Care Protect Tactic #1: Attack. Tactic #2: Pretend it never happened
On Sunday there were furious denunciations from well-informed cheerleaders of Care Protect, the cameras group, of a Mail on Sunday article by OLM editor Sarah Whitebloom.
In the news story she pointed out that Care Protect is a commercial enterprise with a financial interest in seeing CCTV widely adopted in care settings and that it is led by people better known as millionaire care industry veterans than as disinterested philanthropists.
The storm that hit was immediate – it was actually before immediate. Writing in the middle of the night, soon after online publication, but long before the newspaper was on the streets, Care Protect’s fans rushed to the attack. It was almost as though they were waiting. They accused the newspaper of ‘poor form’ and ‘left wing’ journalism and revealed an astonishingly detailed knowledge of Care Protect and its owner Philip Scott’s business affairs.
Angry links were drawn with people who have long campaigned for cameras in care but who have no financial interest in CCTV. There were calls for an ‘open debate’, as though it is not possible to talk about care cameras. In fact, those who may not agree with the use of CCTV - and there are some - are often on the receiving end of attack by 'disinterested' fans. Perhaps this is what Care Protect's cheerleader was referring to on Sunday, when they called for an open debate on cameras? One can only hope so.
The Mail on Sunday article was neither an attempt to stifle debate or to attack long-standing campaigners. Its focus was Care Protect and its interested campaign - although this was almost drowned out by cheerleaders. Could that have been their intention? Surely not.
Now, it seems, is the calm after the storm. Perhaps, having tried furious attack, the new tactic is to pretend it never happened. Maybe it would have been better to have done that in the first place? Dignified silence has few downsides. Intemperate assault usually does.
So what is it that caused such a furore? The Mail on Sunday story described how Care Protect’s management and owner are experienced business people with a history of making large sums of money in the care sector. Mr Scott, Care Protect’s owner, and his colleague Graham Sizer were both directors of Southern Cross, making millions from their sale of the company’s shares. The story emphasised that neither had any role in Southern Cross’s controversial collapse. But the fact that they are multi-millionaires and were leaders of a high-profile care corporate, underlines their long business pedigree.
Care Protect is their latest commercial venture. As the article said, there is nothing wrong with it campaigning for CCTV to be more widely adopted in care settings. But the piece drew attention to the fact that these wealthy care industry veterans are in a business which makes money from care cameras.
One of the well-informed cheerleaders said that the men have put their own money into Care Protect. But this was not, presumably, in the expectation of losing it all. Indeed, Mr Scott said Care Protect was going to be his main business into the future and the money 'will come'.
The Mail on Sunday article described how Care Protect has undertaken a relentless campaign for cameras in care. It also pointed out that it frequently uses, as an example, a care home in Birmingham which has the company’s cameras installed. It has failed to mention, however, that the home is actually owned by Scott and Sizer, through the Zest group and the manager, whom they frequently quote, is their employee.
Care Protect has issued more than 670 twitter messages in just over two and a half years, most calling for CCTV to be installed in care settings and often using upsetting images and stories about care abuse from this country and even from abroad. It often counters people who raise concerns online about CCTV, insisting that cameras, in which it of course, has a vested interest, are the key to preventing care abuse.
Given the sheer number and regularity of Care Protect’s online messages, there can be no doubt that the debate is vocal if not open. There is no well-funded anti-cameras campaign. But there are quite a lot of people, including academics, care professionals and families who are not keen on CCTV, for many reasons. They are regularly drowned out by cheerleaders, whose concept of open debate is not what most people think of when it comes to open debate. They are not keen either on anyone being open about Care Protect.
Care Protect, meanwhile, has not been open about its ownership of the care home it has regularly used as an example nor about the employee it quotes as an expert. Nor does it mention when campaigning how it hopes to benefit financially from a change in the law or the widespread adoption of CCTV. Nor does it draw attention to the Northern Ireland care regulator 's views on the use of CCTV in its Three Rivers home in Omagh.