Ben Lowry: As a society we undervalue and avoid, even shun, care work so we should not be surprised at abuse

Whorlton Hall in Co Durham. Screengrab taken from a 2019 BBC Panorama exposing abuse in the care home
Whorlton Hall in Co Durham. Screengrab taken from a 2019 BBC Panorama exposing abuse in the care home
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Euthanasia was not the only recent ethically upsetting story.

BBC Panorama went undercover to expose mistreatment of patients with special needs in Co Durham.

It was, by the standards of abuse, relatively low level. Shouting at or mocking to otherwise restraining severely troubled patients, to try to get the patients to stop screaming. But it was nonetheless cruel, utterly unprofessional and awful to watch.

There are legions of kind, heroic and dedicated carers. But there is probably also a lot of low level abuse. It has been uncovered many times, yet 99.999% of abuse is probably unseen, because no third party witnesses, let alone films,it.

There was a grisly moment when one bullying carer was nice when a patient’s family arrived, and cheerfully offered to make them tea, causing them perhaps to think: “He’s a delightful fellow.”

However, are we not as a society somewhat complicit in all this?

The carers were paid £16,000 a year, which is not much more than the minimum wage.

Few of us want to hold such a job, and none of us want a relative to become such a patient. So it is easier not to think about it, then demand action when badly trained, unmotivated people take out their frustrations on patients for whom they are utterly ill equipped to deal.

It is much harder to say: are we paying some relatively easy, white collar jobs too much, while paying difficult caring jobs too little? And should we not redress the balance?

Stormont gave low grade civil servants a pay rise, taking them above the pay grade of the same workers in Great Britain.

Should that sort of money not be better directed at the caring work so few of us want to do?

• Ben Lowry (@BenLowry2) is News Letter deputy editor

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