Abuse of vulnerable people has again been in the news following the Serious Case Review of Winterbourne View Hospital where institutional abuse was uncovered by a BBC Panorama programme.
It identified serious failures in leadership in all organisations involved from those commissioning the services to those receiving the whistle blowing reports. Although the policies and procedures appeared impressive the actual implementation and consistent application of these was seriously lacking.
Although staff at Winterbourne View received training in physical intervention techniques many staff did not transfer their learning into practice. It is not enough to just teach techniques, as Winterbourne View and others before it have shown us, the underlying attitudes and values have a significant impact on the way these techniques are put into practice.
Any learning and development should challenge staff to think about their own attitudes, values and behaviour and how these impact on their interactions with others (individuals and colleagues). As a health and social care worker it is unlikely that you will have a neutral impact on an individual therefore when analysing situations it is essential for you to consider yourself in the dynamic and how your interaction either resolved or escalated the situation.
Debriefing following an incident as well as regular supervision are opportunities for you to challenge yourself and analyse the part you played, to ask for feedback and talk though other approaches as well as raise concerns. Reflecting on your learning and how you will transfer that to improve your day-to-day practice are also vital parts of any learning and development opportunity. All are essential ingredients of professional practice as well as practical ways in which you safeguard the vulnerable people you support.
It is easy to look for a scapegoat in situations of institutional abuse and blame the culture of the organisation. However, organisations are made up of people just like you and I so for cultures to change we would each do well to take to heart and role model Mahatma Ghandi’s wise words and ‘……. be the change you want to see in the world’