The report on Winterbourne is published
The full report is out and all the accompanying press releases, with campaigns, changes to policies and procedures all now underway.
I could be describing any number of times over the last few decades when we have been faced with disclosures about services for people who need support that have outraged a nation. So is it ‘here we go again’, I sincerely hope not?
Before the publication of the full Serious Case Review report into Winterbourne I was shocked. Now... I am angry, I am disturbed and yes, I am ashamed but also I am more determined than ever to join forces with like minded people who want to see an end to the institutionalisation of people......full stop!
I was shocked during and after viewing the Panorama programme on Winterbourne. The guilty conviction of those who inflicted the harm we witnessed on the people locked up in Winterbourne was to be expected, there could have been no other verdict. I hope the sentences will reflect the true horror of the assaults that were systematically carried out by those criminals.
I am angry because yet again we have more evidence, only this time more horrifically described than ever before, that institutionalisation is bad.... full stop! And yet it is still allowed to go on, dehumanising both to those who are locked up in the institution and to those that hold the power over the held.
I’m disturbed because we can see in more forensic detail than ever before the passing of the buck that went on from one agency to another, all unwilling or unable to listen to the voices of those locked up in Winterbourne and unwilling or unable to take the actions needed to end the suffering the people in Winterbourne were left to endure.
And yes I am ashamed because this has happened on ‘our watch’. In the ‘social and health care world’ we spend time reminding each other and new entrants into this ‘world’, of the past; when people with a learning disability were locked away in institutions and subjected to terrible abuses. Well this is now and it’s been allowed to happen now and we should all take collective responsibility for what has happened.
Many of us spend much of our time and energy forging ahead with developing and promoting new ways of working that put the person who needs support in control of their support and their lives. But is this at the expense of taking our eye off the ball of the reality that too many people face today? Many people who need support are on a daily basis let down by an old, broken and discredited social and health care system; a system that still sees the control of the resources people need to support them in the hands of others, such as care managers and commissioners. This outdated system is allowed to continue to adversely affect the lives of far too many people because those of us who champion these new ways of working place our hope in a future when the ‘new’ will just naturally replace the ‘old’ because it just makes more sense and because it is the just thing to do.
Well we’ve had another massive wake up call. There are still too many people in our midst who are motivated and emboldened by the power they are given over other’s lives and others who find a system that encourages them to set up an institution to make a profit whilst being allowed to have scant regard to the basic human rights of those people whose lives they are paid to take control of.
Will institutionalisation and the inherent abuse that the evidence shows exists in institutions end in our life time? I believe the most we can hope for is that:
- the law is changed to make it illegal for commissioners to support the setting up of institutions; for whilst they exist people will be placed in them
- the law is changed so that people cannot be placed or held in institutions against their will
- the law is changed so that people do not live in fear of being sectioned against the will and advice of the people that love and know them
- the laws that exist, such as the Mental Capacity Act, are used more frequently to support people’s choices in the way they wish to live their lives
- that campaigning individuals, groups and organisations use the law to support those people who want to live their lives as they would wish to and protect them from being placed in institutions against their will
As we have discovered yet again with Winterbourne, no action is not an option; it only takes good people to do nothing for those with other motives to take control and for bad intent to turn to bad action, to take a hold and to spread out of control.
Let's collectively put an end to institutionalisation and support people to live in their own communities, to live their life in a way that makes sense to them and to take control of their support and their lives.
Stop institutionalisation now.... full stop!