This week saw the sentencing of the 11 workers involved in the horrific abuse at Winterbourne View. The sentences ranged from two years to community service; derisory sentences for horrible crimes. And sadly, it shows once again that the learning disabled draw a very short straw when it comes to access to justice.
What of Castlebeck, the owners of Winterbourne View? Well, not a lot actually. After the sentencing of their staff, the company issued the following statement:
“Castlebeck welcomes the finalisation of the legal process concerning the wholly unacceptable and criminal behaviour witnessed at Winterbourne View.
When those events at Winterbourne View Independent Hospital were exposed in May 2011, the board and the company’s then Chief Executive expressed their unequivocal and unreserved regret to the service users involved and their families.
They also gave a clear commitment to protect the safety and well-being of all those who use Castlebeck’s services and swift and decisive action was taken as soon as the allegations were raised almost 18 months ago”.
Which I think, roughly translated means: “Ha ha ha. Phew, got out of that one. Now fuck off, we’ve got profits to count”.
These sort of statements are so much part of our culture now, that they have become meaningless. They are written by committee and I don’t think either the author or the reader/listener understands or believes a word of them.
If that statement doesn’t stick in the throat, what follows causes a severe nauseous attack. It was announced this week that Castlebeck are sponsoring an award at this year’s Royal College of Nursing awards. And not just any old award – they are sponsoring the learning disability nurse of the year award. I swear to God, when I read that, I thought I’d stumbled across an episode of The Thick of It. Brass neck doesn’t even come close.
I think the point of this is that the management in these sort of scandals nearly always come out of it relatively unscathed. I’ve written about it before, but from June 2008 until September 2008, Steven was attending a unit on a day basis (This was one of those many occasions that the council suddenly stopped his support package without warning, so he had no choice but to go to this place). One day, he was assaulted by one the workers there; he was kicked at least three times and had a cup of coffee poured over him. The council launched their own investigation (whitewash) but the CPS prosecuted on Steven’s behalf. The worker was found guilty, although I never found out what his sentence was. The shift leader, who tried to cover the incident up was sacked. However, a couple of months after the incident, the manager of the unit was promoted to a senior position within the civic centre and the assistant manager was promoted to manager. All done and dusted. And of course, not a single person lost their job or suffered any consequences for the illegal actions of 2010.
Whilst on the subject of that unit, I read their latest CQC report this week. The first thing that struck me was that, sometime during the last year, the unit has changed from an assessment and treatment centre with a stay there between 3 to 18 months, to a generic care home. How did that happen? Is it not a positive behaviour unit anymore? The council’s own website still says that it is. And what flimsy document the report is. The unit was found to be compliant in all areas but it looks like only one service user was asked for feedback and only one family member. The rest of the feedback came from staff at the unit and other interested professionals. There are some good things that happen at the unit and there are some very good, dedicated staff there but I didn’t recognise the place from the report. Do people actually make a decision on where to place their loved ones on the basis of a CQC report? I hope not.
So, that was the week that was. The residents of Winterbourne View and their families will get on with healing the scars of their awful experience; the 11 staff will get on with the business of prison/community service life. And the Castlebeck managers will be dusting off their tuxedos in preparation for a gala awards ceremony.