A vulnerable adult

August 7, 2012, by Emma Thorne

Will we learn from the Winterbourne View findings?

A report into abuse at a private hospital has put the way in which care for vulnerable adults is commissioned and monitored back into the media spotlight. Deborah Kitson, Chief Excutive of the Ann Craft Trust — a leading charity committed to safeguarding disabled children and vulnerable adults from abuse which is based at the University —  hopes it could result in safer services for vulnerable adults living in residential services across the country.

The serious case review of Winterbourne View, commissioned by South Gloucestershire’s Safeguarding Adults Board, was published today and its findings are sadly predictable.  Poor management, lack of training, service users and staff not being listened to are common themes that we have got too used to hearing about.  Put these issues alongside staff who have little respect for the people they are supporting and who achieve some misguided sense of satisfaction and enjoyment from taunting vulnerable adults and you will always have the potential for very serious abuse.

A member of staff raised the issue at Winterbourne View a number of times both within the organisation and to the Care Quality Commission but still nothing happened resulting in the abuse continuing over a long time.  Did anybody encourage the people who were living there to complain and to voice their concerns?  And most crucially would anybody have listened if they had?  Vulnerable adults, those with mental health needs and learning disabilities, often rely on those supporting them to raise concerns on their behalf.  We have to make sure that when they do their concerns are acted upon promptly and that the abuse is stopped.  The Ann Craft Trust has completed research looking at whistleblowing in learning disability services and found that the experience for many had been traumatic.  Many were not believed, were blamed for criticising services and were labelled as troublemakers – most worryingly many said that they would not do it again.

This serious case review may be sadly predictable but it needs to be read and lessons need to be learned. It is not rocket science — this is about ensuring that we value and respect people, that we listen to concerns when they are raised and that we have processes in place that ensure that appropriate action is taken to stop abuse when it does occur.’

The Ann Craft Trust works with staff in the statutory, independent and voluntary sectors to protect people with learning disabilities who may be at risk from abuse.  We also provide training regarding sex education for people with learning disabilities.  www.anncrafttrust.org.

More information is available from Deborah Kitson, Chief Executive of The Ann Craft Trust, on +44 (0)115 951 5400.

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