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Winterbourne View 10 years on

A young girl’s poem embodies the continued need for change

The 31st May 2021 marked the 10th anniversary of the Winterbourne View scandal, which uncovered the horrific abuses that took place in a private hospital for people with learning disabilities. Over the last 10 years we have heard of more scandals and we have increasingly become aware of the need for wider system change across sectors to prevent further abuses.

Alexis Quinn, Manager for the Restraint Reduction Network, autism campaigner and expert by experience, reflects on the scandal and the continuing need for change in her latest blog post.

I received this poem last month from a family whose young daughter is detained in an inpatient care setting. The young girl is autistic and frequently restrained. Of course, the setting and environment is not right – it makes her worse – causes dysregulation of emotions and she ‘kicks off’.

This Poem is called: RESTRAINT REDUCTION.

Rarely does she feel like herself anymore
Everything hurts as her face scrapes the floor
She can’t breathe and she’s scared
There are 5 men pinning her down
Running past, there’s the nurse; a needle in her hand
Afraid, she tries to fight them all off
It just makes it worse, they are all really rough
Nails pierce her skin
Their injection goes in

Realising fighting is futile at best
Everything becomes foggy so she tries to rest
Don’t they realise she’s human
Under incredible stress
Can’t they see she is frightened, with tears on her face
This nightmare never ends and she’s trapped in this place
It’s because she is sectioned
Only something is amiss, because in this day and age
No-one should ever be treated like this

One of the most difficult and frustrating things about receiving this incredible piece of poetry is that we are 10 years on from Winterbourne View. This child was barely out of nappies when the government made that promise! She should never have been in a situation where she needed to be admitted to hospital and suffer the effects of inappropriate care and treatment.

A decade ago the government promised to alter the landscape of care offered to people like me, and people like the young girl who is subject of this poem. The government knows this vulnerable child should not be in a sensory driven and reactive setting miles from her home. They also know she should be with her family. And yet she isn’t.

At the Restraint Reduction Network, we continue to drive forward changes for appropriate, timely and responsive services for our loved ones. We hope that soon, people like this child will be supported in their communities, living on a regular street and in a regular house where support staff feel a sense of purpose and empowerment as they work together to help her realise her best, fullest life in the community.

The Restraint Reduction Network has an ambitious vision to eliminate the use of unnecessary restrictive practices and make a real difference in the lives of people. The Network brings together committed organisations providing education, health and social care services.

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