Panorama – My Response

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I’ll be honest and say I haven’t seen the whole program. I’ve watched clips on the BBC website and like everyone, I am disgusted and appalled that anyone could treat another human being like that.

The first thing that horrified me was that people were living in a brand new purpose built hospital. I thought that this sort of placement had gone out with the ark but sadly this isn’t the case. As many have said, it’s just swapping one institution for another. I’m not saying that hospital type settings don’t have a place because I know that for short term placements they are crucial. Take my neighbours son, he’s in his mid 20s and has a learning difficulty amongst other problems and he is currently in a hospital setting. He’s learning to care for himself and he’s being prepared for life living away from his parents in his own home. No other setting could really prepare him in such an effect way and this is what hospitals should be – not holding pens. Maybe we need to stop seeing these places as places of treatment and start seeing them as places of learning – even if you are talking about those with really challenging behaviour or severe disabilities, they are able to learn something.

Carers should be registered and undergo regular training, GPs should undergo training about learning disabilities and where there is any question of abuse the CQC should be there straight away and they should have powers to revoke licences where a company large or small has serious operational failings. It’s all very well shutting down the care home that’s got the problem but you can sure as hell grant that if it’s a problem in one home it’ll be a problem in others.

I went to a care agency for an interview a few weeks ago and I was shocked at some of the questions I was asked. It turns out that the job centres send many people their way who are desperate for work but who have no idea what care work is really like. The jobcentre pay for 3 days training and then they are sent out into the community, into people’s homes and into care homes, and are often shocked by what they find and quit a few days later. If you’ve gone into care work to earn money and that’s your only motivation then you will fail.

I’d really like to see how these “care workers” had been recruited and how much input they had from qualified staff. I heard mention of a GP but a GP is not equipped or trained to spot signs of abuse or to understand people who have learning difficulties. Abuse will always happen and there will always be sick people in the world and there isn’t a whole lot we can do about that but we can ensure that when a complaint is made it is acted on immediately. You can CRB check someone, insist on 3 references and a 5 year checkable work history but it’s useless if you are allowed to work without proper supervision and sanction.

I also question how much profit making companies can care about the people they look after. If you are making £31.3m profit for your venture capitalist owners or in the case of Southern Cross, paying rent to property developers, where is that money not going. It’s not going into client care, it’s not going into training, it’s not going into staffing and it’s not going into better wages for care staff. There are many people who would be great carers who chose to do other jobs because when you’re better paid to stack shelves why would you want to be a care worker. I’ve seen jobs offering 12 hour shifts in care homes – no one can work those hours and provide a high level of care.

This afternoon I’m going for an interview at a supportive living home run by a charity. Any profit is ploughed back into services and residents have tenure of their homes. Regular staff care for a small number of service users and creativity is encouraged. Staff training is paid for by the company and whilst wages aren’t incredible they provide a pension scheme, childcare vouchers, employee support line, cycle to work scheme and training opportunities. Having worked in the private sector I used to dream of things like this.

I hope this is a watershed and I hope those people and their families haven’t suffered in vain. They’re in my prayers and I pray that all vulnerable people are kept safe and loved.

Helen

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