Panorama 'Hospital Abuse Scandal' - Avenues response - Avenues Group
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Panorama ‘Hospital Abuse Scandal’ – Avenues response

Wednesday 22nd of May 2019

This statement relates to the findings of a BBC undercover investigation, broadcast on 22 May 2019.

Avenues Interim Chief Executive Jo Land said:

Tonight’s Panorama was heart-breaking, but came as no surprise to anyone working in social care. Every day we support people who have survived these ATUs, helping them to overcome the trauma they have suffered.

We know the scenes shown are just one local example of abuse still being replicated at units across the country, despite the pledges made more than eight years ago after Winterbourne View. It’s hard to imagine that any taxpayer in any civilised society would knowingly sanction the use of their money to fund such a system.

These vulnerable people’s human rights are being breached on a daily basis.

They have families, hobbies, and hopes for the future, just like the rest of us, but it’s all too easy for them to be forgotten as they are moved between various types of institution throughout their lives – out of sight and out of mind.

The third sector is rich with specialist organisations who are supporting thousands of people with learning disabilities and autism to live good lives in the community, at a lower cost to the taxpayer in the long term.

There really is no excuse for their continued mistreatment.

Avenues Group Chair, Terry Rich, said:

This programme demonstrates once again that the system that hospitalises people with learning disabilities and autism is not fit for purpose.

We can do better than this, and Avenues together with many other third sector providers are ready and waiting to work to achieve meaningful lives. It needs the commitment of commissioners – both local authority and the NHS to work collaboratively with us. We mustn’t let this go on another 8 years.

Steve James, who retired as CEO at Avenues last month, also led the Transforming Care Taskforce. He said:

It’s well established that the unnecessary use of ATUs has a detrimental effect on the health of people with learning disability and autism. It promotes suffering, even without any incidents of specific abuse, and it disregards the common needs of these vulnerable people.

All this is frustrating for the third sector, which is repeatedly demonstrating there is no need for people with learning disabilities or autism to be routinely held in these places. It’s a complicated process, but Avenues and other organisations already successfully support people to leave secure psychiatric settings and set up home in their local communities.
Panorama goes undercover inside a hospital for vulnerable adults and reveals patients being mocked, taunted and intimidated by abusive staff. In shocking footage, reporter Olivia Davies films patients with autism and learning difficulties being deliberately provoked by staff who then physically restrain them. The Panorama investigation comes eight years after the programme exposed the scandal of abuse at Winterbourne View, another specialist hospital. Then, the government promised to reform care for the most vulnerable. Now they stand accused of failing to keep that promise by families, campaigners and whistleblowers.