Vulnerable people being cared for and the legal system. Where is the justice?
Posted on 25th February 2022 at 14:27
People with a disability are more likely to be victims of a crime. https://theconversation.com/people-with-disability-are-more-likely-to-be-victims-of-crime-heres-why-111999 The most obvious reason for this that they are the easy target and vulnerable. So what is in place to protect these people? From my own personal experience not much.
I've written about this in a previous blog, however, I wanted to go into more depth as it is still very raw in me even though it happened a couple of years ago. It is always the victims and their families that have the hard part of getting over, processing and getting past the issue. I find it especially hard living in close proximity of the person who hurt my child and seeing them going about their normal day to day life, like nothing has happened. I am still totally and utterly perplexed at how much the legal system and the care community failed my son.
When we employ a carer we go through all the normal recruitment procedures that any employer would do. We conduct an interview, obtain references and a DBS check. We then ensure all of our carers are given the correct training for George and his needs, as he is has such specialist needs. These carers then do a number of shadow shifts with current carers. Once the new carer is ready, we arrange for a nurse to come in and “sign them off” to ensure that everything is being done in accordance with procedure and correctly. The carer can then begin to work with George on their own.
A huge amount of time and effort is put in to George's and his care needs to ensure he has the right people to support him. We do all we can as a family, however, this still doesn't prevent bad carers coming through the net. This is usually not through an error or something being missed on our part, it's usually an outside source or untrue information being provided at the start by the carer themself.
I place a huge amount of trust in these people to ensure that George’s needs are being met to what he needs. It makes it even more difficult that George is non verbal and he cannot tell me if there is an issue. George can communicate in George's way, we all know when he doesn't want to do something or when he is happy. Unfortunately, he cannot say to to me "Mum, that person hurt me" so sadly it can take some time for these issues to come to light.
In 2015, George had a hip operation as his hip had dislocated. This was major surgery which took him a long time to recover from, there was concerns that it may lead to further surgery being needed in future. It was a big decision to make for him but the benefits outweighed what may happen in the future. After the operation, George needed a high level of support. He was in traction and it made his limiting condition even more limited. We tried endlessly to find someone to help us during this time but due to the level of need and not finding anyone we felt comfortable with Peter, my husband had to take leave from work to look after him.
Fortunately, George recovered well and with a great physio and personal plan in place, we had no cause for concern that further surgery would be needed.
This was until 2019, when the physio became majorly concerned with the hip and George’s whole body wasn't doing as well as it had been previously. The physio was perplexed as to how he had deteriorated so much in recent times as he had been so well. She worked tiredlessly with the occupational therapist to work out the problem and made alterations to the George's physio program to try and resolve the issue.
It was at this time, Peter and I started to notice some red flags with one of our carers and some of the other carers had mentioned concerns. The major concerns were she had become a bit complacent and lazy and perhaps needed a slight kick into gear to get restarted again.
Peter and I decided to install a video camera and monitor all of the carers to see if there was any obvious issues that needed addressing. In order to obtain a true reflection of what was going on, we didn't inform the carers that they were being filmed. When we reviewed the footage it was absolutely shocking.
It was worse than anything I ever could have possibly imagined. Never had I even expected a person to be capable of doing such things. Yes of course you see these things on the tele, however, it still doesn't seem quite real. That it possibly could not be true. In that moment I felt sick, angry and upset all at the same time. Having to watch your child, who is physically unable to talk or move away from someone, go through the physical and mental torture he had to endure was one of the worst things I have witnessed in my life.
How could somebody do this to someone who can't fight back and defend themselves. The only small fight back George managed was to to bite her on her hand. Even then, he was hit around the face for it and told off.
The footage also finally explained the root cause for the problems he was having with his hip and whole body. One person mistreating him had caused him to go backwards four years. Four years of hard work and recovery blown in the space of a few months. If we hadn't discovered this, the next step was surgery. The most harrowing thought is during this time, this carer played their part of concerned party, tried everything to help the physio to get to the cause of the problem and the whole time it was her! She knew this and was going to let this poor defenceless young man go through all of that again, needlessly.
I really didn’t know what to do, I was in shock. I decided to read the notes from that day to see what she had done with George. She had written she had been on a walk with George for most of the afternoon. Thoughts were going through my head, had she left him somewhere alone or had she done something she wanted to do. My mind was racing. I thought I could contact the Police and see if I could obtain CCTV footage from the local area.
The Officer on the phone asked me why did I want this information and when I explained what had happened. He said that he felt it appropriate for an officer to visit my home and view the footage themselves. Of course, Peter and I agreed.
I was anxious about the Police coming to my house, purely for the fact that George’s needs are so complex that they wouldn’t be able to understand and appreciate the severity of what is on the footage. I wanted them to acknowledge the extent of what had happened to my son. The Police Officer was extremely understanding, patient and listened to what we had to say.
I then spoke to our HR Team, as I didn't want this woman/monster anywhere near my family or home. I thought it was be a simple and straight forward sacking, however, of course no. The legalities of employment law had to be followed otherwise this monster could make a possible claim against us. How ridiculous is that.! My son has been physically harmed by this person and she could make a claim. They said it may be an issue of retraining, retraining are they absolutely joking! How could this even be reasonable, however, reluctantly I followed their advice. They did say she would be suspended until the matter had been finalised.
There was a lot of involvement from a lot of people to investigate what had happened and the footage needed to be looked at and discuss several times for all who were involved to understand the severity of what had happened.
It was during this time, we made some quite amazing discoveries about the carer in question and how the care system as a whole had failed our son.
The first was the references provided by previous employers. We found out that she had been sacked from her previous employment in a residential care setting but the employer still provided a reference. I still cannot get my head around how this happened. How can someone give a reference for someone who has been sacked from their previous job role. What is the point of a reference. Whilst I do understand that you are not allowed to give a bad reference surely something needs to be put in place to say that someone has been sacked. That is not a personal observation of someone, that is a fact!
Yes it is a fact that a person was employed from and to, but, how is this a sufficient reference in the care industry. It is mind blowing! How many other sacked carers have gone under the radar and are now still working in a care environment. Therefore you can provide poor practice and care to another human being and still get a reference to go and care for another one. Surely, there must be a duty of care somewhere in industries where people are working with children, elderly and vulnerable people. This has to be common sense!
Slightly off topic but relevant to my point, by pure fluke, during an interview my case manager recognised the name of the lady who had come to the interview as she had been talking about her that very same day. It turned out the lady had been dismissed for gross misconduct. I therefore suggested that a blacklist needed to be created at the management company to ensure that other case manager did not re-employ people. I don't . Could this be something that is adapted by the government or local authorities. Yes we have a centralised system for DBS checked, a Police check but what about those dismissed for gross misconduct who go on to work at another care home, another family home or another special needs school.
The second was that we had discovered she had been falsifying notes in George’s records. Not giving medication on time, not changing his pad when she said she had and so on and so on. The list was starting to become endless. We were still continuously being told that we had to be patient and that it could be deemed a retraining issue. How is this seriously a retraining issue!! The stress and anxiety involved throughout this whole process was of an extreme high level. Having to follow legal procedures and processes became increasingly frustrating. We were literally in the hands of the law which seemed to forever favour her, the person who was at fault.
After lots of investigations and the Police being informed on George's complex care and needs, the Police brought her in for questioning. At the initial stages of the interview they did not show her the footage, they didn't even mention any footage was available. She continued playing her part as an innocent party. Could not understand why we were doing to this to her! After probing, she said that there was an incident where George had bit her and she tapped him on the nose and in doing so knew she was wrong. She said she was sorry for her actions and it was a knee jerk reaction. Then the footage was played and she had to explain what she had done, why had she done this. She had no explanation.
After the interview, the Police contacted us to advise of the next steps. They said that as we only had one set of footage this was not enough for the CPS, Crown Prosecution Service, to form a case and make formal charges against her. The defence would argue that this was an isolated incident and therefore would not lead to a conviction. We were devastated. I do appreciate that the CPS have a duty of care to spend the public’s money on cases which will lead to a conviction, but in all honesty, as a parent who in their right mind would continue to subject a child to that. I do respect the Police and all that they do, I can imagine there are times where they themselves are frustrated by how the system works.
The one small victory in this was that she was cautioned for child cruelty and this will be flagged up on any future DBS searches conducted against her name. The DBS, formerly known as a CRB, was introduced in 2002. After the tragic murders of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, know as the Soham murders, rules were put in place to ensure that anyone working with children or vulnerable adults had a CRB check, now known as a DBS. https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2003/dec/17/soham.ukcrime2
It saddens me that it takes such tragedy to make something positive happen when it comes to the care and wellbeing of children and the vulnerable. It is not something new though, the care system in general always seems to be failing the elderly and vulnerable in some way shape or form. Will there ever be something to overhaul the care system in general. My son’s incident is just one small failing amongst the care system. When are these small things going to get noticed to combine a big thing. I am sure we are not the first family to experience this and certainly will not be the last.
The DBS scheme is a great system for those who get caught but what happen to those who are dismissed, such in the case of my son’s previous carer. We had another near miss moment where a carer applied for a role and had not declared on her CV that she had previously worked for the management company who manages my son. Different case managers have different people to look after and therefore someone applying for a job under one case manager may not be recognised by another.
All these problems and issues. How is the care system failing so much in this Country.
Do you agree with me that something could be done to prevent this from happening? Could more be done by the Government to introduce a whole new database to flag dismissals, gross misconduct and so on. Why do we need to wait for it to be a Police matter why cannot it be prevented before it gets that far?
Tagged as: Care, Disability, Help support our children, elderly and vulnerable, impact on young people, Unfair legal system, vulnerable people being cared for poorly
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