Mendip House is a part of Somerset Court, an Autism specific residential care home in Somerset, UK. This home is run by National Autistic Society, I have worked for NAS as part of their Autism Accreditation service on a freelance basis and it was a great scheme and the organisation has done a great deal of amazing work in services, research and campaigning over the years, they’ve certainly helped to improve the lives of people with Autism and I was quite proud to play a part in that. I no longer do that work due to many reasons but I was appalled to read this story yesterday
If you’re in the UK you will have heard about Winterbourne View, a scandal of horrific abuse in a care home in the same part of the country. Winterbourne sparked a national response with new legislation to monitor and change these massive care homes and bring people back to their local areas for more personalised and most importantly safe lives and support. I also have been involved in work to help some of those people, which was very difficult but rewarding. Post Winterbourne we are supposed to be in a new era of social care where abuse like Mendip House doesn’t happen. The abuse in that article is some of the most degrading behaviour I have heard of against vulnerable people, it recalls some of the imagery that surfaced a number of years ago of the treatment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, certainly not how vulnerable individuals should be treated.
My director described this as a failure of leadership, which I think is accurate. It shouldn’t happen and those people who commit these acts shouldn’t be in those jobs but it happens, the problem lies in the fact that an organisation like NAS didn’t act sooner and prevent further abuse. That failure certainly lies in the hands of those at the top of NAS, where were the checks, the quality assurance the safeguarding procedures to deal with this?
Right at the same time the story of Oxfam workers in Haiti using people for sex and other abuses has also emerged, again it shouldn’t happen but it has and the response was poor at best.
The recruitment of abusers in care of all kinds has long been an issue and one that is being slowly solved, most of these cases do happen in remote places and it is likely difficult to find good staff, a problem I don’t have in London, but to employ people who act in these ways is unacceptable at best.
The bigger question this raises is the ability of these vast sprawling national and international organisations to successfully manage all of their services. If I was to work in such a place the police would be called immediately and all the staff would be dismissed without a second thought, it’s not difficult to remove such people, they are criminals.
Clearly the work is not finished and clearly some organisations need to very quickly audit everything they do and weed out these people and provide the proper care and support they should. The NAS provides many people with great services and support, which makes it worse that they are responsible for this happening.
I have been responsible for the removal of abusive staff, but those have been isolated cases generally and it still amazes me that any organisation, particularly one that’s sole purpose is care, can let this happen. In those cases I have come in to deal with the aftermath and clean up, it’s time for social care to do some more cleaning.