Winterbourne, Lamb and inertia

revised timeline

I’ve revised the (now snapshot) Timeline of Shame. Only a couple of weeks after I posted the original. It needs to be viewed in full screen. And needs to be viewed really.  To put things in context. The aim of this is to illustrate how this isn’t just about what happened to the 48 people who were patients at Winterbourne View. And it isn’t just about LB. It’s about how learning disabled people are treated like shite in this country. Particularly those incarcerated in these holding pens of hell. [Thanks to Sam Sly, Rich Watts, Jo Pyrah and Chris Hatton* for reminding me of the broader context; Ely Hospital 1967, Longacre 1994, Budock 2006… known about cases.]

A census of learning disabled people living in Assessment and Treatment units was published yesterday. This contained shocking/horrifying statistics. It took a snapshot on September 30 2013. Over two years after the abuse at Winterbourne View. Nearly a year after the government planned a “dramatic reduction” in the number of people in these units.

The Department of Health also published  Winterbourne View: One Year On. I’ve only glanced through this report but, other than put into place a few processes [Have ‘Winterbourne Concordat’ jokes started circulating yet? How long does it take to put a process in place…?], nothing really has happened. All talk and no action. And there’s a naive emphasis on Winterbourne View and the people who lived there. As if they’re the only people who experienced abuse in this setting.

Abuse covers a range of practices and it’s clear from the CQC report of STATT that neglect and institutional abuse was occurring there. I don’t suppose these two units are the only two assessment and treatment units in which vile practice is operating**. They just happened to have been uncovered through a) a whistleblower and responsive actions of Panorama journalists, and b) the unexpected death in harrowing circumstances of an otherwise fit and healthy young man.

Norman Lamb, who seems genuinely committed to getting people out of these units, is forced to try and re-mobilise the outrage, revulsion and sadness people felt when Panorama was aired in his foreword to the report. It’s clear this wasn’t enough to sustain an effective commitment to change.


It isn’t just about the people in these units, of course, but the pain and distress their families and carers experience. You can hear some examples of this on You and Yours (around 45 minutes in). It’s a brutalising and dehumanising system.

And it’s not just a timeline of shame (national shame). It’s a timeline of consistent inhumanity, weakness, stupidity or deliberate dis-engagement, and inaction. The people incarcerated in these units are, arguably, among the most vulnerable in society. And should get the most protection.

No sniff of that. Forty six years after the Ely Hospital scandal.

*@SamSly2 @rich_w @jopyrah @CHRISHATTONCEDR

**A good friend’s son, James, was abused by staff in an out of county unit when he was 16.

4 thoughts on “Winterbourne, Lamb and inertia

  1. Pingback: Week 6: Do we need another inquiry? #107days | #107days

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