Getting away with torture and the art of good PR


The scandal of Castelbeck and Winterbourne View which broke as a result of the Panorama undercover investigation has appalled the nation, and I’ve already retweeted some of the learned articles from the Guardian and Independent.  I’m left with a whole range of feelings.  Like my colleague and deputy at SHARE, I’m so proud to be working in an organisation that really does live its values and treats people with the decency and respect they deserve.  It was also something of an antidote to see Orchard Hill College in Wallington in action the morning after I’d seen the Panorama programme.  Staff were passionate about providing excellent services, and those few students in during half term were having a ball.  But how do we know what goes on in places?  Have you seen Castlebeck’s website?  Have you read what they say about themselves?  No?  Well go on, have a look:  http://www.castlebeck.com/faq.php  They make it sound so good, not only would you happily book your sister in, you might join her for a break yourself!  Could reality and spin ever be further apart?  So what do we do?  Well, for starters, we stop shoving people into hospitals who aren’t sick and we stop the relentless cuts to social care.  As the case of Simon showed, living in the community was perfectly feasible, he just needed the right support.  And we need to rigorously vet the people going into the care profession.  Selection processes should be long and searching, and once people are in post, we need to make sure we invest in their training and development.  I don’t mean just sending them on a few competency based courses so that health and safety boxes can be ticked.  We need to be thinking and talking about how we care for, nurture, and grow people, whether those people are our colleagues or our clients.  And it goes without saying that the whole regulation and inspection process needs to be overhauled and made to work.  Let’s get angry about Winterbourne View and all the other Winterbourne Views out there – because it’ll be happening everywhere.  Let’s get as angry as we do about political prisoners being tortured and all the other social wrongs that get us signing petitions and going on marches.  Let’s get really, really curious about the old people’s home at the bottom of the road or the house for people with learning difficulties round the corner.  And let’s get these monstrous “hosptials” closed down: they’re there to make a profit for shareholders and to warehouse people seen as problems.

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