"Close care homes like Winterbourne View": Bristol charity
LARGE-scale care homes for people with learning disabilities are relics of the last century and should all be closed down, according to a senior figure in a Bristol charity.
Steve Day, the director of communications for the Brandon Trust, told The Post that the institutional approach at Winterbourne View had contributed to the "culture of abuse" at the residential hospital near Bradley Stoke.
Eleven carers at the home, which has now been shut down, were sentenced for their involvement in what a judge condemned as a "corrupt, debased and monstrous" culture at the home, run by Castlebeck Ltd.
Some were jailed for their part in horrifying incidents, filmed by an undercover reporter working for the BBC programme Panorama, in which vulnerable patients were manhandled, assaulted and humiliated.
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All the staff involved have been barred from caring for children or vulnerable adults again.
Court Seven of Bristol Crown Court was packed with families of both offenders and their victims on Friday as Judge Neil Ford QC completed a week-long sentencing of the nine support workers and two nurses who admitted different roles in the scandal.
As reported in The Post last week, the court heard that, instead of providing appropriate care to patients with complex mental health needs, the business near Bradley Stoke became a battleground where ill-equipped carers mimicking Nazi guards crushed residents with humiliation and brutal restraint techniques.
Patients were subjected to the dehumanising "Castlebeck Way", named after its owners, the court heard. Poorly paid, inappropriately- trained staff working long shifts were left to devise their own methods of coping with people with serious learning difficulties, involving water torture, slapping, pinning down and forced feeding of medication.
The abuse was exposed by undercover reporter Joseph Casey, whose secret recordings enabled the abuse to be exposed to the world.
Judge Ford told the court: "A culture of ill-treatment developed and, as is often the case, cruelty bred cruelty.
"This culture corrupted and debased, to varying degrees, these defendants, all of whom are of previous good character."
The defendants hung their heads as sentence was imposed, and most of those who avoided jail covered their faces as they left court.
One of them, Jason Gardiner – who was sentenced for two counts of ill-treatment – faced reporters outside court to deliver an apology.
He said: "It was a difficult place to work, with very high pressure and 12-hour shifts without breaks. "It is very easy to blame somebody else but there was no support at all up there.
"When I watched the videos I saw people I worked with in a different light. I was devastated and disgusted and I'm so sorry for the people who were involved. If I had any idea I would have done something about it."
Mr Day said that, while the individuals brought to justice at Bristol Crown Court had to take responsibility for the appalling abuse they had inflicted on the vulnerable people in their care, the hospital's very nature meant it was likely to fail.
He said: "There were 24 people in the unit, on an industrial estate.
"The people really had no opportunity to relate to the community around them. They were cut off from their families.
"What we have there is taking people out of society completely – that can't be right. There, people weren't considered to be citizens, the same as the rest of us."
"Large scale institutions providing assessment and treatment is not a 21st-century solution."
The Brandon Trust helps people with learning disabilities in Bristol and across the south of England to live and work in the community, and most of its homes are for between three and seven people.
"We call for people with learning disabilities to be supported in their communities, in ordinary streets, in ordinary houses and have access to the people living around them," said Mr Day.
He backed calls in the wake of the Winterbourne View scandal for operators to be held accountable when things go wrong.
"The horrifying thing about this was that there appeared to be a culture of abuse," said Mr Day.
"When you have identified something that is wrong there should be a good system for doing something about it.
"Where there are failings those companies need to be held to account."
The home's owners pledged that the abuse would never happen again at one of their homes.
Castlebeck Ltd said there had been "extensive changes in board and management" and measures to ensure there could be no repeat.
The company also closed a second home in the Bristol area, Rose Villa in Brislington, after the Care Quality Commission raised concerns last year.
In a statement after the case it condemned the behaviour of Winterbourne View staff as "wholly unacceptable and criminal".
"When those events at Winterbourne View independent hospital were exposed in May 2011, the board and the company's then chief executive expressed their unequivocal and unreserved regret to the service users involved and their families," Castlebeck said.
"They also gave a clear commitment to protect the safety and well-being of all those who use Castlebeck's services and swift and decisive action was taken by the board and management as soon as the allegations concerning former members of staff at Winterbourne View were raised almost 18 months ago.
"The incoming new board and management have and will continue to reform the business to prevent this ever happening again."
Beverley Dawkins, policy manager for charity Mencap, read a statement on behalf of victims' families, which said: "We, the families, are pleased that the judicial system has taken its course and that the 11 care workers that pleaded guilty to the abuse of our children have now had their punishment meted out in accordance with the law.
"We sincerely hope that the Government will seize this unique opportunity with both hands to actually enforce existing policy and enshrine some of those changes on law.
"There should be no cross-party dissension over such an issue. In this, the 21st century, places like Winterbourne View should not exist, they should be closed and more local services developed.
"Viewing the footage shown in court this week had been distressing and extremely harrowing for the families.
"The guilty parties were only charged with offences shown and it would be naïve to believe that this monstrous behaviour had not been continuing for a very long time.
"We would like you to remember that our children have suffered greatly and it will take a long time for their physical and mental scars to heal. For some that may never happen. However, they are our children, our family members, our friends and we love and cherish them and are proud of them."
Chief Superintendent Louisa Rolfe, head of CID for Avon and Somerset Constabulary, said: "There are no words to describe the horrific, vindictive treatment these offenders meted out to the vulnerable young adults of Winterbourne View. They and their loved ones should have felt safe and secure in the knowledge they were being well cared for. Instead these vulnerable young people were subjected to the most extreme and persistent abuse."
South Gloucestershire Council, which moved to strengthen measures designed to protect adults in care after the scandal was revealed, said: "South Gloucestershire Safeguarding Adults Board is determined that such events must not be allowed to happen again.
"Following publication of the independent Serious Case Review into the events at Winterbourne View this summer the council published a detailed action plan setting out the measures it will take to strengthen adult safeguarding within the district, including improved training for safeguarding managers and proposals for new joint working protocols between the council and the police."
In a follow-up programme to be screened tonight, Panorama will claim that two of the Winterbourne View victims had previously been ill-treated at a care homes in Wiltshire.