‘This was taken by an undercover reporter at a community mental hospital called Winterbourne View in the South West’. Pater played a clip on the projector and everyone fell silent. There were scenes of adults with learning difficulties being harassed by their carers. Slaps, punches, violent take downs were directed at the inmates, who didn’t know the difference between a game and an assault. To them it was a mean game. To us it was a criminal breach of trust. Around the room people’s faces darkened, wide eyes glistened ever so slightly. It was as if a thick blanket had been laid on top of the group, stifling the care-free attitudes we had walked in with.
Out of a population of 250,000 people…340 children receive special or supported education20 adults in NHS care200 adults in residential care in around 30 registered homes120 adults supported in their own accommodation360 adults in other households, many with parents240 Whole Time Equivalent places in day services, in work, work preparation, further education
Woolworth added that not all these people would be known to social services.
I would walk out of the room a different person – not drastically different in the big scheme of things, but changed. With every lesson we learned a little more about the world we would be treating. From this lesson we learned it could be cruel – very cruel. There are many reasons why abuse occurs in this kind of environment. It would be too easy to lay all the blame on the individuals carrying out the abuse. The responsibility, however, is shared by a number of organisations: the care quality commission, who visited the home previously and found no problems; Castlebeck, the owners of the home. It also shows what happens when a few bored, under-skilled people gain power over a vulnerable group. We too will have power of patients, more acute but shorter in duration.
I raced home after the lecture, the 57 minutes left of the Panorama programme holding some kind of power over me. I watched the whole thing from start to finish, wide-eyed and open-mouthed. Tension built and built throughout the programme, dragging the viewer by the scruff of the neck to a protracted scene of torture on one particular inmate. Thrown in a cold shower then dragged out into the cold, a shivering wretch, snarling wolves baiting her, had she learned her lesson yet? No? Well she jolly well wasn’t going in until she had.
The reaction of the victims’ parents are shown, which feels like getting hit in the stomach by a cricket bat. I was moved to tears. I sobbed like I hadn’t sobbed for oh, at least a few weeks. I didn’t know who I felt sorrier for: myself or the victims on the programme. The latter of course, but I was an emotional wreck. Break open the flamin’ violin and cry me a river you must be thinking. Just watch it and see...