So, once again carers enter yet another year questioning whether their needs will be recognised and their disadvantaged family members will eventually receive the appropriate level and quality of service which they deserve. A short reflection on just a few notable events of 2017 does not inspire great confidence.
Reverberations of the Winterbourne View scandal struck home when a Channel 4 Despatches documentary of the 1st March 2017: ‘Under Lock and Key’, addressed problems arising at St. Andrews, a hospital which has more than 50 wards and 659 beds.
Two other shocking reports in June drew attention other disturbing aspects of service provision and the vital need for caring and valued staff.
Also reminiscent of Winterbourne View, Bristol Crown Court on June 6t,h saw the sentencing of people with responsibility for the care of people with learning disabilities imprisoned for “organised and systematic abuse” of disabled residents. The owners and staff of the Atlas Project Team were accused of running a culture where “systematic neglect” was the norm. They were paid up to £4000 per person per week to provide care for these vulnerable people.
The end of June saw the publication of ‘A Trade in People’. This an interesting and detailed review of the distribution and availability of specialist residential resources for people with challenging learning disabilities published by The Centre for Disability Research, Lancaster University. It considers the financial implications and the stress that economising imposes on families attempting to maintain close relationships.
Not least, the taking over of 200 NHS and local government commitments, including statutory obligations such as Adult Social Care, by Virgin Care from Somerset authorities spelt the end of any equitable national policy in the foreseeable future.
Perhaps, most sadly, was the news that Scope, one of the few big charitable organisations upon whom carers could look for support for a return to rational policies, have abandoned the policy of providing a continuum of reliable residential and day care services. Far from embarking on an innovative pioneering exercise, ample evidence suggests Scope has been misled into following in the footsteps of the numerous failed dogmas that have decimated support services over the past 30 years. An appalling catalogue of setbacks and suffering can be linked to the charlatans who influenced policy direction despite lacking adequate validated research.
Although I have had direct contact with the government official lead for the disabled over the past few months absolutely nothing has been learnt as the government continues to take advice from the wrong people. My thoughts and thanks go out to those determined carers who support any efforts to do something about it.