Whorlton Hall: How disability care hasn’t changed.

In 2011 at Winterbourne View, a large care home in Bristol was exposed on the BBC Panorama program. This episode detailed the abuse of the vulnerable people living there, it was horrific on many levels. The controversy around it caused legislation change and a political and social care movement to take those people out of long stay and large residential homes. The idea was to set people up with the types of services they should have. I personally did some of this work in the London Borough of Haringey and it was very challenging. The systems set up made it incredibly difficult to get people out of these largely privately run services who relied on their residents/patients for income so it wasn’t in their interest for people to leave.

I moved onto another job and have followed and written about various other abuse cases since the Winterbourne scandal, showing that the change we hoped for hasn’t happened other than a few people.

Just recently there was yet another one in Durham at a place called Whorlton hall, a 17 bed residential home for people with severe disabilities and Autism. You can read about it here Whorlton Hall and watch the video footage, which is very distressing.

This shows how little has changed, that despite inspections by the local authority and the CQC absolutely nothing was done. The mystery about all of this is how these authorities and regulators cannot see the signs of abuse after the many examples of these scandals. Why does it take a secret documentary crew to reveal this when we have systems to evidence that a service is good or bad?

One of the issues is the lack of an appropriate alternative on many of the places where it happens, there isn’t somewhere better for a person to go for support, care or treatment. And the services that are there are badly managed, staff are underpaid, under trained and frequently end up being the bullies that commit these crimes. This has been a problem for care and support for a long time and since the post-recession austerity program it has gotten worse.

I could go on about early intervention and setting up the right service in the first place all day. On a fundamental level this is the right thing to do and even when put in terms that capitalists understand, that spending money on good services saves on expensive specialist care later doesn’t make any difference to many who are in control of the budgets. The cost of rehousing and setting up appropriate services is far higher than thinking long term about getting it right.

There are systemic problems yet to solve in social care, but I keep feeling like things won’t change because in 2019 this shouldn’t exist. I am angry, and so should you be. Your family member could need care and none of us should be OK with this level of abuse for the most vulnerable. I’ve even written this article before about the last abuse scandal. I do wonder if I can be effective in changing this as I have in real life, and hopefully the message spreads further.

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