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Government preparing full response to abuse at Winterbourne View, MPs told
2:00pm Tuesday 30th October 2012 in News
The abuse of disabled people in care homes such as Winterbourne View is an intolerable "national scandal" and the Government has vowed to correct it, MPs were told today by a health minister.
Answering an urgent question in the House of Commons, Norman Lamb said the Government's full response to the scandal at Winterbourne View would be published soon.
Last week six people were jailed for their role in abuse at the private hospital exposed by the BBC Panorama programme.
Shadow minister Liz Kendall called for the statement in the wake of a further Panorama broadcast last night which suggested problems existed in other hospitals.
Mr Lamb told MPs: "What has been exposed by Panorama is utterly intolerable and has to come to an end.
"I am absolutely determined when I make the final response for the Government by the end of November that it will be robust and clear and that everyone understands what has to happen.
"Years and years of public money being spent on putting people into inappropriate settings, often putting them at risk of abuse - this is a national scandal and it has to end."
Ms Kendall, who tabled an urgent question on the issue this morning, said: "There remain serious concerns about whether the Government has taken all necessary steps to ensure the former patients of Winterbourne View are now receiving safe and effective care.
"Last night's Panorama programme revealed 19 patients have been subject to safeguarding alerts since leaving Winterbourne View.
"Not all of these alerts mean someone has been harmed but Panorama says one was an incident of assault and another has resulted in a criminal investigation.
"Is this an accurate reflection of the picture? Have the families of all patients with a safeguarding alert been given the full details?
"What specific action has been taken as a result of these alerts and can you guarantee these patients are all no longer at risk?"
Ms Kendall asked if the Care Quality Commission had recently inspected the care homes and hospitals in which Winterbourne View residents are now placed.
She said last night's Panorama had highlighted concerns at Postern House, Marlborough, which the CQC inspected in January this year, after the report on Winterbourne View.
Ms Kendall said the January review had found it met "essential standards" of quality and safety.
The shadow minister said: "Panorama revealed a number of problems at Postern House over several years and that a former Winterbourne View patient had a safeguarding incident there in June this year.
"Are you confident all patients currently in Postern House are safe from risk of abuse?"
Ms Kendall said that, while it was right that home operators were responsible for safety, ministers set policy and were responsible for ensuring implementation.
Mr Lamb told Ms Kendal: "You are right to say ministers are there to set the policy and that is what I intend to do. I have been working since my appointment to ensure we set the right policy to protect very vulnerable individuals.
"You are right to say they must never suffer from abuse. Of course, there is always the risk of rogue individuals who behave very badly - they must be dealt with through the criminal law as has been seen with the Winterbourne View staff.
"But I have also made the point that owners at the corporate level of these organisations must be held to account for things that go on in their homes, if there has been neglect.
"I want to meet with the parents of those at Winterbourne View, and I will make arrangements for that.
"You mentioned the 19 alerts, that was in March. That is itself intolerable that it is still the case.
"By September it was down to six ... it's very important people do raise those concerns but I assure you I will do everything I can to end this scandal and ensure we have proper safeguarding arrangements in place."
Ridgeway Partnership, which runs Postern House, has said in a statement: "We are sorry that families feel we let them down in terms of our communications with them and we will be contacting them to apologise personally.
"We also regret that the experience of some of the people we support and care for wasn't what it should have been.
"In terms of the support and care we provide, managing incidents, raising safeguarding alerts, and being extremely conscientious in ensuring our services are safe and supportive are all priorities for us.
"We strive to provide care which is what we would want for our own loved ones, and we will continue to do that.
"We accept that there have been occasions when families feel we have fallen short of their expectations and we intend to listen to them and learn from that."
Mark Lever, chief executive of the National Autistic Society, said: "Abuse of people with autism and other disabilities by those who are supposed to care for and protect them is unacceptable.
"We all have a duty of care to protect vulnerable adults from harm and to treat them with dignity and respect.
"This kind of abuse has no place in modern Britain.
"Organisations should ensure they have a culture where abuse is never tolerated, and this needs to come from the top. Where there are failings, the people at fault must be held to account.
"The Government should take a lead role in ending poor commissioning and, equally, the local authorities and health bodies involved must ensure that the individual and their needs are at the heart of any care package.
"Careful recruitment, regular inspections, the right staff training and a culture of mutual respect and support are essential in making sure that these kinds of revelations stay firmly in the past."
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