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Paranoia and damage control does not equal care

Several mobile phones

Image via Wikipedia

We posted in June, following Panorama’s Undercover Care-The Abuse Exposed, in which an undercover reporter gained a job at Castlebeck’s Winterbourne View care home, which has since closed, and recorded the abuse doled out by support workers to their vulnerable clients, ranging from waterboarding to actually pinning disabled adults to the floor with a chair. The abuse was first exposed by a whistleblower, nurse Terry Bryan, but was ignored by his employers and, more shockingly, the care regulator, the Care Quality Commission.

Castlebeck, the provider at the centre of the abuse scandal, is ultimately owned by Swiss based Lydian Capital Partners, an independent private equity fund which

invests in market leading businesses in order to achieve long-term capital growth(The webpage this was retrieved from, strangely, is no longer accessible, along with contact details. Hmmm)

It counts amongst its senior team Irish tycoons and entrepreneursJP McManusJohn Magnier, and Dennis Brosnan, as well as home-grown businessman Mike Parsons.

This group has investments, and ownership, in numerous service providers, including Cygnet Healthcare (a secure mental health care provision), Wellness Foods, and Barchester Healthcare…

Now, as an update to our earlier post, we can reveal that within Lydian’s other investments, care staff are being instructed to

…shadow new staff, because apparently new starters… are taking payments from newspapers to report on the goings on within…homes.

This apparently followed the reiteration of the ‘No Mobile Phones’ policy, and sections of the said policy being reproduced in poster form and placed at strategic points throughout the home.

It’s understandable to apply such a policy, given the possible reasons a nefarious individual may have to take pictures and recordings, more clearly demonstrated by the exposure of a nursery assistant in a pedophile photo sharing group; this is intended to protect people in care, who often to not have the cognisance to consent, let alone fully understand the world around them.

However, I can’t help but think that this latest action is not simply intended to protect vulnerable adults, but rather, an attempt to prevent further disclosures which harm the ‘caring’ facade of these large, profit-making, private care homes.

It casts a cynical approach to whistleblowing procedures. Information we have seen indicates that said procedures lean heavily toward dealing with issues in-house, and recourse to external bodies is a nuclear option, of last resort, which is why policy and regulations need to be immediately revised, so that declarations under whistleblower law should be made directly to the care regulator, cutting out the senior managers with an eye to the ‘Dealing With The Media’ file beside their computer.

Even more so in organisations who have dubious recruitment practises, where it is normal for entire families to be employed in the same unit.

Most services provide their employees with the basic, statutory protection under whistleblower laws, but, without the foresight to considers situations where, having reported the malpractices of carer A, an employee is left to work alongside their husband, carer B, who’s less than happy at what you did.

All of this only creates an environment in which the reporting of malpractise is, in the first place, the real nuclear option, and often results in negative consequences. Information is not yet gathered about the proportion of whistleblowers who go on to be subject of some form of detrimental treatment, but, stories indicate that whistleblowing should, sadly, be approached with extreme caution and fear, and often, with a career change on the horizon.

In the meantime, at the centre of all of this, are the most vulnerable in our society. Lest we forget.