I lost count of how many times I heard this comment, or words to that effect, amongst friends, relatives, my mum, even Southampton FC fans in a pub. And they’ve got a point – you really shouldn’t need a diploma in Social Care to know that kicking someone is wrong.
I worked as a student in a Cambridge UK nursing home in the 1990s. I know that kicking someone is wrong and I wouldn’t dream of it. But I do remember having 25 rooms to clean, running out of time and ignoring an old lady’s attempt at conversation, pretending I hadn’t heard. And I’d only been working there 3 weeks so I could hardly claim I was buckling under the pressure. I later found I was doing the job of 2 cleaners so would more staff have helped? Would I have been more friendly if I’d been less rushed? Well yes, but there’s still no excuse to be rude.
And the pay… it was so bad that I couldn’t see the point after 3 weeks so I left. The manager of the care home told me she couldn’t get anyone to stay as a cleaner beyond a month and she struggled to get any of the staff in day-to-day contact with the residents, even the more senior, to stay beyond a year. Now we have the minimum wage but wouldn’t you get away to something better paid a.s.a.p. if you could? And staff retention matters because how can we have a decent relationship with someone if as soon as we get to know them, they leave?
It is harder to care for someone you barely know.
I can hear my mum saying ‘stop empathising with the evil-doer’ and she’s not wrong. The abuse at Winterbourne View care home should never be excused or go unpunished. Insufficent staff numbers, pay or training do not justify cruelty or neglect.
As I found, however, they may contribute to it.