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.
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.
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.