Cornwall abuse case – the reaction

Cornwall abuse case:  the reaction

Andrew Lee, Director of self-advocacy organisation People First

“People First is deeply saddened but not at all surprised by the allegations of abuse and initial findings of ‘significant failings’ at Budock Hospital in Cornwall. We are pleased that a full investigation will be carried out and we call for criminal prosecutions to be brought.

“Those who have suffered the alleged abuse must be given appropriate support to communicate their experiences and to cope with what they have been through. Too often abusers of people with learning difficulties are let off without charge as their victims are treated as ‘unreliable’ witnesses. Prosecutions that are brought frequently result in lenient sentencing that is not comparable with sentences given for abuse of children.

“Abuse as reported in Cornwall is an extreme end of a general culture pervading services for people with learning difficulties. This is a culture of warehousing and of segregation despite the well-intentioned aims of government initiatives such as Valuing People, the government strategy for people with learning disabilities and the Cabinet Office Strategy Unit’s report on Improving the Life Chances of Disabled People. The day-to-day experience of people with learning difficulties is one where they are told what to do and when to do it, where they are controlled and directed without real choice. 

“Traditional service models do not respect people with learning difficulties as humans with rights and they are founded in a social attitude that sees people with learning difficulties as inferior. Lack of resources and money still stand in the way of appropriate, individualised services. Many individuals are denied the basic right to communicate in services run by staff on low wages with little education or training. 

“Fundamental changes are needed to abandon traditional models of service; we need proper investment to ensure the aims of Valuing People become a reality, carried out in meaningful consultation with people with learning difficulties. We should not be afraid of complaints from those misguided by paternalistic ideas of what is best for people with learning difficulties – we need to be more afraid of the continuing human rights abuses that are a day to day reality for people with learning difficulties within our so-called civilised society.”

Lord Victor Adebowale, Chief Executive of Turning Point

“We are appalled by the extent and nature of the institutional abuse of people with learning disabilities at Cornwall Partnership NHS Trust and that fact that it went on for so long undetected. It has many of the hallmarks of similar cases; extensive physical and sexual and financial abuse, and poorly qualified staff.
“We want to see a thorough audit of all care settings – not just hospitals – to ensure that this never happens again. People with learning disabilities have the right to live full independent lives free from harm regardless of where they live.”

Dr Gill Morgan, chief executive of the NHS Confederation

 “It is of utmost importance that all people who come into contact with the NHS and social services, especially the most vulnerable, are treated with dignity and respect.

 “Today’s report by the Healthcare Commission presents some serious issues for both the NHS and social services in the care of people with learning disabilities.

 “Whilst it is very easy to get public interest in new technologies and drugs, it is much harder to find advocates for these services. Yet a comprehensive health service must provide appropriate care for everyone. This is a wake-up call that over-emphasis on the new can remove focus from people who need care.”

James Churchill, CEO of the Association for Real Change, a learning disability service provider’s umbrella body

“This is a truly shocking report.  It demonstrates very clearly that the danger of abuse in services – of all kinds and in all sectors –  has not gone away. A particularly disturbing aspect of this sorry story is the length of time it seems poor practice has been tolerated in services and the reluctance of senior management to acknowledge such shortcomings. 

“I am glad to see that the regulatory body will be conducting a nationwide audit of services within all NHS and independent healthcare providers.  This is urgently needed to bring all such services within the scrutiny of the appropriate regulator. 

“It is clear that some services in the Trust were not appropriately registered, did not meet National Minimum Standards, and were not of an acceptable standard.  Yet again, we see that services provided within hospital services have been allowed to escape scrutiny and deliver services which would not be tolerated within the more open and accountable independent social care sector. “

Alison Giraud-Saunders, Co-Director of the Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities

“We welcome this report, which demonstrates the two Commissions’ commitment to raising standards and eradicating abuse from learning disability services. However, it is disturbing that widespread abuse was allowed to continue in Cornwall for so long. This amounts to a grave systems failure.

“There have been serious failings at all levels, not just with care staff and managers. The Strategic Health Authority in Cornwall did not hold the Primary Care Trusts accountable for weaknesses in the services, and the NHS collectively failed to act on the abuse that was taking place. Private and voluntary sector care services are more heavily regulated than NHS services. You should be able to expect the same care standards, wherever you live and receive support.

“How the NHS regulates services is an issue of concern. The Healthcare Commission awarded the Cornwall Partnership Trust good star ratings despite concerns from other organisations that the NHS failed to provide a good model of care. Consequently proper safeguards fell by the wayside.

“This report highlights the real need for staff and managers to receive effective training and for services to radically change how they operate.”

David Congdon, Head of campaigns and policy, Mencap

“The extent of abuse of people with a learning disability in Cornwall has been truly appalling. It is quite horrific that this has been allowed to continue for as long as it has.

“Mencap welcomes the recommendations of the report. What is important now is that the services are brought up to date, are properly managed and that local health and social care agencies work together. It is imperative that people with a learning disability in Cornwall living in these services are given the choices about where they live and the support they receive that they should have been given in the first place.”

“It is essential that services for people with a learning disability are given the priority they deserve across the whole of the UK. This is the only way that physical and financial abuse against for one of the most vulnerable groups in society doesn’t occur again on this scale and for so long.


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