Thursday, February 12, 2009

Antena 3 TV and the 'House Of Horrors' allegations... what's the real issue here?

Perhaps not unexpectedly, both the Gibraltar Government and the official opposition party, the GSLP (Gibraltar Socialist Labour Party), are resorting to calling each other liars, following the serious allegations made in the now infamous 'Gibraltar House Of Horrors' item featured in Andalusian TV station Antena 3's programme 'Espejo Publico' a week ago.

As I wrote about earlier this week, (the blog post includes a youtube video of the programme) the programme highlighted serious allegations concerning the Dr Giraldi Home, describing it as a 'House of Horrors'. Perhaps a little over the top, but nevertheless, it's once again highlighted some very serious concerns about the running of this home for the disabled by Gibraltar's Social Services Agency.

While the Government and the GSLP are once again embroiled in name calling, Gibraltar's Disability Society are expressing their concerns about the programme's 'fallout' with residents (and one would assumes the family of residents) and staff, quite understandably.

In a statement, The Society said it "sanctions Antena 3 for using such a description" and accuses it of "having little regard for the repercussions upon the dignity of the residents, the concerns of their families and the morale of the present staff".

The Disability Society is chaired by Debbie Borastero. This Society is not connected to the Gibraltar Local Disability Movement, which is headed by Gordon Nelson. Mr Nelson has been very critical of the running of the Dr Giraldi Home for a long time now and has been concerned publicly about the allegations, since they were initially aired by the dismissed Manager, Joanna Hernandez. Possibly even before then too.

In an attempt to calm the row, the Disability Society said they are "aware that the staff members who were the subject of several justified complaints which were made by service users, their families and other staff members, are no longer in employment at the home".

"The recent programme is adversely affecting the morale of the present staff and the Society is very concerned that this will affect the quality of the existing service.

It calls on the Social Services Agency to do everything possible to maintain and sustain staff morale."
In a statement yesterday, the GSLP refuted accusations of "untrue allegations" by the Government and, slightly unnerving me by agreeing with me more or less word for word, reiterated their call for a full independent inquiry into the allegations.

Instead of getting embroiled in slanging matches or trying to fight an industrial tribunal against the Manager of the home at the time, (fruitlessly as it turned out as they were unable to provide any evidence), it seems to me, the Government should stop twittering on about allegations, untrue or otherwise, and get on with what they should have done nearly three years ago... and that is set up a transparent and independent inquiry as a matter of urgency. This is the only possible way the community will ever regain trust and confidence in how the Dr Giraldi home is run.... not least the embattled Social Services Agency... and disability issues generally in Gibraltar!

The issue is not about a TV programme... the issue is about trust and confidence in the Social Services Agency... and the proper care offered in the Dr Giraldi Home... and the urgent need for an independent inquiry!