Over the course of the past months, who could help but feel a plethora of emotion as the horrors of Winterbourne View have unfolded before our very eyes: Absolute disgust that an organisation could get to the point where such blatant institutional abuse becomes a part of daily life, anger at the systems in which we work as they are revealed as insufficient to protect the most vulnerable in our society or perhaps a heart-wrenching empathy towards the vulnerable and a passion that things have to change and something done… but what?
It will hopefully have challenged us all as a professionals. Is it just possible that as we go about our business there is a very real danger of becoming complecent unless we keep on out toes and remain true to our professional standards and ethical practices? I’ve been reminded how very important the role of those who commission services and the need for greater accountability when choosing services for individuals who can’t choose for themselves. Are we pressured into choosing the cheaper option even when we know in our heart that it isn’t the most suitable? Do we sigh a sigh of relief and accept without question when we find a service that will accommodate the individual with particularly challenging behaviour knowing that the option will be limited? Do unrealistic case-load sizes prevent us from spending time to think outside of the box and identify the very best service and then think how it might be achieved? Do we have a professional relationship with providers when a less formal relationship can be so much easier? If we become too familiar those so important boundaries can become distorted and increase the risk of poor practice or even abuse going unnoticed or being excused.
I started my social care career working in a residential home for children with autism and it must be said that in my experience the majority of carers are decent caring people who go the extra mile. Most don’t get paid heaps, have to work shifts but still turn up at work asking how they can make the next 8 hours the best they possibly can for those they have come to work for. However, there are some for whom that isn’t the case and over the past couple of weeks we have seen 11 photos that will probably remain imprinted on our minds long after the media frenzy has died down.
I’d really like to hear how recent events have perhaps challenged you as a health or social care worker as you strive to help deliver the very best services to those who need them. I also look forwards to hearing how the Department of Health is going to drive service commissioning, delivery and safeguarding forwards. What is agreed upon is that there needs to be a radical overhaul of social care; what doesn’t see so clear is what that will look like.