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.
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?