SOUTH Gloucestershire Council’s Safeguarding Adults Board has now completed the majority of actions it pledged to improve since systematic abuse was uncovered at a hospital in Hambrook.
Although Winterbourne View, where the BBC’s Panorama secretly filmed staff taunting and torturing vulnerable patients with learning difficulties, was privately owned the council is responsible for adults in care in the district.
Since the footage was shown on television in May 2011 and 11 former members of staff were sentenced at Bristol Crown Court for a multitude of abuse charges in October 2012, the authority says it has worked tirelessly to make sure such a scandal never happens again.
Last August, an independent serious case review condemned hospital owners Castlebeck as business opportunists who profited from the abuse. But report author Margaret Flynn also blamed the failures of South Gloucestershire’s Safeguarding Adults Board, which is made up of the NHS, Care Quality Commission, the police and South Gloucestershire Council, for not picking up on early warning signs and not responding to a whistleblower.
At a meeting of the council’s adults and housing committee, head of the service Denise Porter said almost all of the targets the council had set itself had been met.
“The majority of actions have been completed but there is still a lot of work that is continuing,” she said.
“We have moved on from the experience we have had and it is a very different picture now. For social workers there is much greater clarity on their team and what their role is and they are a lot more confident in being able to respond to that.”
Cllr Janet Biggins (Con, Downend) said: “It is about the sharing of data with different agencies. There is a whole minutia of different people working together and the information needs to be shared between different departments as well.”
Cllr Maggie Tyrell (Lib Dem, Thornbury South and Alveston) said that whilst she was pleased to see the action plan largely completed, she wanted assurances from the highest authority that another scandal would not and could not happen again.
“As a mere councillor I don’t have the expertise to know what else might be needed to be done,” she said. “One of the lessons leant is that it doesn’t matter how good things are on paper, you need the people who will actually act on what they are supposed to.”
She called on department director Peter Murphy to give a personal assurance that he is now confident in the service.
Mr Murphy said: “The sensitivity towards institutional abuse, for understandable reasons, has markedly changed not only for local authorities but for all.
“We all had much to learn from Winterbourne View and much more still to learn. But I think we now have a communication chain with clear expectations on what that chain should include. With anything of concern, the clear message is speak up.”
He gave his assurances to the committee that the Safeguarding Adults Board would not make the same mistakes again.