Charity fears more scandals as two jailed for abuse at care unit

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ANOTHER care facility abuse scandal similar to the ill-treatment of vulnerable adults in South Yorkshire could happen again despite Government attempts to improve standards, a leading charity has warned.

The families of victims of two care workers at the Solar Centre in Doncaster say the full scale of the abuse may never come to light after the pair were sentenced yesterday.

James Hinds, 59, and Susan Murphy, 43, were jailed for 33 months each for humiliating, abusing and ill-treating vulnerable adults at the day centre for people with learning disabilities between 2005 and 2007.

The Government last year introduced a range of new proposals to ensure society’s most vulnerable people were properly cared for after widespread abuse of patients with learning disabilities emerged at the privately-run Winterbourne View hospital, near Bristol.

The measures included patients “inappropriately placed” in hospitals being moved to community-based support and care plans being put in place for all children, young people and adults with learning disabilities by April 2014.

But campaigners have called for the promised improvements to be introduced more quickly and spoke of their “frustration” at the pace of change.

Since then police have launched investigations into alleged abuse at a number of care homes, including one facility in Morley, West Yorkshire.

Care and support minister Norman Lamb this month pledged that local health chiefs would be named and shamed if they failed to provide high quality care for patients with learning difficulties.

In an update on progress since the Winterbourne View abuse case was exposed, Mr Lamb said he would not tolerate a slow response from officials.

Beverley Dawkins, policy manager at learning disability charity Mencap, said health and social care agencies had recently re-stated their commitment to making the necessary changes.

But she added: “Some organisations like us are becoming frustrated at the pace of change. It would be good to see this really sped up and be more impactful at this stage.

“From where we are sitting there is clearly a lot of activity and work going on. There is a huge job to be done here.

“I hope Winterbourne View was the last one, I don’t want to hear about this stuff but are we confident that there won’t be similar abuse? No, we are not.”

Ms Dawkins said one of the themes that emerged from both the Winterbourne View and Solar Centre scandals was a failure to listen to families who were raising concerns.

Campaign groups have hit out at prosecutors and the police in South Yorkshire for the amount of time it took to bring the Doncaster case to court.

Mencap’s regional campaigns officer, Maggie Graham, said: “This case raises serious questions about why the abuse went unreported for so long, and why it was so delayed in coming to court.

“Lessons must be learnt from this and all agencies involved need to address what went wrong to make sure vulnerable people are not let down again.”

Care minister Mr Lamb said earlier this month that there would be “no hiding place” for commissioners who failed to provide adequate services.

He spoke after the BBC broadcast evidence of the neglect of an elderly woman being cared for in her home by provider Mosaic, based in Preston.

The woman’s family installed CCTV cameras in her house, which showed carers failing to turn up for visits or arriving very late and behaving inappropriately on occasions.

After being shown the video, Mr Lamb warned: “The next big scandal could easily occur in this sector. We know this is not an isolated case.”

It was revealed this week that a former employee at a Leeds care home for elderly people with dementia is facing a series of criminal charges over the alleged abuse of residents.

Christopher Horncastle has been charged with five counts of ill treatment or wilful neglect of residents at Vivian House in Morley.

The police investigation was launched following alleged incidents involving at least one elderly resident between November last year and February this year.