- Sarah Whitebloom
'Wild' West Sussex refuses to say sorry to abuse-case families for its mistakes
West Sussex County Council has refused to apologise to two families – in the face of a damning report into the handling of potentially abusive and very serious injuries suffered by their vulnerable relatives in a county care home.
Last month, a 71-page report severely criticised the West Sussex response to major injuries suffered by Gary Lewis and Matthew Bates at a Sussex Healthcare home in Horsham.
The report can be seen here.
The local authority issued a statement on the day from Amanda Jupp, West Sussex County Council Cabinet Member for Adults and Health. She laid responsibility firmly at the care home's door but side-stepped criticism of the council's much-criticised handling of the cases. Ms Jupp said: ‘It’s difficult to comprehend the pain and upset caused to the two vulnerable individuals involved and their families and loved ones in this case. It is clear from the report that the care provided by Sussex Health Care was not good enough. West Sussex County Council take on board the recommendations for the council that arise from the independent report and will continue to improve our safeguarding services. We will work closely with the Independent Safeguarding Adults Board to oversee the safety and care of residents in all West Sussex-based care homes.’
But the Lewis and Bates families did not receive any direct apology from West Sussex - which has .been dubbed the 'wild west' because of concerns over care in the county. And they have waited in vain for an approach from the council. The families had to campaign to win the review of their case, which resulted in the report, in the face of stiff opposition from the West Sussex care professional community.
Labour's spokesperson on social care Barbara Keeley MP has called for a ministerial investigation into the chaotic events in the county. Last month's report even questioned whether the case would have be handled properly had the two men not suffered from disabilities. She has written to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, Home Secretary Sajid Javid and Local Government minister James Brokenshire calling for action.
But WSCC made clear to Older Living Matters that it would not be apologising to the families, saying it had ‘nothing to add’ to Ms Jupp's statement issued to the press on the day of publication.
Martyn Lewis, brother and representative of Gary, said: ‘This is a further example of poor and inappropriate culture, which continues to be displayed by the council.
‘If it cannot even apologise formally and personally to our injured loved ones and their families, for its systemic, serious failures, as evidenced in the independent report, how can the council expect us to treat it with any respect?’
Mr Lewis added: ‘Where is the effective governance that leads this council to do what is right and proper? Absent it seems.’
Meanwhile, Mark Bates, father of Matthew, said: ‘It is with much sadness and regret that I find myself, acting as Joint Advocate with my wife Barbara, on behalf of our dear son Matthew Bates, to the non-committal response from West Sussex County Council..
‘Following the still unexplained serious/potentially life threatening injuries sustained by Matthew and his friend Gary Lewis in April 2015, WSCC as lead agency failed to adopt proper control of the subsequent inquiry.
‘This has since been identified within the Safeguarding Adults Review published by West Sussex Safeguarding Adults Board on the 17th April 2018. This review highlighted that the West Sussex Safeguarding Team and their governance failed to deliver an appropriately robust inquiry with some fourteen shortcomings by themselves being identified.
‘Older Living Matters asked WSCC for comment and/or an apology to Matthew and Gary, WSCC have declined to comment other than to reiterate the statement made by Amanda Jupp.
‘In a statement made post-publication on its website, Sussex Health Care, the parent company operating Beech Lodge Care Home, where the injuries were sustained, did offer a 'sincere' apology, to Matthew, Gary and the families.
‘However, to- date, West Sussex County Council have made no attempt to make contact with the families directly or through the media to offer any form of apology.
‘I have only one word for this: SHAMEFUL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!’