Socialist Worker

Dog-eat-dog culture is behind hospital abuse

by a social worker
Issue No. 2255

Most care workers want to help others and make a difference to people’s lives.

But BBC’s Panorama programme last week exposed terrible bullying at a hospital owned by Castlebeck.

Institutional abuse in care homes is nothing new. Why does it happen?

It is impossible to understand abuse without considering its context. Capitalism defines human relationships primarily in terms of property.

That doesn’t determine all of our behaviour—everywhere we see examples of selfless acts of care and concern towards others.

Yet competition is dominant and influences all our relationships.

Individual struggles for control over our lives can mean asserting power over others. And the resulting hierarchies can create alienated, uncaring and abusive workplaces.

Working class people have struggled for centuries to force the capitalist state to accept that society has caring responsibilities. That struggle is far from over.

Services for people with additional needs—that’s most of us at some time—are seen as “expensive” rather than essential.

Workplace bullying is on the rise, according to recent TUC surveys.

But organised workplaces—with collective democratic decision-making, trade unions and support—are far less likely to suffer it.

Almost 90 percent of adult care homes have been sold off to the private or independent sectors and this has seen a weakening of trade union organisation.

This does not let the individual bullies and abusers at Castlebeck off the hook.

Rather, it places serious responsibility on socialists to build the collective power to challenge abuse wherever it occurs.

We must fight for the resources, training and social conditions that prevent the dog-eat-dog culture of survival that degrades us all.

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