Statement regarding the allegations of abuse at Ty Coryton

Please note that this article may be distressing and contains details of the alleged abuse.

On Wednesday 9th June 2021, it was reported by the BBC that four former employees have claimed that residents – Autistic children – are abused by staff.

Ty Coryton, based in Whitchurch, Cardiff in South Wales, is a facility providing both residential care and specialist schooling for Autistic children. The children attending – either as residents or as day school pupils – have extremely high support needs, most have co-occurring learning disabilities, and many have been failed by previous education establishments who were unable to accommodate their needs. These are children who are extremely vulnerable, are likely to be experiencing educational trauma, and who deserve to be treated with dignity, support, and respect.

Ten years have passed since the Winterbourne View scandal, it’s been five years since abuse at Mendip House was exposed, yet lessons are still not being learned. Autistic people – particularly those who also have a learning disability – are subjected to humiliation, physical and verbal abuse, and neglect. Restraint, including highly dangerous prone restraint, are being used regularly, often as a first response. Following evidence provided during the Winterbourne View review, both the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) and the UK government responded by updating guidance regarding the use of prone restraint in hospital and care settings. These advised that it should only be used if other de-escalation methods have failed (though at Autistic UK we do not condone any use of prone restraint), that there should be on-site access to lifesaving equipment such as defibrillators and oxygen, and it should be used for the shortest possible time – Autistic UK places this at zero seconds.

Despite these already conservative reformation attempts, prone restraint is often used as first response, and as mentioned in the Ty Coryton article, children are being restrained in this manner for prolonged periods of time, in this example 20 minutes. Prone restraint can kill. While this should be reason enough to ban its use, it also does nothing to de-escalate a situation; it provokes a fear response, either fight, (attempted) flight, freeze, or submit.

In addition to dangerous restraint, Ty Coryton, like with other institutions, have been accused of abuses such as secluding residents by locking them in their rooms, staff being verbally abusive, restricting access to food, and withholding money from the residents. While it’s easy – and typical – for individual staff members to be held accountable, these people are scapegoats for a wider issue. If it were simply a case of ‘a few bad people in the wrong job’ these horrific abuses wouldn’t be as widespread, nor would they span decades. Yes, individuals should report safeguarding concerns, but those who do are often managed out of their positions, or leave because no changes are made.

We spoke with a person who worked at Ty Coryton on a temporary basis in 2019 in the school. They have asked to remain anonymous, but informed us that they submitted a safeguarding report to their agency following their time at the school. While they stress that the staff they worked with genuinely seemed to care for the pupils, they were overworked, underpaid, and – due the environment being distressing to the pupils – often injured.

They told us that there are no safe areas for pupils in meltdown to de-escalate, and that the garden is used in lieu of breakout rooms, meaning “Regular disruption to the pupils’ routines, which can lead to meltdowns.” When speaking further of the unsuitable premises, they told us, “They bring in builders during school hours to carry out essential repairs (meaning workmen and tools all over the place),” adding that a pupil they were working with “Repeatedly tried to enter the construction areas and touch dangerous equipment including drills and nails. … He even managed to pick up an electric drill, but thankfully I was able to swiftly remove it from him.” 

Alongside this unsuitable physical environment, the school was missing one-page profiles (documents containing essential information about pupils’ support needs), plans change without warning (including taking pupils on trips or swimming at short notice), and the staff are regularly burned out and distressed. Such a changeable environment would be damaging to anyone, and this is where children with some of the highest support needs are educated. There’s no wonder that meltdowns are prevalent. With prone and supine restraint being the go-to ‘solution’, our source added, “There was a boy who was restrained like that so regularly that, when he could feel himself getting agitated, he would lie on the floor because he knew it was coming.”

In order to prevent future incidents, there needs to be an immediate shift in societal attitudes towards disabled people, in conjunction with a change in ethos from care providers. While those who control these homes still fail to provide adequate training, policies, staff renumeration, facilities, and support, these incidents will keep happening.

Autistic UK believes that a trauma informed approach should be adopted by all facilities, together with a strengths-based attitude towards their residents. In order to provide the care that vulnerable members of society deserve, as a minimum care homes and specialist schools should:

  • Use the trauma informed principles of safety, trust, collaboration, empowerment and choice
  • Provide appropriate communication tools to all residents/pupils, including AAC where needed – this should never be removed for any reason
  • Ensure that the sensory needs of residents/pupils are met
  • Ensure that residents/pupils are treated with dignity and respect – this is particularly important when working with residents/pupils with personal care needs
  • Recognise that disability (including learning disabilities) does not mean a person is a ‘younger person/baby trapped in an older person’s body’ – this is ableist, infantilising, and unacceptable – provide access to age-appropriate information in a stage-appropriate format
  • Reject and ban the use of prone restraint
  • Use person-centred planning, and ensure the needs of all residents/pupils are met
  • A change to the management culture to one that encourages and supports an easy to use, transparent and robust complaints process based on risk management principles. It should be designed to prevent repeated incidents together with protection for whistle-blowers, whether they be family members, residents, pupils or staff.

These points are not unreasonable. Many people reading them may wonder why we’re ‘pointing out the obvious’, yet care providers regularly fail to meet any of these points, then label their residents as having ‘challenging behaviour’ rather than acknowledging they’re failing their duty of care. It is worth remembering that placements are funded by local authorities; the state is footing the bill for this level of abuse. Would a ‘one strike and you’re out’ policy for company misdemeanours ensure that the owners ensure they protect the human rights of their residents? Perhaps the knowledge that they will be ‘hit in the pocket’ will be more successful than appealing to their humanity.

We contacted the Care Inspectorate for Wales for comment, as yet this has not been forthcoming.

Glossary

AAC – Augmentative and Alternative Communication. This can be in the form of letter boards, picture systems, or computerised software to aid communication for those who struggle with speech.

Prone/Supine Restraint – The restraint of a person in a lying position (face down and face up respectively), often on a floor, with one or two people on top of them. This has been the cause of death of care home residents, school students, and people detained by the police. More information and an image can be found in this article. An article in the Nursing Times contains information in standard English as to why floor restraint is dangerous, providing academic references for further reading.

Statement regarding the Pearson’s A Level Psychology Revision Guide

A BBC article has been shared across the community today regarding the Pearson’s A Level Psychology Revision Guide and its description of Autistic people (you can read the article here).

First, we at Autistic UK would like to commend George for speaking out about this. It’s heartening to see that the next generation of Autistic advocates and activists are already working to get injustices rectified and are willing to put themselves out there to ensure that positive changes are made.

Second, we note that Pearson are “investigating further” and “will be consulting with an independent expert” so that they can review the content of the book. We ask that Pearson consult not solely with an “independent expert”, but also with the Autistic community before publishing their revisions. We also ask that Pearson confirm whether their consultant is Autistic themselves.

Third, as this is aimed at students taking AQA exams, we feel it is crucial that the content of the course pertaining to autism is also reviewed. While they may not have written this revision guide, it is aimed at helping students pass their exams, and would be based on course material. We feel that as Autistic people are infantilised and outdated stereotypes persist in much of today’s literature, it is not unreasonable to suspect that the content of the AQA syllabus may not be too dissimilar. There are a number of Autistic professionals – including Autistic psychologists and independent Autistic consultants and trainers – who should be employed to conduct this review.

It is dismaying – yet unsurprising – to see autism being taught in such a derogatory manner. George will not have been the first Autistic student to have to read this content. These uninformed statements dressed up as facts contribute to the discrimination faced by Autistic people. This is not an issue which is only happening in academia, and attitudes like these (whatever their source) has an effect on how we’re treated as adults.

Mainstream resources define meltdowns by their external presentations – the behaviours displayed – and not from an internal perspective – what is experienced and felt by the Autistic person. They also completely omit the impacts they have on our health and wellbeing, and overlooks the root causes of meltdowns, mainly sensory overloading environments, unreasonable demands and expectations, and an outright refusal to meet an Autistic person’s needs.

These infantilising descriptions mean that ‘professionals’ will speak to whoever accompanies us to meetings and appointments rather than addressing us directly. Those who do speak to us often adopt patronising tones, or start to simplify their language/tone once they are aware we are Autistic. While it is reasonable to ask an Autistic person if they have any communication requests, assuming we need to be spoken to like children is not acceptable.

Autistic parents often won’t disclose their diagnosis or ask for adjustments due to the assumptions that we remain childlike and have ‘tantrums’, and how this perception adds to misconceptions about our parenting abilities. The same can be said for employment – is there any wonder we’re un/underemployed if this is what people are being taught?

It is also inaccurate to state that Autistic people “do not demonstrate imaginative or pretend play”. While Autistic people can play differently to their non-Autistic peers, this sweeping statement does not describe Autistic experience, and is (again) based on external observations by non-Autistics using a non-Autistic framework.

We also note (despite the blurred photo in the BBC article) the title of the page is ‘Theory of Mind’. Though we cannot read the full content, we see you have used a research paper from 1985. Therefore, it is not unreasonable to assume that the information is out of date. More recent research conducted by Dr Damian Milton published in Disability and Society ‘On the ontological status of autism: The ‘double empathy problem’’ clearly presents how Autistic people do not inherently have ‘Theory of Mind’ difficulties, but rather both Autistic people and non-Autistic people struggle to understand each other’s point of view – the difficulty is just as marked in non-Autistic people when trying to understand the Autistic experience. We suggest that you read this research and use this as part of your toolkit when updating your literature.

We look forward to seeing the corrections following your consultations.

Announcement regarding the Oliver McGowan Mandatory Training in Learning Disability and Autism for Health and Social Care Workers Strategic Oversight Group

Following on from the announcement of the delivery partners in July of this year of the Oliver McGowan Mandatory Training in Learning Disability and Autism for Health and Social Care Workers, there has been a process by which Autistic representatives were able to apply from the NHS England Learning Disability and Autism Advisory Group to join the Strategic Oversight Group led by Skills for Care, Health Education England, and the National Development Team for Inclusion. 

After an application and interview process, Autistic UK is proud to announce that one of our Directors, Julian Morgan, as a member of the NHS England Learning Disability and Autism Advisory Group and the NHS Citizen’s Advisory Group, was appointed as one of two independent Autistic members of the Strategic Oversight Group.

Visit the website here

Julian will be attending his first meeting of the Strategic Oversight Group at the end of October, and is looking forward to being able to put our wider Autistic community’s views and concerns forward to those responsible for its implementation and evaluation. 

To this end, Autistic UK will be continuing its focus groups and surveys so that Julian is fully informed and up to date with the wider Autistic community’s wishes and concerns. Through this we hope to ensure that your voices are heard directly by those who need to hear them. Our next survey will be shared across our platforms in the next few days, with the questions being based on the answers received in our initial survey. The report generated from our initial survey has been passed on to the Implementation and Evaluation Partners via NHS England.

As one of Autistic UK’s founding principles is that we do not seek to speak for Autistic people but provide a platform for their voices to be heard, we encourage all of you who read this to grasp this opportunity to have your views put before those decision makers responsible for the creation, implementation and evaluation of the Oliver McGowan Mandatory Training in Learning Disability and Autism for Health and Social Care Workers. In turn, we will also use the discussion points from the Strategic Oversight Group meetings to inform our future survey questions. In particular we are seeking answers from those whose voices are normally not heard, especially those of you who also have a learning disability and those with high support needs.

We will also be putting out surveys which focus on intersectionality, for example, LGBTQIA+ and Black and other Ethnic Minority communities. This is to ensure that health and social care inequalities faced by those further marginalised groups are specifically highlighted, and that feedback isn’t based on one subsection of the Autistic community.

This will also include input from the official partners regarding the areas which they would like to consult with you on, which should give our community an idea of their understanding and focus. These will always be put out separately and be clearly identified as questions being asked by those organisations. Please be assured that all of your answers to these questions will be passed on anonymously, but word for word.

As ever, the results of all of these surveys will be published on our platforms as soon as they are available.

Getting away with murder; and why it should not happen

Photo credit: USA-Reiseblogger available free on Pixabay

Like all of our community, we are deeply saddened by the death of an Autistic child whose mother has been subsequently charged for his murder.

The greater tragedy surrounding the murder of this little boy is that it is unfortunately far from being an isolated case. This is rarely reported in mainstream news, and all too often when it is, the blame is laid at the feet of the murder victim as a burden to society.

This victim blaming culture is most visible on social media, where people flock to express their sympathy and empathy for the perpetrator, raising them to the status of a martyr. Phrases such as “mercy killing”, “they are in a better place”, and “what else could they do?” flood our newsfeeds, while the Disabled community’s voice is dismissed as “not understanding how hard it is to be the parent of a severely Disabled Child”.

Disabled people are parents too. Generations of families live with severe genetic conditions, many of which are hereditary and vary in their severity of their presentation. We are quite aware of “how hard it is to be the parent of a severely Disabled Child”.

At Autistic UK, we believe we echo our community’s voice in condemning these insidious attitudes often voiced by those who are not parents of Disabled Children.

Our current societal culture has developed the ability to see Disability as a reasonable excuse for murder. The pervasive view that the caregiver has no other choice needs to stop. There are always choices; even the perceived failure of giving up your child is preferable to murder. Murder is never acceptable.

We would suggest that other options include:

Seeking professional help:

  • taking the child to hospital
  • taking the child to a police station
  • taking the child to a fire station
  • taking the child to social services
  • dialling 999 if you feel you are about to harm your child
  • calling your GP and telling them you can’t cope
  • contacting disability charities and their associated support networks

These services and routes all lead to a Safeguarding Duty. Everybody in the public sector has responsibility under this duty. Duty holders must act in the best interests of the child.

Informal help:

  • seeking help on social media and/or websites – there are lots of support groups out there whose members will have similar difficulties
  • family and friends
  • contacting disability charities and their associated support networks
  • finding a local support group
  • open your web browser on any device and search “help with <insert name of disability>” – there will be a number of results providing details of support networks

Where specific support organisations don’t exist, there is always Unique, a Charity dedicated to supporting families of children with extremely rare genetic conditions.

For further information about this, please visit https://blog.theautismsite.greatergood.com/caregiver-murder/.

 

If you are distressed or affected by  the issues discussed in this statement, you may wish to contact one of the following support helplines:

Samaritans: Telephone 116 123

Shout: Text “Shout” to 85258

Papyrus: Hopeline UK Telephone 0800 068 41 41

National Domestic Abuse Helpline: Telephone 0808 2000 247

Childline: Telephone 0800 1111 (they also take calls from adults concerned about a child)

Cruise Bereavement: Telephone 0808 808 1677

Most of these organisations also have a chat function on their websites. In order to maintain your confidentiality, many of their telephone numbers will not show up on statements and may not be traced back to them in your call logs. You can find details of this on their websites.

Statement regarding the ‘Oliver McGowan Mandatory Learning Disability and Autism training’

This article was written collaboratively by Julian Morgan and Kat Williams

To start, Autistic UK would like to add a grateful acknowledgement of ALL those of us who have been pushing, campaigning and demanding formal learning disability and autism training to be nationally available. The announcement made today that all health and social care staff in England will receive mandatory autism training is the outcome we were all rooting and campaigning for, and is – on the surface – a huge step in the right direction.

But as ever, the execution from the NHS and Government never fails to disappoint.

Though medics may not be required to take the Hippocratic Oath, the statement “first do no harm” should still apply. The Oath was replaced by the General Medical Council’s (GMC) “duties as a doctor,” which many universities use as part of their medical graduation ceremonies as a ‘pledge’ to uphold, and all doctors must adhere to.

Now the Autistic community in England (not the UK as headlines suggest) finds out the ONLY autism related organisation that will be implementing ‘Oliver McGowan Mandatory Learning Disability and Autism training for all health and social care staff’, as announced, is one which has a history of exploiting those Autistics who contributed to its past online training packages. It’s also rather short of paid Autistic employees too; unpaid ‘volunteers’ and ambassadors it has in multitude. Other contributors include learning disability charities – all of which are parent focused or led – and this news has sparked a high level of concern within the Autistic community.

The “duties as a doctor” states that medics should “Never abuse your patients’ trust in you or the public’s trust in the profession.” Handing a training contract over to a parent-focused charity with such an atrocious history of death and neglect in their own care homes has deftly broken that trust in one fell swoop.

Medics must “Listen to, and respond to, their concerns and preferences,” yet they refuse to listen to the Autistic community who, for years, have been telling them that training should be directed and delivered by Actually Autistic people who have lived experience. The NHS employs lived experience advisers in many areas, yet autism seems to be a category in which “mother knows best.”

One of our Directors – who also sits on the NHSE Advisory group on Learning Disability and Autism – was promised that the NHS-wide training on autism and Autistic people would be co-produced and developed by lived experience advocates. Were they actually listening, or just saying things they thought we would like to mollify us?

They promised that what we referred to as ‘The Usual Suspects’ would not be their go-to choice for autism as they were heavily biased in their experience towards learning disabilities, and had no real experience of Autistic people other than ‘as learning disabled’ and were wedded to the medical model of care.

‘NO!’ they said, ‘Local implementation! Lived experience all through. Not all learning disability charities doing it…’

Despite promises to stop the standard practice of treating Autistic people as learning disabled, we now have a selection of learning disability service organisations telling medics and care staff what Autistic people need, without any meaningful Autistic consultation or input. We asked for separate, independent, Autistic advocates and organisations to be included in designing the bid and training, yet the infantilising of Autistic people (especially those with learning disabilities) means that it is presumed we are unable to know what we need and desire, let alone deliver this training ourselves. Of course, our betters know better than we do about what Autistics want.

The NHS has broken its pledge that ‘lived experience advisors will be used in all decision making and implementation processes in all areas.

What happened to Nothing About Us Without Us?

The chances of Autistic people who do not “toe the line” with the service provider in question contributing to this massively important work, has basically slipped to zero. Thanks NHS and Government. Notice how Autistics do not even make the headline on this official announcement from a national provider to the Care Industry?

The GMC’s duties of a doctor also states that they must “Work with colleagues in the ways that best serve patients’ interests.” We’re going to go a little off the path with this one, but realistically colleagues does not solely include other doctors. This includes the trainers, the administrators, the managers etc. Working with trainers who have demonstrated that they do not serve Autistic patients’ interests, yet again, goes against this ethical guidance.

Medics must also “Protect and promote the health of patients and the public.” They cannot protect the health of Autistic patients while simultaneously working with an organisation which has actively harmed Autistics, particularly as they then attempted to cover up said harm. Do they think we have forgotten Mendip House? Forgotten the cover up? This is especially pertinent as the NHS and Government’s working relationship involves them teaching medics and care staff how to better care for a portion of society they harm.

How do you feel about an organisation that still sends schoolchildren to secure units and ATUs telling care staff how to look after autistic children and adults?

An organisation that uses and promotes ABA and PBS for all? (If you don’t know why that’s a bad thing, please read this article written by Kat Williams on her site)

Have you forgotten the whistle-blower(s) and the denials of responsibility?

Do they think we have forgotten the abuse?

Does their track-record demonstrate that they’re up of this job? That further deaths will be prevented?

This is the organisation that will now train others to care for YOUR loved ones. A fine example of vanity and hubris above and beyond the call.

This organisation veils itself using the Social Model of Disability in its public image, yet follows the Medical Model of Disability behind closed doors. The thought of an organisation that treats the Autistic community as an income stream is not representative of that community. Its unwillingness to advance the Autistic cause through meaningful coproduction (rather than public-facing tokenism) is chilling. This is an organisation that practices ABA (as are the others which are involved). This organisation incarcerates children and abuses its charges. The NHS has already had ABA/PBS snuck through the back door through the Transforming Care Programme, and this new contract will see systems that Autistics have been campaigning to reform move back into behaviour-led thinking led by organisations whose training will be coloured by their own negative opinions.

The GMC code also states that medics must “Take prompt action if [they] think that patient safety, dignity or comfort is being compromised.”

Therefore, to the NHS and Government, we invite you to take prompt action now. Your Autistic patients’ safety, dignity and comfort are all being compromised with this union.

“You are personally accountable for your professional practice and must always be prepared to justify your decisions and actions…” Can you justify this?

Feel free to express your opinion to the National Autistic Society, Mark Radford at Health Education England, NHS England, and Minister for Care Helen Whately.

Breaking News – Pupils in wales to return to full time education in September

Kirsty Williams – Education Minister – has just announced that all schools will open on 1st September for all pupils, with schools having the option to initially prioritise entry for key year groups (Reception, years 7, 11, 12 as examples) for the first few days.

This announcement is subject to the continuing steady decline of positive COVID-19 cases. Kirsty stated:

  • There will be limited social distancing
  • Children will typically in contact groups of 30
  • Social distancing guidance for adults should follow the general guidance at the time
  • If there’s a local COVID-19 outbreak schools will conduct risk assessments with the LEAs
  • If staff/pupils test positive the TTP system steps in
  • Schools to have a stock of home testing kits for this eventuality
  • Schools will have back up plans in case pupils need to return to remote learning
  • Guidance for schools will be published Monday next week
  • Logistical challenges will be addressed in the guidance
  • Unions have been consulted and have an opportunity to feed into the guidance before it’s published on Monday
  • Welsh Government are working with childcare groups to enable them to increase their contact group numbers
  • Welsh Government will provide £29million funding to recruit the equivalent of 600 new teachers and 300 TAs
  • This funding will be fairly distributed across Wales into school budgets
  • An additional £5million will be provided to double resources relating to pupil mental health and wellbeing
  • Welsh Government currently have a Whole School Framework Consultation regarding wellbeing
  • Targeted support will be provided for disadvantaged and vulnerable young people, and pupils in years 11, 12, and 13
  • This targeted support is to assist with reducing attainment gaps
  • Minister states that parents should be confident in sending their children back as WG are following scientific advice
  • TAG understanding of COVID-19 is that younger children don’t seem to be vectors for the disease
  • International studies show that under 18s make up less than 2% of COVID-19 cases
  • Minister advises it would be disingenuous to claim there is zero risk – it’s about mitigating risk
  • Parents will initially not be fined if they choose not to send their children back – this could change in the future
  • If a household has a high risk family member a family centred approach will be taken
  • Guidance regarding vulnerability has been published by WG

Autistic UK will read the guidance once published to ensure the needs of pupils with Additional Learning Needs and Disabilities have been considered. Information regarding our ongoing work in this area can be found here.

Whorlton Hall Panorama Report – A Statement

From the Directors of Autistic UK

Written by Errol Kerr and Kat Humble

Within the past few months, the revelations as to how the most
vulnerable of our community are treated at the hands of healthcare
professionals have been horrifying, though unsurprising, to us at Autistic UK.

Whether it’s Winterbourne View, Whorlton Hall or who knows how many
others, there is the level of contempt amongst those who provide care for
autistic and learning disabled people. Our long-term physical and mental health
needs go unmet, thus shortening our lifespans and damaging the lives that we
and our families live. There is a very good reason why the suicide rate amongst
autistic people is nine times higher than the national average. This number,
combined with those who die from neglect or incompetence is a canker in the
heart of our society that is being ignored.

Denial of Rights

Some deny us our right to adequate support for being “too expensive” to meet our needs locally. Some attempt to deny us support because it’s too much effort and keep passing it on to another agency. Then there are those, like the gang of staff members at Whorlton Hall, denying us support in favour of constant abuse and victimisation because they do not see us as fully human. We are “other” to them and therefore fair game.

This is not new. It is not a surprise, at least not to us. It is an
obvious outcome of a society that does not value difference. A society that not
only doesn’t value difference but fears it. A society where people feel they
must distance themselves from others who don’t conform to their definition of
normal. It is also the obvious outcome of a system that is not only corrupt,
but essentially unmonitored despite the existence of the CQC. An organisation
that is rapidly proving itself unfit for purpose.

The inhuman abuses that our people have regularly suffered at the hands
of those meant to care for them will shock the general public for a little
while and then, when we are no longer front page news and people have forgotten
about us, another revelation will happen. But, as incredible as this
investigative programme was, it alone will not change what is happening.

Panorama

In 2011, Panorama shocked the nation with the revelation of the abuses
at Winterbourne View. The CQC investigated the rest of the homes operated by
that company, Castlebeck Care, and found a “systemic failure to protect people or to
investigate allegations of abuse” and accused Castlebeck of misleading
them. Shortly after, the CQC came under scrutiny itself when it was discovered
that they had received numerous allegations of abuse dating back to 2008. The
head of the CQC resigned following the investigation. Sadly, that appears to
have been the sole outcome.

Now, eight years later, Panorama has
found another vile example to shock the public, Whorlton Hall. And again, they
have done a stellar job of showing the extent of the horrors that have
happened. Yet there have been numerous discoveries of such abuses between these
two investigations. One example was Mendip House, run by the NAS, who were
accused by the resident’s relatives of hiding the abuses suffered by their
loved ones for years before acting.

The Cover Up

Evidence in the report by the Somerset
Safeguarding Adults Board showed that the NAS had conducted internal
investigations which revealed extensive degradation of the people under their
care but did not alert the CQC or the police of these crimes. The report observed that it was “remarkable”
that, five years after Winterbourne, these abuses were not brought to light for
so long. The NAS was fined £4000 by the CQC for the financial abuses committed
by the staff, but not the perpetrators of the physical and mental abuses that
occurred. Despite these findings, the CQC stated that no other action was
required of them. No criminal charges were brought and the residents of that residential
care home were left without justice, like so many others. And so it continues.

Fit For Purpose?

A watchdog with no protective instinct is
useless. In a 2017 report by John Burton of the Centre for Welfare Reform, it
is shown quite clearly why the CQC is so ineffective. Instead of listening to
residents and loved ones directly, these worried people are directed to a call
centre where staff have no knowledge of who that home’s local inspector is or
how to reach them. All this call centre can do is essentially take a message
and put it on the home’s file. Reports of abuse and concerns of neglect are
left to pile up between inspections. Even then, those reports are often not
regarded, as the CQC rely most heavily on documents like care plans rather than
digging beneath the polished surface presented by a care home that knew they
were going to be inspected.

These abuses will not stop until the CQC
is reformed from the ground up. Autistic and Learning Disabled people are
speaking, CQC, are you listening?

A photo of a large cream-coloured two story house.

In Response to the Shocking Verdict of the CQC Regarding the Mendip House Abuses

Content Warning: this article discusses depictions of torture and abuse.

To all of you who read this:

It doesn’t matter whether you are autistic or not, whether you’re an ally or an advocate, whether you consider autism a disability or a difference, whatever language you may use to talk about autism or autistic people.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re affiliated to an organisation or not. It doesn’t matter if you’re a parent, carer, aunt, uncle, cousin or other relative of an autistic person. It doesn’t matter whether the closest autistic person you know is a classmate, a teacher, or a neighbour. It doesn’t even matter if the closest you’ve come to an autistic person is seeing Anne Hegerty on The Chase.
To any healthcare worker, professional, or commissioner who is as appalled as we are that their profession is benchmarked by the CQC’s ruling – a ruling that says it’s acceptable to abuse vulnerable adults in your care.
To anyone who abhors this ruling that downplays the atrocities that occurred in Mendip House, a ruling that says that a few thousand pounds can absolve the trauma faced by the most vulnerable.
To anyone who is disgusted by the idea that when you’re caught abusing vulnerable people – if indeed you are – you can avoid the worst of the charges brought against you by paying a paltry sum for the least of these charges while claiming sympathy for victims and promising change, time and time again.
To anyone over the age of eighteen, with a shred of human decency, this post is for you.

So many of us wish for the organisations responsible for permitting and covering up this abuse to be held accountable, and to ensure this is done we need to ensure our anger is directed to the right places. The actions performed by Mendip House are atrocious – the fact the Care Quality Commission (CQC) has all but absolved their acts is an unforgivable betrayal.
Whilst physical direct action and targeted protests will help focus the media and public’s attention toward this travesty, and whilst social media is a fantastic tool for organising our actions, it will be just as effective to focus the CQC’s attention on our actions by providing a torrent of formal complaints concerning their actions regarding the abuses suffered by the vulnerable residents of Mendip House.
As the CQC seems to believe it will shelter in silence during this storm, as no-one ‘who matters’ seems to be paying attention, we should ensure we bring the storm to them.
Below, you can find a link to the complaints page of the CQC, which contains all of the information you will need to make a full formal complaint through multiple formats, including an easy-read version and several languages. You can also find their contact details, separately, at the bottom of this post. It’s possible that the CQC may only accept complaints from the UK, however there is no harm in attempting contact from abroad.
You will note that this page is not for making a complaint to the CQC – it is to make a complaint about the CQC. To have the greatest impact, we should each submit our own complaints through any means most suited to yourself, whether as an individual or through a network or organisation. We should encourage anyone who is as angered by this abhorrent ruling as we are, to also submit a similar complaint.
Whether your complaint is made via email, in writing, or via phonecall, ensure that this is done – and ensure that, as the CQC requests, your complaint is directed for the attention of the Chief Executive. After all, to whom else should we indicate our anger that the Organisation they run appears to consider abuse in a care setting more acceptable than theft? To whom else should we express our disgust at this ruling, even though the CQC states on their website they have the option of “prosecuting cases where people are harmed or placed in danger of harm”?

As you take on this fight, be sure to direct others to the complaints page alongside this article from the Guardian that can be found below, discussing the events we are enraged at. Whether you share this post or the links themselves, whether you have this discussion publicly or privately with others, be sure to bring everyone together in this Share this with your friends. Share it in any page, group or network with any vague interest in disability, neurodiversity, human rights, or any political or social movements. Share it because you can.
Most especially, share it because many of us – those of us who may be most hurt by this ruling – may be unable to do so themselves. Share it because those who can’t share it are often the most vulnerable of us, those who we should put our rivalries aside for to uphold the rights of, and to inform those responsible for defending their rights – our rights – of just how angry we all are.

In solidarity,

Julian Morgan & Errol Kerr

Complaints Page:
https://www.cqc.org.uk/cont…/how-complain/complain-about-cqc

Postal Address:
CQC National Customer Service Centre
Citygate
Gallowgate
Newcastle upon Tyne
NE1 4PA

Phone:
03000 616161

Email:
enquiries@cqc.org.uk

Opening Hours:
8.30am – 5:30pm, Monday to Friday

Statement: On the NAS’ removal and reinstating of Mermaids’ information

This is a statement regarding the National Autistic Society’s decision to remove information from Mermaids, a trans youth support network, from their website. This also discusses their decision to reinstate it after mass objection online. This occurred over the week commencing 01/10/2018.

Continue reading “Statement: On the NAS’ removal and reinstating of Mermaids’ information”

Statement regarding the Resignation of Autistic and Disabled MP Jared O’Mara from the Labour Party

The following is a statement regarding the resignation of autistic and disabled MP Jared O’Mara from the Labour Party. This comes shortly after his reinstatement after being temporarily banned from the party after allegations were made of homophobia and misogyny online.

[A link to the BBC article concerning this can be found here.]

It is true that disabled people, autistic people, and people who fit into the wider neurodiversity umbrella – are not given a voice within UK politics as a whole. Mental health, too, is a topic only recently brought into discussion.

For this reason and this reason only, it is a shame to see a disabled and autistic member of parliament resign from their party.

Autistic UK believes that O’Mara’s resignation from the Labour Party, and his continuation to serve as an MP for Sheffield Hallam, is a failing on his part to uphold his role to represent his constituents, his party, and to autistic people as a whole.

As a representative of the UK, O’Mara – like all MPs – is to be held responsible for his past and present actions by the public. Whilst, as stated, his actions were not necessarily “criminal”, to excuse discriminatory actions in the form of harassment and victimisation online as such is disgraceful.

There is a notable difference between behaviour that is considered “poor” because autistic people misunderstand a society that does not work for them, and discrimination. There’s a notable difference between laughing during a cinema screening and discriminating against women and LGBTQ+ people. Discriminatory, cruel and vindictive behaviour is not due to an autistic person’s relationship with society and is, like neurotypical people, entirely upon themselves.

Autistic UK stands against all forms of discrimination. We will never condone an individual using their place in one discriminated group as an excuse, however veiled, to discriminate against others.

It is true that people do change and a person should not solely be judged by their past. However, any individual must be held responsible for their past actions if they have not openly done so already. To refuse to acknowledge your past only causes more harm to those you have harmed and failed.

Through his recent actions, he has – whether consciously or not – made his prior comments, his resignation, and his treatment by the party as a whole, about being autistic. A decision that undermines autistic and disabled people as a whole.

Using your place within the autistic community – or any marginalised community – to excuse discrimination is incredibly dangerous and is a method used widely within certain circles to excuse white, often male, violence against women. Using the fact you are autistic as an excuse for poor behaviour only serves to damage the reputation of all autistic people.

It is deeply hypocritical to accuse a political party of not sharing a “commitment to the true definition of equality and compassion” when suspended for misogynistic and homophobic comments that go against the exact beliefs stated.

The fact an individual is disabled, mentally ill, neurodivergent or a mixture of these neither explains or excuses behaviour that is abhorrent, and O’Mara’s unwillingness to accept a formal warning and attend any form of training shows an unwillingness to accept and learn from his past wrongdoings.

We, too, would like to suggest reading about autism. However, we would also particularly like to highlight the use of autism and autistic people as a scapegoat for wider discrimination.