Institutions are no Solutions

The Jersey children homes scandal is of course horrific and a source of pain to many but what gets my goat is the sense of shock.

Abuse in institutions is well documented. The disabled people’s direct action network ran a ‘free our people’ campaign. It sought the closure of institutions and demanded the creation of independent living centres. Some danners still support this call. Royal commissions have been set up to investigate abuse of elders in nursing homes. There have been numerous court cases and dramas on tv about abuse in childrens homes.

Disabled people don’t necessarily want to be seen as vulnerable people. But we are sometimes vulnerable in different circumstances – as are we all. The social model of disability would suggest to some that we are particularly vulnerable in institutions. It suggests that the institutions depend on systems that grind down the best of us – staff and users. It causes familiarity and familiarity breeds contempt and contempt leads to abuse.

Only yesterday i was talking to a friend who told stories of personal abuse. He has been attacked many times on the streets just for being a disabled person. I reminded him the first time i met him he was complaining that a member of staff in an institution had kicked him in the head. He remembered this story and confirmed it. Which interested me greatly has i know he has been hiding it for years. When i asked him all those years ago if he had been kicked in the head he denied it. He didn’t want to get in any more trouble. This is how the wall of silence develops. this is how the institutions get away with it. the other tool they use is the idea of reliable witnesses. We are not treated like reliable witnesses. Policies and procedures are another good tool. Some agencies use them to defend their staff. You can normally spot them by how they respond to complaints.

Against this we need to balance the risks of independence. My friend was attacked more on the streets than he ever was in an institutional setting. Hate Crime is new on the police agenda and new to the legislation. What the social model might suggest here is that we know the risks of life outside. We need to talk to the policy makers and develop strategies for minimising the harm that it might cause. But more than this each and everyone of us needs to take personal responsibility. If we see it happening we need to intervene at a level that is best for us. Not all of us can stand up to what is happening but we can create diversions, we may be able to shout for help, we may be able to use our mobiles.

Abuse is bad. We have to stop it.



  1. […] Read the rest of this great post here […]

  2. […] Detrich’s Weblog created an interesting post today on Institutions are no SolutionsHere’s a short outlineThere have been numerous court cases and dramas on tv about abuse in childrens homes…. […]

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