THREE senior Cabinet Ministers have been urged by Labour's Barbara Keeley, MP, to take action over a burgeoning care scandal in which it has been officially maintained that two adults with learning disabilities may not have been given the protection and treatment they deserved because of their disabilities.
The Shadow Cabinet spokesperson on Social Care delivered stinging letters calling for action on the 'Wild' West Sussex care fiasco to the new Home Secretary Sajid Javid; Health and Social Care Secretary Jeremy Hunt and James Brokenshire, the Local Government Secretary.
A recent report revealed Sussex agencies, including the County Council, made significant blunders in the handling of potential physical abuse involving two men with severe learning difficulties. According to Ms Keeley it 'highlighted serious multi-agency failures' in the cases of Gary Lewis and Matthew Bates - who both suffered agonisingly painful broken femurs while resident at a home owned by the scandal-hit Sussex Healthcare group.
No explanation has ever been given for the injuries and Ms Keeley's letters detail how the local care agencies repeatedly missed opportunities to find out what happened.
'Safeguarding concerns made by hospital consultants,' she writes. 'Were not immediately passed to the police.'
Failure to do this, was extremely damaging to an investigation of the men's injuries. Ms Keeley added: 'Given the possibility that the injuries were deliberate acts, the securing of evidence at an early stage...was crucial.'
In a most damning passage from her letter, however, Ms Keeley quotes from the report: 'Had these injuries been suffered by children...the response of all the agencies would have been significantly different.'
In a reflection on the shameful treatment of the men, the report continued: 'What this case highlights is that injuries to adults with learning difficulties do not receive the same response.'
The Shadow Cabinet spokesperson insisted that the ministers should act now to investigate 'the failings' of the local agencies, including West Sussex County Council in order for the families to receive 'justice'.
The men's families had a three year fight to win a review of the case - which resulted in the damning report. They have warmly welcomed Ms Keeley's initiative and have thanked the Labour MP for her involvement.
At present, Ministers appear unlikely to order an investigation, although they are thought to be watching the situation in the 'Wild West' closely. In a comment seemingly loaded with criticism, a Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said this afternoon: 'Abuse of people in care is completely unacceptable in any form. In order to protect those people most vulnerable to abuse and neglect, it is vital that agencies co-operate and agree on local safeguarding procedures.
'To help ensure this we introduced tougher inspections of care services and expect the police, councils and the NHS to work together to help protect vulnerable adults.'
Meanwhile, senior staff and local politicians are keeping their own counsel, despite the report's highly-critical contents. OlderLivingMatters has contacted senior figures with responsibility for adult care in West Sussex at that time. Most have refused to comment including: Peter Catchpole, a current member of the County Council, formerly a cabinet member for social care and an adviser to Sussex Healthcare; Sam Busby, former head of West Sussex safeguarding and Avril Wilson, former director of Adult Services.