticed indefinitely was eventually stopped and they deserve praise for that. But they appeared to stop filming and contact the police at the point at which they were satisfied they had enough film for a great TV programme, not at the point at which they had enough evidence to present to police and inspectors. Exposing this case was important and worthwhile. But making the best possible TV programme is not more important than intervening to stop abuse which their own experts described to them as ‘torture’.