Why do ‘ organisational cultures’ seem to allow the unacceptable to become acceptable?

Whether it’s Mid Staffs,Savile, Rochdale, Winterbourne View or Hillcroft Nursing Home how do we turn  ‘culture’ around when it leaves people hurt and abused?

And I scream from the top of my lungs what’s going on’ (Linda Perry)

Given all of the latest revelations in the cases above it is hard not to shout ‘what’s going on?’  We keep hearing about a ‘culture’ where normally sensible strong characters feel utterly powerless to change ‘what’s going on’.  This has to be addressed if we want to live in a society we can all feel safe in.  My focus on a daily basis is on trying to support frontline staff in doing their professional best to protect those most vulnerble in society from abuse. However, it is not just their responsibility.  I have been critical in this blog previously regarding governments approach to safeguarding adults at risk of harm, arguing ‘big society’ alone is not enough and that we require an active state to stand up and say ‘no’ to abuse, making it clear it is not acceptable in a modern society. I feel this even more now as I read and hear about ‘cultures’ within organisations that not only ignore abuse but seemingly facilitate its continuance. Many, like myself, have left the ‘caring’ professions because our voices have gone unheard when we have complained, often made to feel we are at fault for raising concerns.

Wider society, government and professionals sometimes  leave vulnerable people maltreated and without support. Whilst we need to rightly focus on practical matters, to work out what went wrong with the system, we also  need to relocate the debate in a much wider frame of reference to try and establish the philosophical, ethical and moral framework’s required to transform societal indifference toward the most vulnerable to one of care and respect.  I have recently undertaken  research to begin to understand the factors that lead some to be  abusive in their practice,  i.e. toward older people in hospitals, to try and work out what changes are required to improve the situation.  Following recent events my focus will now be on ‘culture’, especially organisational culture, to work out how we use it to empower and protect, rather than walk away in fear and shame.

What do you think?

(Re: understanding ‘what’s going on’ in the abuse of  older people in hospital settings – read more in the the Journal of Adult Protection)

About digalpin

I gained my social work qualification from the University of Southampton and worked for 14 years in mental health, disability and older people services. I am currently a senior lecturer in post-qualifying social work at Bournemouth University and am conducting research on government and societal attitudes and responses to the mistreatment of older people in health and social care provision for my doctorate. My views are my own.

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