Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Thoughts on care values: Abuse and neglect in Whorlton Hall

Sad teddy bear

Recently, I have watched the programme about Whorlton Hall (Durham) on BBC Panorama and it made me feel all kinds of emotions. I could not believe the abuse and manipulation that was shown on screen. 

Having worked as a support worker for individuals with Autism and learning difficulties for over two years, I have learned about the importance of care values and abuse prevention. 

Unfortunately, not all care providers follow the principles of safeguarding. In this post, I will discuss my thoughts on care values and reflect on the consequences of abuse and neglect.

Psychology of human nature

Before I commence on my thoughts on care values, I wanted to explore the psychology of human nature. When the abuse of Whorlton Hall was unfolding on the television screen, I tried to dig deep in my psychology knowledge to make sense of their human nature.

I think the question we all have is whether immorality is part of our genetic makeup (in other words our nature) or whether it caused by the environment we find ourselves in. Numerous social psychology studies have explored the role of the environment on human behaviour.

The Stanford Prison experiment by Phillip Zimbardo was conducted in 1969 and it portrayed how the perception of power differences (prisoner versus guard) influenced peoples’ behaviour. This could suggest that the care workers in Whorlton Hall viewed their support worker roles as a source of power. Consequently, they were not working to support their patients – they were working to show their power.

Another social psychology theory that could fit into explaining the poor care of Whorlton Hall is majority influence. Majority influence is otherwise known as conformity. It is possible that the staff of Whorlton Hall were like a herd of sheep. They did not want to be different – they wanted to be accepted by their colleagues. This means that these individuals did not challenge the abuse, they conformed to it. Human nature is not as simple as ‘this is a bad person’ versus ‘this is a good person’, there are complex nuances that underlie human behaviour.

Safeguarding vulnerable adults

The Care Act (2014) was introduced to protect vulnerable adults from mistreatment and abuse. All care providers are responsible in meeting the principles outlined in this act. Safeguarding is crucial in minimising abuse in care. It is defined as “protecting vulnerable adults from abuse and neglect”.

Six principles underpin safeguarding:

Empowerment – Encouraging individuals to make their own decisions and choices.

Prevention – Preventing harm before it occurs.

Proportionality – Adopting the least intrusive response.

Protection – Supporting those in need.
Partnership – Working together with relevant professionals to prevent abuse.

Accountability - Being accountable and having transparency.

The Care Act (2014) should not be perceived as a strict list of rules but as an expected norm.

Responding to challenging behaviour

Individuals with Autism tend to become anxious when their familiar routines are not met– they dislike change. They are also unable to fully understand their own emotions and the emotions of those around them. For some, this can trigger frustration and challenging behaviour.

An effective response to challenging behaviour is built on patience. The management of Whorlton Hall patients’ behaviour relied on restraint and force. The staff members did not attempt to understand the causes of their patients’ behaviour.

It is crucial to minimise challenging behaviour triggers. Individuals in care should be protected, they should not be blamed for their anxiety. Nevertheless, staying calm in a stressful environment requires resilience from care workers. This means that psychological development is a must for individuals working in the care industry.

Person-centered support

Person-centered support in care refers to perceiving patients as individuals and not as their conditions. Every individual is different, with their personal wishes and characteristics. Quality care focuses on the needs of an individual and it involves the individual in their care.

I believe that personalised care is crucial for ensuring the happiness of those in care institutions. Individuals in care should not be seen as mere numbers, but as unique individuals.  

Consequences of abuse

Not all consequences of abuse are visible. Some abuse is physical; therefore, it can cause physical trauma and scars. Another type of abuse is based on mental torture, this type of abuse can have a negative impact on the psychological well-being of patients.

Unfortunately, most vulnerable adults lack the capacity to express that they are hurt.

Consistent abuse can cause permanent distress in the individual. It could also harm their development and growth. In addition, abused individuals may struggle with chronic low self-worth. The consequences of abuse emphasise the importance of abuse prevention.

The future of care

I’m glad that BBC panorama has evidenced the abuse of Whorlton Hall. According to media sources, 10 staff members have been prosecuted for their abusive towards patients.

Nevertheless, I believe that there is plenty of unreported abuse in care. The future of supportive care relies on staff transparency and openness.

These are all my thoughts in relation to the Whorlton Hall abuse. I believe that an open discussion of care values is needed to improve overall awareness of the abuse crisis in care. Are you involved in care yourself? What did you think about the Whorlton Hall abuse?

Follow my blog for more thoughts and discussions! 

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  1. This was a really interesting post. It was so well researched and presented.

    1. Thank you so much :) Glad you enjoyed it!

  2. This is very serious topic and unfortunately many people are familiar with it these days. Thank you for writing this post.

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