YESTERDAY marked the 10th anniversary of the BBC Panorama programme that exposed the shocking treatment of the patients at Winterbourne View, a private hospital owned and run by Castlebeck Care that was supposed to provide assessment and treatment for adults with learning disabilities.
The programme showed the residents being physically assaulted and humiliated by members of staff at the hospital and were deprived of their liberty while records were allegedly falsified to cover this up.
In response, the Tory government pledged to deliver a transforming care programme that would put an end to adults and children with learning disabilities being held in homes and hospitals for years on end under conditions that are closer to internment than treatment.
But 10 years on, nothing has changed, in fact none of these promises to close long-stay institutions like Winterbourne View and that all those with learning disabilities inappropriately placed in hospital be moved to community-based support have been carried out.
Research by the Mencap charity and the Challenging Behaviour Foundation (CBF) shows 2,040 people with autism or learning disabilities are being held in assessment and treatment units.
These units are supposed to be for short-term treatment but patients are being held on average over five-and-a-half years, while 355 people were in these assessment units for over 10 years.
In a letter on the 10th anniversary of the scandal breaking, families of those affected wrote to prime minister Boris Johnson saying: ‘Not even the exposure in the media of their torture has been sufficient motivation for government and the NHS to change a broken system,’ and called for more government money for social services and residential care to allow people to live semi-independently.
Seven relatives of people who were housed at Winterbourne claim that abuse in similar facilities continues to this day.
The criminal disregard for the liberty and treatment of some of the most vulnerable sections of society comes as no surprise. In the ten years that have passed, the Tory government has consistently cut the funding for social care to the bone.
Councils across England cut £7.7 billion from adult social care budgets since 2010 due to cuts in government money under the austerity regime imposed to bail out the banks.
Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic last year, the Tories have consistently proved their willingness to consign the sick and elderly to an untimely death in the name of ‘saving’ the capitalist economy.
A report published in August last year revealed the criminal liability of the Johnson government for the deaths of thousands of health care workers, the elderly and disabled through their deadly policy of ‘herd immunity’.
The Queen’s Nursing Institute (QNI) revealed that a blanket ‘no admissions’ to hospital policy for care home residents was in force between April and May 2020. Tory policy was to kick the elderly out of hospital without testing or even if they had tested positive for the Coronavirus.
The Tories denial that they imposed a policy of herd immunity, designed to protect the capitalist economy even if it meant thousands of sick and elderly dying was exploded this week by Johnson’s former chief advisor, Dominic Cummings.
At Wednesday’s parliamentary inquiry Cummings blew the Tory government apart, telling MPs that the ‘disastrous’ mistakes they committed caused ‘tens of thousands’ of unnecessary deaths from Covid, accusing Johnson of ‘chaotic leadership’.
It is not a question of chaotic leadership by Johnson or some disastrous mistake. Herd immunity was a policy dictated by the requirements of bankrupt British capitalism to keep the economy open so that the bosses and shareholders could maintain their profits.
At last Saturday’s massive demonstration in support of the Palestinians, the general secretary of the National Education Union, Kevin Courtney, called for a general strike for Palestine in Britain.
Having raised the demand for a general strike, the trade union leadership must now be forced to organise a general strike to kick out this Tory government and go forward to a workers’ government that will expropriate the bosses and bankers and put an end to a capitalist system that puts profit above the lives of workers by replacing it with socialism.