Herald Opinion: Abuse of elderly in care comes back to haunt us

A good many people will have prayed - given the number of nursing and retirement homes in Eastbourne - that TV revelations over the bullying of vulnerable residents were isolated incidents.

BBC Panorama’s secret filming caused widespread revulsion. How could these adults in care have been treated so cruelly? How could so many have been involved? How come it wasn’t exposed sooner, and how could it have been allowed to continue?

And then it happened on our own doorstep.

Eastbourne magistrates on Wednesday jailed carer Eileen Sta Maria for a year, saying her offences were so serious that a prison spell was their only choice.

The defendant’s humiliation of those in her care included encouraging one woman to swear for fun, making another clap her hands to get her spectacles back, and then, horribly, taking a mobile ‘phone clip of a third having his incontinence pad changed.

A despicable catalogue of offences that only came to light because a member of the public picked up the defendant’s mislaid mobile ‘phone and handed it to police after seeing the film clips.

So a TV documentary that so many of us watched in disgust but were then desperate to consign to memory, suddenly came back to haunt us.

Again, we want to hope this was an isolated incident. Again, we want to believe that this “care”worker was just one rotten apple. And again, we shudder at the thought that our loved ones could be treated this way. The defendant’s prosecution was the first in East Sussex under legislation introduced in 2005. Tragically, events of these past few weeks - both nationally and now locally - suggest it will not be the last.


REACTION on our letters page (see the Letters link in the News menu) to the proposed makeover for the Arndale Centre gives planners plenty of food for thought.

Diesel alley is high on the agenda, as is what to do with the Seaside end of Terminus Road. And although an iconic landmark like Portsmouth’s Spinnaker Tower is almost certainly out of our reach, we should set our sights high.

A shoppers’wish list in the making . . .