The thugs who couldn’t care less

Difficult viewing last night of the Panorama expose of brutality and abuse of patients at Winterbourne View residential unit run by Castlebeck, (watch it on iPlayer).

The psychologist brought in by the BBC to give an expert opinion was spot on in describing the treatment of vulnerable adults with learning disabilities as ‘torture’. The systematic abuse filmed by the BBC undercover reporter would have been out of place in a prison, never mind a £3.5k a-week-per-resident facility. In fact, had it happened in a prison, the torture would have been stopped in its tracks. That it wasn’t, even when a brave whistleblower nurse exposed the institutional (sic) brutality, every level of management in Castlebeck ignored it.

systematic abuse
Punch-drunk with money: £3.5k a week to abuse residents
 
(image posed by models)
 
We’ve been down this rocky road before and unless there are drastic changes to provision, the inspection system and accountability, it will happen again and again. Former Health Minister Stephen Dorrell was correct in saying on radio today that it’s not because the system is privatised that abuse like this happens, there was no shortage of abuse when local authorities and the NHS ran hostels and long-stay ‘subnormality’ hospitals as families of former residents of St Lawrence’s in Surrey, closed long ago, would testify. However, the very nature of private provision means that companies are motivated by profit before people, which is why, of course, Castlebeck employed tattooed thugs on minimum wages rather than appropriate carers at £10 an hour to provide intimate care for the most vulnerable members of our society.

For me, however the most significant aspect of this disgraceful saga was seeing Castlebeck’s chief executive Les Reed, obsequiously squirm in front of the Panorama cameras offering a meek apology. Here is a man who has presided over a regime of brutality, and even if we take his word that he didn’t know what was going on in that particular unit, he ignored the whistleblower who brought the thuggery to the attention of the company some months ago All this suggests to me that Mr Reed is unfit to hold the office of chief executive of a company supplying care. After Castlebeck were presented with Panorama’s findings on May 12, they had almost three weeks of media and crisis management training to deal with the issue. Mr Reed’s performance on camera, along with a pathetic apology on their website
www.castlebeck.com suggests to me that just as they have been mugging local authorities of £3.5k a week while abusing the residents, so the media training and crisis management companies have been mugging them.

And what of the ubiquitous CQC (Care Quality Commission) whose job it is to regulate care providers and whose inspectors managed to miss a regime of terror? Their regional manager Ian Biggs was wheeled in front of the cameras and seemed completely out of his depth. Of course, what we really need to know is why Cynthia Bower, the chief exec of the CQC, left poor old Ian to take the flak while she continues to pick up her hefty salary. Presumably Ms Bower will follow the former Haringey Director of Social Services Sharon Shoesmith line of ‘why should I lose my job – I didn’t kill Baby P?’

But you know what; this confederacy of dunces that left the most vulnerable people in our society to have their eyes gouged, to be thrown into a shower dressed, to be insulted, to be left to the baying dogs on £6.40 an hour are but bit players. The most culpable of all the cretins that enabled the degradation to take place are the local authorities who purchased the service.

Consider this: If you paid £3.5k for a holiday where instead of being looked after, you were tortured for a week, might you just enquire as to why you were not getting value for your money (and in this case it’s worse because it’s our money). Might you just want evidence that the £3.5k a week is being used in a way that helps the service user get the most from his or her life? Might you just send the referring social worker round say every two months instead of every year? Might you just enquire from the providing company if there have been any internal complaints by staff? Might you just send a senior manager round every so often, unannounced, to see what is going on? Leaving the abuse to one side for a moment, might you just not think that residents sitting around all day doing nothing is not exactly getting £3.5k a week value for money? Might you just consider that a smaller unit of say four or five residents in a home with brilliant, creative care at £1k a week less is a better way of spending council tax payers’ money (I know of such a unit). Might you consider going to providers from the charity and not for profit sectors who are not motivated by greed? Might you just sit in front of the TV last night think, ‘it was we who failed these people’?

It’s good that the government have acted swiftly and are cracking down on CQC to get a grip. But lets put it as it is. The people who buy care from the so-called providers like Castlebeck are no different from the thugs who administer the regime of torture and the executives who live a five-star lifestyle from the proceeds.

2 thoughts on “The thugs who couldn’t care less”

  1. Excellent article, Mark.
    Indeed, why weren’t local authorities monitoring and auditing their not inconsiderable spending on a regular three monthly basis for each client? Interviews with clients would have revealed the abuses much sooner. Local Authorities have been accused of driving down the unit costs of “out of area” provision in recent years, resulting in private companies cutting staff numbers and salaries, often with the inevitable deterioration in care. But at £3.5k per week???!!!!! For that price care should have been exemplary.
    Just another thought….. why did it take the BBC reporter 3 whole weeks to discover the extent of the abuse. Why didn’t he go to the Police after his first shift ? Or was the imperative of making a good programme greater than preventing the continuation of the abuse ??
    Its enough to drag me out of retirement !!

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