Suffolk: Care complaints up after “Winterbourne View effect” prompts more whistleblowers.

THE “Winterbourne View” effect has sparked an increase in complaints about adult care across Suffolk, a new council report shows.

However the authority does not believe there has been an increase in abuse itself – officials believe that the media spotlight on the issue has prompted more people, especially members of staff, to raise issues if there are any concerns.

Next week’s meeting of the council’s cabinet will discuss the Safeguarding Adult Board annual report which shows that the number of referrals to the board increased from 2,172 to 2,492 last year.

The increase is almost 15% – but officials believe the underlying trend could be higher than that.

The most significant increase is from staff, who now appear to be happier to act as “whistleblowers” following national publicity.

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The BBC Panorama programme showing abuse at the Winterbourne View adult care home near Bristol led to 11 convictions and prompted an inquiry with nationwide implications.

A spokesman for the county said officials believed the “Winterbourne View” effect had given members of staff the confidence to become whistleblowers.

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Referrals are not an indication that abuse is on the increase. All are investigated and are split into one of three categories – substantiated, partially substantiated, or unsubstantiated.

The council said that about 25% of referrals in 2011 were found to be unsubstantiated.

Colin Noble, Suffolk councillor responsible for health and adult care, said: “Suffolk’s safeguarding services will never tolerate abuse or mistreatment of at risk adults and all reports are thoroughly investigated and appropriate action taken.

“The fact that the number of referrals has increased, especially from care home staff, demonstrates more awareness of the issues and a greater willingness to challenge behaviour and practices that are perceived to be wrong.

“There is no evidence to suggest that cases of actual abuse are increasing.

“I believe the increase in reports is the direct result of the greater focus on safeguarding, vigilance, and recognition of the serious consequences for adults at risk.

“Our safeguarding team has recently started a new 12 month project to further raise awareness among care providers of dignity and safeguarding issues.

“The county council and its safeguarding partners have a legal and moral duty to safeguard adults at risk of abuse and we will do everything in our power to protect the most vulnerable people in society.”

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