Care workers tell of cruelty to handicapped

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The Independent Online
TWO FORMER employees of residential homes in which mentally handicapped adults were allegedly raped and systematically tormented told yesterday of a regime of persistent cruelty.

Both describe routine beatings, and slappings. Often residents would be sent to their rooms for two days as a punishment, or forced out into the garden for a day, even in cold weather.

One of the witnesses, a senior and qualified care worker, said: 'I saw one lovely Down's syndrome lady being made to eat outside in the winter, in her summer dress and her cardigan. She had some eating difficulties. Once she was held up by the hair and force-fed. I can even remember the Christmas before I left having to ask if she was allowed to eat her dinner. She was sitting outside in the rain.

'A lot of staff were upset,' she added. 'But every time you did anything, somebody would report on you. If you didn't get out, then you were forced out.'

Another time, she was supervising residents in a workshop, when a woman started to vomit. 'I called the main house to ask if she could see a doctor and was told that she was playing up. I was told I could not take her to the doctor. I said it was serious, that she was vomiting. And then one of the workshop staff took her to the doctor's and he found that an ulcer had perforated.'

One of the former employees said: 'I even remember phoning social services about two years after the allegations of cruelty, that people were being beaten, and being forced into the rain in their summer clothes. It was unbelievable. They didn't do anything.'

The two have spoken following the disclosure in yesterday's Independent that Buckinghamshire County Council had commissioned a report on the allegations but had kept it confidential. The report alleges abuse including buggery, rape and false imprisonment and says it is difficult to 'convey the scale of humiliation, deprivation, torment and punishment to which residents were subjected'. The council has allowed the homes to remain open because it believes that the current management poses no threat to residents.

The two ex-employees worked at the homes between 1988 and 1993. They have agreed to speak on condition of anonymity.

The homes, which can together accommodate over 60 residents and charge over pounds 400 a week for care, are owned by a private company, Longcare Limited. The former owners of Longcare and managers of the homes, Gordon and Angela Rowe, have declined to comment and have denied the allegations to council inspectors. The current managers, including the Rowes' son Nigel, have denied any knowledge of abuse. The present managers worked at the home during at least part of the period investigated by social services, from 1983 to June 1994.

Inquiry report, page 4

Leading article, page 10