I am writing this having just watched the dreadful Panorama documentary ‘The Abuse Exposed’. For those who did not see it this was a documentary on sustained abuse in a private hospital for those with learning difficulties and/or autism.
The abuse was terrifying and terrible. That any human being, let alone those employed as carers, can treat other humans in the way that we saw on the programme is almost impossible to believe but there were other things that were shocking in the programme. The response from the CEO of the company who managed the hospital was paltry to say the least. He was sorry, he did not know, it won’t happen again. None of that is good enough. As the senior manager for Resources I know the buck stops with me. If there is anything in any of our services that is not good enough, then I am responsible. I have to make it my business to know. If there is any doubt at all I would always err on the side of action. So long as we claim to care we have to make sure that we care to the highest standards all the time. There is no mid way.
The programme made me even more determined to continue to develop our adult services to ensure that those who wish to and who are able to remain in the community are helped to do so. It is essential that there is support available in community organisations for both individuals and for their families. This serves several purposes. Adults with autism need somewhere they can be accepted, have fun, have expanded opportunities, be listened to and be heard. It is great if we can also help extend social and practical skills but that is a bonus. It is vital that there are community organisations which are just there for their users, not necessarily tied to achievement but just a place that is safe to be and where everyone can be themselves. The community should also be a place of vigilance for those who are vulnerable. We are responsible for each other and we must speak out if we think that anyone is being hurt or treated with a lack of care and respect. The minute someone is in a locked institution the opportunities for hidden abuse increase. That is not to say most hospitals and residential institutions are not good and caring places but where there is no one seeing in every day and at any time then the opportunity for the kind of torture exposed in the Panorama programme increases.
Parents and carers need the chance to voice their concerns about aging and what will happen to those they love when they die. The Panorama programme will only add to the anxiety that most parents have as to who will end up looking after their adult children. As parents we all believe no one can love our children as much as we do but we must have faith that professional carers will, at the very least, be kind, well trained and want to do the best for those they look after.
At Resources we are committed to extend the number of individual carers who can offer care on a day to day basis but that will always be linked to groups so that those carers have support, supervision, can see best practice from others and continue to learn. We must offer training and respect to our carers so that they know their work as valued and valuable and in that they in turn give respect to the adults they support.
None of this is rocket science but it does take commitment and money. Good care does not come cheap, however money does not guarantee good care either. The hospital provision featured in the programme was not cheap, lack of money is not the only cause of poor services. Commitment from the top to high quality services and caring staff is the most important thing and at Resources for Autism that commitment is absolute from both myself and our trustees.