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Longcare Survivors - The Biography of a Care Scandal

Journalist John Pring describes his 17-year long journey into the disturbing heart of our care system.In the autumn of 1994, a leaked council report revealed that scores of people with learning difficulties had been beaten, neglected, drugged and raped at two residential homes in Buckinghamshire. Now, 17 years on, John Pring, the reporter who helped expose the scandal, tells – for the first time – the full, terrible truth about what happened at the Longcare homes.

Using previously unpublished documents and testimony from survivors of the regime, and other key witness accounts, Pring pieces together a detailed account of the horrific abuse that took place at the homes, and the disturbing background of Gordon Rowe, the former social worker who ran the Longcare homes. Pring also explains why the abuse was able to continue for more than a decade before it was finally exposed.

Crucially, he delves into the roots of the scandal, uncovering the history of the institutionalisation of people with learning difficulties, including the rise of the eugenicists in the late nineteenth century, and of the huge long-stay hospitals that came to dominate the care environment for much of the twentieth century.

Just as importantly, Pring tracks the appalling long-term impact of the abusive Longcare regime on its former residents, something he believes has never been done before in this way over such a long period.

He also investigates the ingrained discrimination in society – and in our care and justice systems – that today is still exposing people with learning difficulties to shocking levels of injustice, hostility and violent crime.

Revelations include:

  • The GP who visited the homes on a weekly basis and failed to act on the over-medication and obvious signs of neglect and abuse, as well as prescribing the contraceptive injections for the women Rowe was raping, has never been held to account by the General Medical Council and is still practising.
  • Experts say the Care Quality Commission’s new plans for regulation of care homes risk a return to the laissez-faire inspection regimes that permitted the Longcare abuse to flourish.
  • Thousands of people with learning difficulties have been abandoned by local authorities in care settings far from their original homes, with no visits from friends, family or social workers.
  • Buckinghamshire County Council, whose failures allowed Rowe to set up his abusive regime and avoid detection for so long, refuses to publish the report of an inquiry into the scandal on its website.

Pring concludes in the book that, despite the improvements in the care and criminal justice systems over the 17 years since he began investigating the Longcare story, all too little has changed:

The Longcare story, I have finally realised, is about something far less tangible than a sadistic former social worker. It is about a society that deprives people with learning difficulties of their human rights, and about the attitude to difference – the unease, the distrust, the hostility – that allows the kind of abuses that took place at the Longcare homes to continue unchecked.

Longcare Survivors includes a foreword by Fiona Mactaggart, the Slough MP and shadow equalities minister, who played a crucial role in pushing for justice for people with learning difficulties in the wake of the scandal. She says in her foreword:

I hope that this book will make a wider audience aware of the importance of these issues, of the ease with which abusers can exploit people with learning difficulties, and of the need to ensure that not only are perpetrators brought to justice, but also that mechanisms are put in place which give victims both protection and a voice.

John Pring is the editor and founder of Disability News Service, the country’s only news agency specialising in disability. A disabled person himself, he has been a journalist for more than 17 years, and has focused on disability issues for more than a decade. He is also the author of Silent Victims, his first book on the Longcare scandal, which was published in 2003 by Gibson Square Books and is now out of print.

Longcare Survivors: The Biography of a Care Scandal is priced £15 (including postage and packing) and is available from Disability News Service

For more information about Longcare Survivors, contact John Pring at Disability News Service, tel: 020 8446 5900, 07776 206595, or email john@disabilitynewsservice.com

The publisher is Disability News Service.

Longcare Survivors - The Biography of a Care Scandal © John Pring 2011.

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