Kate Allen – Ten years on from Winterbourne View
What has happened to the weather?! It would seem that Nature has forgotten that May should be full of spring sunshine as we step closer towards the summer. Instead it has been a boots and brolly week that’s for sure! But it didn’t stop us benefiting from the changes in guidance around social distancing and enjoying our first Covid compliant gathering on Tuesday as we officially opened the Holiday Home at Hardwicks Park in Witney and welcomed our first holiday guest.
However, we were blessed with, mostly, clear skies for that important hour. Any good opening cannot occur without the obligatory ribbon cutting, and with help from two people we support, Ben and Kevin, the Autism at Kingwood Chairman, John Finney, did the honours. Do take a look at the photos of the event and of the caravan. The holiday home is available for autistic people we support, their families and staff on a greatly subsidised rate which we hope will make it more accessible for people to take that much needed break this year.
The uncertainty around the Indian Variant is causing some nervousness and we are following the Government updates with great care. It is clear that the PM is also apprehensive about the potential impact. Despite relaxation of Covid guidance around social distancing and gatherings for recreational purposes, the rules are clear that when providing support wearing PPE, good hygiene and maintaining a Covid secure environment remain a priority. We have no new Covid cases this week amongst people we support or staff.
In 10 days, on Monday 31st May, it will be 10 years since the treatment and assessment unit, Winterbourne View, made the headlines. Anyone who watched the Panorama programme when it first viewed will, I’m sure, be able to remember the horror that was unveiled. With tears in my eyes, I saw vulnerable people, reliant on social care staff for care and support, instead abused, appallingly and persistently. It is of little comfort that 6 of the care staff were jailed and 5 others given suspended sentences, as that cannot eradicate the pain and experiences these vulnerable people endured. Much has changed in the subsequent years, but not enough. Still too many autistic people are in hospital and assessment environments when other support settings could and should be explored; and still too many vulnerable people are at risk from abuse and neglect. Autism at Kingwood is supporting the Winterbourne View peaceful vigil by placing lights in our windows on the evening of 31st May and encouraging others to consider doing the same to demonstrate that we will never give up the fight for human rights for everyone, regardless of ability or disability.
It was wonderful to be ‘in person’ with people earlier this week (albeit a little bit odd after socially distancing for so long) but one of the few positive Covid legacies has been the ease of online and remote working. It enabled me to have a great conversation with Clenton Farquharson MBE during the latter part of this week. Clenton is the Chairman of TLAP (Think Local Act Personal) and his view on the need for equality and justice was refreshingly clear, concise and dare I say it – simple! That is not detracting at all from the seriousness of the situation. It was genuinely heart-warming to talk with someone whose values and beliefs resonate so strongly with my own, and that of Kingwood’s. With his permission, I reiterate with pride his three “I’s”; that generally too many people Ignore, are Indifferent and Inactive when faced with inequality and inequity. Instead Clenton spoke with passion that more people, groups and organisations should focus on the three “U’s”, Understanding, Unity and Urgency. We have long promoted the simplicity of empathy and kindness towards colleagues, people we support and each other. I was proud to know that whilst we don’t always get it right, we have the understanding and unity to keep trying. We are coming out, and leaving behind, a difficult and almost unbelievable year, now is the time to pick ourselves up, shake ourselves down and focus on the good things in life.