Abuse at Greenacres

I came upon a story over the weekend in the Daily Telegraph. It relates to a horrific series of abuses that took place in a residential home for adults with learning disabilities in Kent. No criticisms of money-saving private companies here this time, because this home was run by the NHS – in fact, by the West Kent NHS and Social Care Trust. To sum up, the residents of Greenacres

were subjected to repeated physical and psychological abuse, cruelty, and neglect, according to the “serious case review” carried out by Kent and Medway’s Safeguarding Vulnerable Adults committee.

The adults, who suffered from serious learning disabilities, were allegedly punched, slapped, force-fed, locked in toilets, and scrubbed down with a toilet brush by a care worker over a period of almost three years, according to a summary report by the committee, seen by this newspaper.

image asplosh at Flickr

More than damning, I’d say, and close to horrific. This is over a long period of time and without doubt premeditated. It was condoned by management who were, allegedly, present when these incidents took place.

And the Crown Prosecution Service drops the charges against the alleged perpetrator.

The review said prosecutors decided that although charges against the care worker “could probably have been proven, it was considered not in the public interest to prosecute the care worker when more senior staff and managers who had failed to deal with the abusive behaviour had not been prosecuted.”

Well, as a member of the public interested in natural justice for those who have been abused horrifically, I’d want a better reason than that as to what is in my public interest. As well as, of course, knowing why others can’t be prosecuted too.

Not least because I want to know if this person/people will ever be in the position to work with people again – not just vulnerable people but any people. The care worker and the managers responsible deserve custodial sentences – that is what would be expected if those who were abused were under 18 or did not have learning disabilities, so why is the system which we operate in so blatantly discriminatory?

The NHS trust’s former chief executive, Jonathan Wilkes, who retired in 2006, said he thought the CPS’s decision not to prosecute was “wrong” but admitted his organisation had “probably” failed to manage the home properly.

The trust which took over the NHS service said the worker was disciplined, but would not say if she still worked for the health service.

‘Probably failed to manage the home properly’??? That’s very gracious of him to admit that.

Let’s see

West Kent NHS and Social Care Trust, which ran the home until 2006, “failed to make adequate provision for senior management in the home” for six years. It said the running of Greenacres was weak due to sickness, but that there was also evidence managers had ignored reports that abuse was occurring.

So why no charge of corporate neglect? Why is Jonathan Wilkes himself not having to stand trial. Of course we are back to poorly funded and ineffective management but for SIX years. That is deeply rooted institutional incompetence.

Where are the rights of those who suffered this abuse over a period of years? How are these stories able to only drag themselves to minor public attention in a short column of a newspaper? Why isn’t this on the front page of the Sun? I’d happily back a campaign to bring every single person who condoned and knew that this level of abuse was happening to be sacked and prevented from ever working with vulnerable adults and children again.

Mark Goldring, the Chief Executive of Mencap, is quoted in the article saying

“What is most scandalous about this is that this abuse was chronic; according to this report it was going on for an extended period of time.” During that time, people knew it was going on, yet they did nothing.”

He said too often cases of abuse against people with learning disabilities did not result in a conviction. A parliamentary report earlier this year found that one per cent of allegations to one adult protection committee led to a prosecution.

One percent?!? We should all of us be scandalised by this. This is the area we need support in. Why can’t we provide the same standards for vulnerable adults that we come to expect for children? Why aren’t these kinds of cases the ones shouting at us through the front pages of the national press?

After all, the report the Telegraph saw was the unpublished report of the Safeguarding Adults Committee which was obviously leaked to them.

I know, all these questions are rhetoric. I don’t expect answers or at least, I know what they are. There isn’t the same level of public interest in these stories. This abuse is condoned because vulnerable adults make poor witnesses in court – I know this from having tried to bring a case to court where a child was abusive towards his elderly parent with dementia. You can fight and fight but in the end however you know the background the ‘unreliable witness’ card will always be drawn in the end.

It does go to show why the Safeguarding Adults procedures, guidelines and rules we work with are spineless and heartless.

I know there are current proposals to change them. It would help if we had more exposure for these types of situation though.

8 thoughts on “Abuse at Greenacres

  1. Another excellent post. I fully support you in your call for those involved to be prosecuted. It is about time that those who are less able to care for themselves or to speak up for themselves enjoyed the rights that the rest of us have. To stop the prosecution of the offender because those who suffered are considered to be unreliable witnesses does not say very much for us a caring nation.

  2. I can’t put into words how angry these sort of cases make me. And how hypocritical it is that a child can be considered a reliable enough witness in an abuse case where s/he is the victim, yet a vulnerable adult with the ‘mental age of a child’ (as we hear so often) is considered to be an unreliable witness. But it’s an age-old problem: these adults remind us too much our own frailty and potential dependency (so we hide them away and ignore the discomfort), whereas children represent hope- so we do everything we can to protect, defend, and develop them.
    Not prosecuting the care worker on the basis that the managers haven’t been prosecuted is laughable! Prosecute the care worker, managers and the NHS at the same time- they are all equally culpable. The decision makes a joke of s.44 of the Mental Capacity Act.

  3. They don’t want to prosecute because if the care workers are found guilty, the council will be legally liable for any claims of damages from the residents. The same situation exists in Scotland; a raft of cases were brought against Barnados and Quarriers re abuse that took place in the 60’s and 70’s, but the Scottish Government have time barred them for the moment. I think it’s time to make a clean breast of it and make it known that there will be no place for an abuser to hide in the system.

  4. madsadgirl – unsurprisingly, I agree
    sw2be – well, yes, I agree there too!
    Julie – I hadn’t thought of that.. I still think it seems more than a little disingenuous though.

  5. This is an excellent post, and you are so right.

    Abuse is wrong whether against children, mental hospital patients, people with learning difficulties, any other vulnerable people, and animals.

  6. Very horrific and disturbing! I have occasionally had to make reports to Adult Protective Services and often find that they are literally without teeth to enforce any recommendation they may make…which is frightening when you consider they are supposedly at the front line of making sure vulnerable adults are safe.

  7. Jean – Thanks for stopping by – and yes, of course I agree completely.
    Reas – It doesn’t help it being so desperately frustrating though, unfortunately,
    oregonamy – Yes, I wonder why they never manage to get it right anywhere..

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