Ben was admitted to hospital when he was eighteen years old. He’d been placed in an inappropriate school that wasn’t meeting his needs. Full of anxiety, and struggling to cope, ‘ Assessment An assessment is a way of finding out what help a person needs. When you have an assessment, you might have to go to a meeting or fill in a form. and Treatment’ didn’t sound like a bad thing.
The hospital he was sent to was Winterbourne View.
Weeks in to his stay at Winterbourne View, all was already not well. Ben was a shadow of himself during visits. My usually sociable, happy, and noisy brother just rocked in a chair. His head was shaved, his clothes weren’t his, his face was pale and he was almost entirely silent. Weeks later, when we received a phone call to tell us Ben’s jaw had been broken, I remember asking “what have they done now?”. In hindsight, I’d suspected something wasn’t right.
Nothing could have prepared us for just how awful the situation was for Ben. No amount of catastrophising would have taken me to the possibility that Ben had been punched or kicked in the face so hard by a nurse that he had injuries usually seen in a car accident.
No amount of worrying would have led me to assume that he was being abused by the people paid to provide his care, or that he, and his vulnerable peers, would be central to one of the biggest abuse scandals of our time.
Ben left Winterbourne View broken. Traumatised by his experiences and even more vulnerable than before. His next placement, a residential care home A care home is a place where people who need support live. There are staff there all the time. , continued to exploit this vulnerability. The promises we were given about the quality of life that Ben would have were quickly broken, and abuse once again became his life. Ben became a shadow of his former self- terrified, distant, lost and desperate. We thought we would never get him back.
It's now twelve years on since Winterbourne View was exposed, and Ben is finally thriving. He’s enjoying his life, in his home, with his dog and he is cared for by people who do their job so well. He is starting to heal.
It is an odd thing to say, that Ben is lucky, he certainly wasn’t before - but he’s safe now, and living as he always should have. He deserves this life.
Ben lives as so many others should do, but thousands have filled the space he left behind. It breaks us to know the suffering they and their families face, how desperate they are to find a way out, and how terrified of the next day many must be.
Twelve years on, there are thousands more broken people and families, many more scandals to name, and another target is set to be missed.
A tragedy exists and is allowed to thrive on vulnerability. It simply has to be stopped.