Charity secures funding to help Winterbourne View abuse survivors


theweek120by150Survivors of the Winterbourne View abuse scandal will soon have access to their own dedicated helpline, thanks to funding from the Department of Health (DH).

The £25,000 funding has been awarded to the charity Respond, which has a long track record of providing emotional support to people with learning difficulties who have survived abuse or trauma.

Any of the former patients of the private hospital – which has now closed – will be able to call the helpline.

Relatives, friends, care workers and other professionals working with former patients of the hospital, near Bristol, can also call the helpline.

Respond will provide telephone counselling and assessments, as well as offering advice and information about other services.

There will also be regular group sessions that will provide support to family members of former Winterbourne View patients.

June Patterson, who campaigns and volunteers with Respond, and herself received psychotherapy from the charity, welcomed the new helpline and funding.

She said: “When you’ve been abused, it can really help to talk to someone you can trust, and the staff at Respond are specially trained to work with people with learning disabilities.”

Noelle Blackman, Respond’s chief executive, added: “We are so pleased to be able to provide the support that Winterbourne survivors and their families deserve after experiencing such terrible trauma.”

Last year, six former Winterbourne View employees were given prison terms ranging from six months to two years for ill-treatment and neglect, while another five received suspended prison sentences.

A court had heard how there had been “a culture of ill-treatment” at the hospital, with patients exposed to “degrading, cruel and inhuman conduct” and forced to live a “miserable existence”.

One of the staff members, Wayne Rogers, taunted, slapped and kicked service-users, threatened them with extreme violence and used “wholly inappropriate” methods of restraint.

Other staff admitted pulling their hair, soaking them with water and threatening them, while one slapped a female service-user in the face and told her: “See you later, gimp.”

The convictions followed the screening in 2011 of an undercover investigation into the abuse by the BBC’s Panorama.

Following the publication of a serious case review (SCR) into the abusive regime, Disability News Service (DNS) called for a national audit to discover how many people with learning difficulties had been abandoned in institutions like Winterbourne View, far from their original homes.

John Pring, editor of DNS, first suggested an audit in 2003, and repeated the call in his book Longcare Survivors: The Biography of a Care Scandal, which details his 17-year investigation into the institutional abuse of adults with learning difficulties at the Longcare homes, near Slough.

The book also describes how Respond provided expert support over many years to more than 10 of the survivors of the Longcare regime.

Respond’s free helpline launches on 11 April and will be available every Thursday, from 10am-4pm, on 0808 808 0700. 

3 April 2013