Letter: National curb on abuse in homes

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Sir: The sad story of long-term sexual, physical and mental abuse of people with mental handicap resident in homes registered with Buckinghamshire County Council (15 May) might never have come before a judge but for persistent probing by The Independent, against resistance by the authorities.

Many more instances of abuse are known to occur elsewhere. Bringing individuals to justice and reducing future risk is difficult. The National Society for Mentally Handicapped People in Residential Care (Rescare) has argued for some time that existing and expensive registration and inspection procedures frequently fail to provide adequate protection.

Rescare, whose membership is predominantly relatives of people with mental handicap, suggested to the previous government that existing controls should be replaced by a national system of licensing all staff in all types of residential provision for people with mental handicap. Licences should specify the extent of responsibility allowed to the licensee. An independent inspection system would respond to expressions of concern with power to suspend, modify or cancel licences, subject to an appeal procedure.

Such a system would stop job-hopping by care workers who are suspected or known to be abusing their charges (as happened in the Buckinghamshire case). And when unease is expressed by relatives, it might be taken more seriously than, sadly, as Rescare knows, is often the case today.

Dr MAURICE BROOK

Stockport, Cheshire

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