Like me you will have been distressed by the recent BBC Panorama programme that identified the appalling abuse of vulnerable adults at the Castlebeck owned Winterbourne View Care Home, near Bristol. Treatment of vulnerable people like this just cannot be tolerated.
Assembly Members have understandably sought assurances about the care provided to people from Wales who have been placed in the care of Castlebeck or any of its subsidiaries.
There are no people from Wales presently placed in Winterbourne View Care Home. There are however a very small number of people placed in other Castlebeck owned facilities in England I have received assurances from the placing authority that monitoring visits are in place and there are currently no concerns about their wellbeing.
Whilst Castlebeck does not provide any services in Wales, a subsidiary company Mental Health Care UK (MHC) , operates three independent hospitals and 13 registered care homes in North Wales providing care for people with mental health and learning disabilities. The hospitals are registered with Healthcare Inspectorate Wales (HIW) and the care homes are registered with Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales (CSSIW).
Enquiries have been made of all Local Authorities, Local Health Boards and Welsh Health Specialised Services in Wales to identify people placed in the MHC hospitals and homes. We have enquired about the action they have taken and will continue to take to be assured that the people they have placed have received and will continue to receive appropriate care. They have all provided assurances about the adequacy of their arrangements for the contracting of care of vulnerable individuals; the maintenance of standards of care; regular reviews of care needs; and the monitoring arrangements and the detection of, and response to, concerns raised about the quality of care.
I have met both Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales (CSSIW) and Healthcare Inspectorate Wales (HIW) to discuss their statutory responsibilities and their responses to the Panorama programme. I am confident that firm action is being taken by CSSIW and HIW in the immediate and longer term to ensure that those who are vulnerable and accessing health and social care are properly safeguarded and that their care and treatment needs are fully addressed.
Although the particular focus of the Panorama programme was a home for people with learning disabilities, complex needs or challenging behaviour there are lessons to be learnt about the care and safeguarding of all vulnerable people in Wales. I can advise that we will be using the Welsh Government’s new legislative powers to introduce a Social Services Bill, based on a thorough review of the current legislative and regulatory framework, that will include provisions to strengthen safeguarding arrangements for vulnerable people in Wales. We must all do all we can to ensure that the appalling abuse suffered by vulnerable people in Winterbourne View Care Home never happens in Wales.
One of the hospitals concerned is in fact a 'secure unit' at New Hall, Rhiwabon, and by 'secure' I mean exactly that. It's not the sort of place you can pop in or out to do welfare visits. In fact no one knows who is there or how many clients; I don't even know anyone who works there. I gather than any inspection of New Hall will be done by Health Inspectorate Wales and not by the CSSIW.
Let's hope that the new Social Services Bill actually reduces some of the paperwork and bureaucracy involved and allows front-line staff to actually deliver services and for their managers to manage rather than prepare for the next inspection which is never far away.