“Behind the most ancient part of Holborn, London, where certain gabled houses some centuries of age still stand looking on the public way, as if disconsolately looking for the Old Bourne that has long run dry, is a little nook composed of two irregular quadrangles, called Staple Inn. It is one of those nooks, the turning into which out of the clashing street, imparts to the relieved pedestrian the sensation of having put cotton in his ears and velvet soles on his boots.” – The Mystery of Edwin Drood by Charles Dickens
That was “one of those nooks which are legal nooks”.
I was born and grew up not far away from that ‘legal nook’, long enough ago to have experienced the peace and quiet of the City of London on a Sunday morning (then!). Little did I realise that I’d be reminded of Dickens’ description when I read the report on whistleblowers from Public Concern at Work – Speaking up for Vulnerable Adults : What the Whistleblowers Say.
There are far too many disturbing quotes from the report – which is very user-friendly so you’ll have to read it yourself – but here’s a few that grabbed me, from the 100 cases looked at:
- Year on year we receive the highest percentage of calls to our helpline from the care sector (15%).
- In care, 55% of all calls were about abuse.
- In 40% of all our care cases, concerns were initially ignored or denied by the organisation.
- Additionally this is a sector with many workers who may be considered vulnerable due to low pay, low awareness of rights and lack of access to or knowledge of support.
- Within the care sector itself, over half of the calls we receive are about abuse. The most common concerns being: physical abuse, lack of dignity, neglect, conduct of staff, verbal abuse and medication administered incorrectly or not at all.
- the vast majority of workers in the care sector (80%) have already raised their concern when they call us and over a third of these concerns are initially ignored, mishandled or denied by organisations
- care workers often do not realise that they are actually “blowing the whistle” until they encounter difficulties when having their concern addressed or are mistreated personally
- whistleblowers struggle with the lack of feedback from organisations regarding how their concern is being handled
- we also receive calls from workers across the adult social care spectrum including: social workers, safeguarding teams, volunteers, students, cleaners, doctors, nurses and other professionals.
And that’s all from the first couple of pages of the report!
The report looks at physical abuse, medication concerns, neglect, financial abuse and so on, and works its way through various case stories, all demonstrating the need for safeguarding vulnerable people in care and also the workforce providing that care.
It has allowed me to understand more of the reasons why I have needed to bang my head against a brick wall in recent years. It also confirms to me what I sadly had to learn the hard way: that – in my own experience of dementia care – the local authority (all departments from the care commissioning team through to the Safeguarding/Adult Protection unit), the mental health care of older people multi-disciplinary team , the CSCI/CQC regulators and the care providers all colluded to care far more for themselves, to protect their own best interests above all others, than they ever cared for my relative’s best interests, and the best interests of other vulnerable older people in this particular part of the world.
They closed ranks in their own ‘legal nook’ to such an extent that I’m almost in need of care myself, because they have almost managed to transform me into a vulnerable adult, by their own sins of commission and sins of omission. Almost, but not quite.
Not for the first time, I ask why everything can be hidden behind the word ‘confidentiality’. We now have the vulnerable being cared for by a vulnerable workforce, according to this report, so it’s hardly surprising that nothing changes for the better.
It’s as if the whole care sector has become anaesthetised, numbed and indifferent to all that is going on under the umbrella of care. I have been planning to write more about my own experience of dementia care, and this report has sharpened my resolve, so I will go back to the beginning and work my way through it all, chapter by chapter, stage by stage.
“…. the sensation of having put cotton in his ears and velvet soles on his boots ….”
The cotton may still be in their ears – the velvet soles of my boots will have to be removed.