A stopwatch is a useful thing. It can show us in fine detail what matters. Tonight, amidst Olympic glory, it showed us something has gone very wrong.
At 11:00 am today, the serious case review into the appalling abuse at Winterbourne View was released. Earlier , Mencap and the Challenging Behaviour Foundation launched their report, “Out of Sight” which flagged up that Winterbourne View was one part of a potentially huge problem. These reports aren’t just important if you are in residential care services. If you will be in residential care in the future, or know someone who might be, or work in social care, or just give a damn about dignity, rights and respect, this is a story for you.
So where does the stopwatch come in? Well, I’m not so naïve as to think that a landmark low in our treatment of marginalised people will outstrip the achievements of Olympians. And no, I’m not being sniffy about sport, I love sport, always have. I might think that the ongoing abuse of numerous people in our society is more important, but that’s my call.
But the stopwatch comes in when you see how the story was cut, particularly how it set out to learn the lessons from Winterbourne and listen to someone who had the courage to blow the whistle on what was happening. Terry Bryan took this risk because he cared about what care is meant to be, and he did it again and again. It might have been worth listening to him. BBC news at 10 gave him 2 seconds. OK, I didn’t have a stopwatch but it wasn’t any longer than that. That can’t be right can it? And how much time did it give to the reports the police ignored, the admissions to A&E that the local hospital didn’t spot a pattern in? None for the first, little for the second. That doesn't seem like reporting that changes things, there's no learning, no depth. It looks more like shock and run.
Tonight, Newsnight is talking about elitism in sport. The serious case review isn't mentioned. So let's look at the wider problem of elitism. It seems that if you have care needs of any kind you’re going to be way down the pecking order. Shunted out of area, placed where choice is removed from you, at greater risk of abuse. As a society we turn our attention away, and the media is complicit in this.
We who are more able to get things talked about need to keep social care, disability, work capability assessments, abuse and that whole bunch of forbidden topics on the agenda. Look at the coverage, get your stop watches out, and if the balance seems wrong, speak up.