Winterbourne, South Gloucestershire Council and Responsibility

Winterbourne View and the systematic abuse of those people with learning disabilities who were placed there uncovered by BBC Panorama programme last year has had significant repercussions.

That countless attempts by whistle-blowers  were ignored until the BBC took up the mantle that should have been taken by the regulating authorities was a particular failing in the system that should protect those who are most dependent on robust and good quality care.

The CQC was actively moved into ‘defensive’ mode and instituted a number of new inspections of similar type facilities around the country. I’m not sure that anyone in the CQC took particular responsibility for a lack of response to the initial concerns raised.

I saw this story on the BBC this morning that two managers at South Gloucestershire Council have been dismissed.  The two dismissed were a team manager, Kevin Haigh,  and the council’s safeguarding manager, Brian Clarke  – as the story says

It is understood that a-year-and-a-half before the whistleblower came forward and the programme was filmed, Mr Haigh and Mr Clarke were alerted to other allegations of serious abuse.

In their defence, a Unison statement reads

‘We believe that there may be wider failures in safeguarding procedures in South Gloucestershire in relation to Winterbourne View which go far beyond the involvement of any two individuals.

Which is a fair point but I think that there has to be some level of responsibility taken within a local authority when safeguarding procedures fail so badly. Particularly concerning to me are two issues – firstly why it takes a BBC documentary to uncover abuse that had been flagged up clearly and secondly, knowing about how safeguarding investigations are conducted, how this was able to ‘slip past’ what are, in my experience, fairly robust procedures.

Either way, whilst I don’t welcome scapegoating, I think it’s right that those who are responsible for management within public services take responsibility  for things when they clearly don’t work to protect those who need safeguarding.

As for the serious case review, which is due to be published later this year, I can only hope many lessons are learnt so we become less reliant on the press and more able to rely on robust preventative work by commissioning authorities and inspection regime to stamp out institutional abuse and/or to spot it as a priority.

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