Disabled residents locked in and possibly brutalised

Government wants to know what was going on at Møllen

39 percent of the Danes want to study near where they reside (photo: iStock)
March 18th, 2013 4:28 pm| by admin
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The social and integration minister, Karen Hækkerup (Socialdemokraterne), is demanding an explanation for the illegal confinement and surveillance of severely disabled citizens living in the group residence Møllen just outside of Kalundborg.

A report in December by City Council investigative group Revas found that severely disabled residents, including an autistic woman who cannot speak, were placed in tiny rooms with locks on the outside.

"For the residents whose needs are greatest, we find the physical environment, treatment and pedagogical approach are completely outdated, verging on the unacceptable,” the report states.

The report also mentions that along with confinement in small spaces, residents have been under unlawful video surveillance and were often referred to by their disease, rather than their names, by Møllen’s 19 employees, only two of whom are trained educators. Upon receiving the report, the City Council immediately cancelled its contracts with Møllen.

Hækkerup and others want the council to explain why it seemingly has done nothing to prevent the abuse, even though it has been aware of it for at least five years. As far back as 2007, a former employee reported that force was used against the residents and that they were being video-monitored and confined into something called a ‘locked pause’.

"I will ask for an explanation of who knew what was happening and what they have done," Hækkerup told Berlingske newspaper. "It seems as if there was not an adequate response to this case."

Møllen has been a home to some of the city’s disabled residents since 2002. Since 2007, the council has been repeatedly warned about the conditions there. It wasn't until November 2012 of last year, when a resident's family member contacted the council ombudsman to report suspected violence, that the council sent Revas to take a serious look at conditions at the residence.

The sharp criticism that came back from the council's oversight group last December caused the city's social services department to terminate all contracts with Møllen.

Both the city's deputy mayor for social affairs, Mikkel Warming (Enhedslisten), and Vibeke Ries, the head of the city-run handicap centre, Handicapcenter København, acknowledged that it was clearly an error that conditions at the residence had not been corrected much sooner.

City Councillor Birthe Skaarup (Dansk Folkeparti) said that there must be consequences for those in charge.

"In the private sector, people are removed when things like this happen," she told Berlingske. "I do not think those responsible have shown the insight that the job requires."

Leslie Arentoft, Venstre's representative on the City Council's social committee, placed the blame for the failures on those at the top.

"The mayor and senior management are responsible," he said, adding that it was important to find out where the chain of command broke down.

The head of Møllen, Claus Christensen, said that he was surprised that the council cancelled its contracts on such short notice because, according to him, the council was aware of Møllen’s methods.

“They were not locked in,” he told Berlingske. “Yes, the door was locked at night, but the rooms are arranged so that residents can climb out if necessary.”

Christensen said the he was “proud” of the work that he and his staff had done.

“We do not work directly under the council’s instructions, and that is precisely why they use us," he said. "We can do some things that they cannot. "

The council said that several relatives of residents at the facility had expressed satisfaction with its work and policies.

“According to the information that I have received, the vast majority of relatives of residents at Møllen were happy with the place,” Warming wrote in a statement. “As far as I am aware, there had been no complaints from relatives prior to the case in November.”

Warming said that he was not looking to fire anyone connected with Møllen, and wanted to concentrate on what had been learned from the case. 

Now that the council has terminated its agreement with the facility, the residents are expected to be in new homes by May 1.

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