Most social workers have seen abuse in residential care

Eight in 10 social workers have witnessed abuse in adult residential care homes, a British Association of Social Workers (BASW) survey has discovered. Many described it as "extreme abuse", which BASW said suggested the scenes filmed by Panorama at Winterbourne View (pictured).

Eight in 10 social workers have witnessed abuse in adult residential care homes, a British Association of Social Workers (BASW) survey has discovered.

The eight-week survey, which involved 230 BASW members, found 81% had witnessed abuse, while 55% of this group described it as “extreme abuse”, which BASW said suggested the scenes filmed by Panorama at the learning disability hospital Winterbourne View earlier this year were more widespread than previously thought in care homes.

More than 70% thought that residential care was not fit for purpose and 80% thought the Care Quality Commission inspection arrangements for care homes were not adequate.

Two-thirds had reported a care home for failings and half said they had come across homes they thought should be closed.

The findings will be used to inform training procedures and campaign work as well as whistleblowing advice, said BASW.

“These alarming statistics paint a picture of a society which does not set much store in maintaining the dignity of its most vulnerable members. Most care workers are devoted and committed but they are poorly paid, poorly trained and caught up in systems where the emphasis is on profits for shareholders rather than care for people,” said BASW England manager Ruth Cartwright.

She added: “I urge social workers who see or hear of anything of concern regarding the care of service users to pass those concerns on and to document them.”

Responding to the survey, English Community Care Association chief executive Martin Green said: “This survey which purports to demonstrate that social workers witness wide-scale abuse in residential care is certainly not matched by the number of referrals to the regulator, safeguarding or the police.  If the findings of this research are true it shows that social workers are failing in their responsibility to protect vulnerable adults and is a disgraceful indictment on their commitment to safeguarding vulnerable people.”

Among other findings:

• More than 80% of the social workers said care homes should not be run for profit.

• 88% of social workers have disagreed with a view held by fellow professionals or family that a residential placement was appropriate for a service user.

• Over 50% either disagree or strongly disagree that there are adequate processes in place regarding the reporting of complaints about care failings in residential care.

• 62% find the placement process surrounding residential care by local authorities inappropriate or extremely inappropriate.

• 65% find the process surrounding residential care that is self-funded inappropriate or extremely inappropriate.

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