Friday, 12 October 2007

A disturbing story

A clash of meetings last night meant a choice between the North Road Community Partnership and the Public Protection Forum. I chose the former, which turned out to be a challenging meeting - though not for me, for a change.

Nick Wallis, Cabinet member for Health and Leisure, attended the meeting as part of his peripatetic listening journey. Not quite William Cobbett's "Rural Rides", but with Hurworth one day and North Road the next, Nick is certainly seeing the variety of life that is Darlington Borough.

Having a cabinet member at our meeting stimulated much discussion as local residents took the opportunity to tell Nick about their experiences of various aspects of health provision in the town. Particularly harrowing was the description given by one of the residents about her daughter's experiences working in a local privately-run care home. Her description of the conditions in which residents were left, particularly overnight, was very disturbing.
Nick was thoughtful and sympathetic and left us with his promise to investigate these allegations speedily and thoroughly.

Worryingly, these accusations are similar to those made over the years by Chris Close, from "Advocacy in Darlington". I hope we get a thorough investigation of these allegations, for they are too serious to be brushed under the carpet. As another local resident said, they amount to nothing less than abuse of the individual.

The full story behind the Council's attempt to evict "Advocacy in Darlington" from its premises in the town centre may be revealed in court today, but if allegations like those heard last night are true, it would be shameful if the town lost one of the organisations which exists to defend the rights of the vulnerable.

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