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Rochdale Care Workers Sentenced For Ill Treatment of Dementia Patients

By Solicitor, Court of Protection

Two care workers who filmed themselves tormenting and bullying dementia patients have been detained for their “cruel” offences.

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Shauna Higgin, 20, has been detained at a young offender institution for 13 months, and Victoria Johnson, 23, has received a 12 month prison sentence. The pair admitted two counts of ill treatment of residents at Ashbourne House Nursing Home in Middleton, Rochdale, last year when they shared videos of themselves “harming” comfort dolls.

The dolls are used as therapeutic tools by elderly residents who treat them like they are their own children.

Upon sentencing, Judge Andrew Lowcock described the offences as "cruel" and said: "You treated [patients] as playthings, as the butt of your tasteless jokes."

Whilst heartbreaking, this story further highlights the importance of caring for vulnerable people with dignity and respect.

It goes without saying that the social care system faces immense pressures during these times of austerity with too many unfair budget-led care decisions unlawfully impinging on the quality of care that people receive.

However, with the introduction of the Care Act 2014, local authorities now have a statutory duty to abide by the ‘principle of wellbeing’ putting an individual’s wellbeing at the centre of any decisions about their care.

This principle and the need to structure care around the outcomes sought by the people receiving care should offer greater support, and where necessary, protection for those receiving care.

It is important to remember these principles when challenging inadequate care. 

Whilst we will always use the Act to help improve care, this sad story shows that there is still some way to go before some of those who work in the system, on the frontline, understand and uphold the same principles.

Caring is about understanding a person and their needs, helping and enabling them to live the full independent lives they want and respecting their wishes and dignity - and this applies to everyone involved in the caring process.

Liz Perry is a court of protection lawyer at Slater and Gordon UK, specialising in disability rights, mental capacity law, community care and other human rights issues.

For more information or legal assistance call freephone 0800 916 9046 or contact us online.

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