File on 4

File on 4
BBC Radio 4
20 March, 8pm


The Commission for Social Care Inspection’s recent review of English local authorities has revealed that one in six had not fulfilled their obligations as outlined in No Secrets, the government’s guidance on the protection of vulnerable adults published seven years ago.

The director of inspections suggested a range of reasons for this including “lack of management grip”. File on Four’s presenter Gerry Northam cited recent events in NHS facilities in Cornwall, and Sutton and Merton, where adults with learning difficulties had been systematically mistreated and abused, as evidence of the need for a concerted multi-agency approach to adult protection issues.

The programme’s case examples provided alarming evidence of unacceptable performance in three localities.

Halton Council in Cheshire seemed to have failed in its duty to protect a 39-year-old autistic man, and compounded the situation by the way it behaved in the wake of an independent investigation, after the man’s family complained. The council’s director declined to be interviewed, leaving listeners to form their own opinions on how effectively his council had responded to allegations of abuse.

The exchange between Northam and Catherine Fitt, Newcastle’s director, in connection with a serious case review on how an 84-year-old woman with a history of violence had been placed in a care home where she went on to kill another older resident, had me wriggling and willing her to put her hands up and say, “You’ve got me bang to rights, guv”.

But for whatever reason she just couldn’t do it. Indeed, the council spent money hiring a “damage limitation adviser” to assist in presenting the best possible image to the media and the communities they serve. This really didn’t help at all.

Campaigners renewed their call for adult protection to be put on the same footing as for children, and the care services minister, Ivan Lewis, accepted that there was a strong case for reform to be enacted.

Let’s hope the political and professional will can be found to resolve this grave anomaly.

Les Bright is a member of Action on Elder Abuse


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