Saturday, 27 October 2012

Lessons Learned?

The sentencing of the perpetrators of the appalling abuse at Winterbourne View yesterday serves as a timely reminder of the case of Carmarthenshire whistleblower Delyth Jenkins and her efforts to report abuse against 'Sally', a lady with learning difficulties at the council run day centre in Carmarthen. The Ombudsman's two reports published in 2009 found the council to have failed catastrophically in their treatment of the whistleblower and in their duty to protect 'Sally'. You may remember the Private Eye article from February this year which pointed out that out of fourteen officers found to be at fault, only one faced disciplinary action, some have now been promoted. I also wonder what became of the management at Winterbourne View, I didn't see them in the dock, and as for the sentences, RichardBrennan's blog, Newsjiffy, sums it up well. 

In the Winterbourne View case the Care Quality Commission, the independent watchdog, were heavily criticised for failing to take Terry Bryan's (the whistleblower) complaints seriously. The fact that it was privately run should have made no difference. The Head of the CQC, Dame Jo Williams, was herself under fire for her own treatment of a non-executive board member of the CQC, Kay Sheldon. Ms Sheldon blew the whistle about poor treatment of hospital and care home patients, and raised concerns about the leadership management and culture of the CQC, in public. Ms Williams then secretly commissioned a psychiatric report about Ms Sheldon which cast doubt on her mental health, Ms Williams eventually apologised and resigned.

Carmarthenshire care homes are inspected by the Welsh equivalent of the CQC, the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales. We can only hope that the leadership, management and culture of the CSSIW is as it should be. With more and more care services being outsourced to private companies, which are profit driven of course, we must have faith the independent integrity of the CSSIW.  Although, as Delyth Jenkins has pointed out, they do not inspect day centres for adults with learning difficulties and she has called on the Welsh government to extend the remit of the CSSIW but so far without success. These day centres are 'self-inspected' and whilst I am sure the level of care is generally exceptionally high, some will always slip through the net. Especially when there isn't a net.

One would have thought that Carmarthenshire Council would have taken part in S4C Taro 9 programme about Delyth's case back in March, if only to provide reassurance, publicly, that it had done everything in it's power to prevent anything like that happening again, it may have also gone a little way in restoring confidence in it's whistleblowing policy too. But no, they refused to take part and went to the trouble of persuading the police to follow the film crew. Pembrokeshire council were recently accused of being more concerned with preserving personal reputations than with tackling a damning report into education and children's services.

Let's hope the graphic illustration of horrific abuse at Winterbourne View reminds our local authorities and various institutions of the importance and bravery of whistleblowers, and that they deserve respect and protection, not intimidation, ostracisation or dismissal. 


Cneifiwr said...

I'm glad you made the connection with Winterbourne - it had me thinking too. Nothing I have seen or read about the Delyth case convinces me that CCC learned anything at all from it - their sole aim was to sweep it under the carpet and hope everybody forgot.

caebrwyn said...

Yep. The attempt by one of the senior officers to turn a private visit to Sally and her parents into a PR stunt was a particularly low moment too.

Delyth Jenkins said...

I wrote to the Welsh Government when the Independent report by Dr Margaret Flynn into the abuse and failures at Winterbourne view in Bristol was published. Some of the abuse witnessed at Winterbourne mirrored what we witnessed at the Carmarthenshire County Council run day centre. If we had been able to film the abuse like at Winterbourne I have no doubt that prosecutions would have followed.
In a response from the Welsh Government, they say that the highlighted failings in Learning disability services in the Ombudsman's report were subsequently the subject of a joint inspection by the CSSIW and the Wales Audit Office. How could the CSSIW allow the service for the most vulnerable people in society to continue to be managed by officers and senior officers who had been so severely criticised by the Ombudsman?
I included in my letter to the Welsh Government that what care staff need is a good role model in their managers, willing to nuture their staff and offer support and advice and to listen to staff when they highlight that something is seriously wrong, and not attempting to silence them and take away every bit of confidence and self worth as in my case.

The investigating officer in the 'Sally' case admitted to me in correspondence in June 2007 that it was his decision not to include all the allegations of abuse in the perpetrator's disciplinary. Yet in July 2009 he was promoted to Head of Mental Health & Learning disabilities, two months before the Ombudsman's report was published where he was severely criticised.

Attempts were made during this investigation to discredit me.
This apparently is a common pattern in dealing with whistleblowers. I was accused of a conspiracy and breaching confidentiality by one senior manager yet the Public services Ombudsman for Wales completely vindicated my complaint.
This Senior Manager remains on the Carmarthenshire County Council payroll. I have always spoken the truth throughout this complaint and I will continue to speak up until Managers who failed to protect vulnerable people are held to account.

Delyth Jenkins said...

I want to add that the Investigating officer was promoted to Head of Mental Health & Learning disabilities on a permanent basis in July 2009 - he had been doing that job on an interim basis since April 2008.

Delyth Jenkins said...

I have been reading the minutes of the County Council meeting that took place in July 2009 when the appointment of the head of mental health & learning disabilities was made. The minutes refer to the CE and the Director of Social care & Housing interviewing the candidate.
It seems the post was advertised internally, and only one person was shorlisted.

When I met with the CE, accompanied by my M.P. a week after the Ombudsman's report was published, I asked him whether the appointment of the Head of service was an appropriate one considering that two draft reports had already been produced and both were extremely critical of this person.
The CE told me in the presence of the M.P. that he did not employ him the Councillors did. My next question is, If the Councillors did make the ultimate decision to employ this person, were they given the full information to make that choice? Were they told that two draft reports had already been produced, one in Jan 2009 and the other in July 2009 and both were very critical of this person and the final report was still awaited?
These are the kind of questions that have still not been answered and that is why I believe nothing short of a public enquiry into this case will do.

caebrwyn said...

Thanks for your comments Delyth.

Further dreadful news about the Winterbourne case emerged today;

The article also includes the results of a 2010 survey by the CQC which found that in England and Wales 1 in 20 patients with learning disabilities in hospital said they had been assaulted at least 10 times in the previous three months.