The care farm where physically and mentally disabled residents were sometimes abused and humiliated ‘if they did something wrong’ objects to the closure. That is what their lawyer Fonny Krol-Postma says to this site. “What has been found is not the policy of my clients.”

    The Health and Youth Care Inspectorate (GJI) recently intervened hard at Aurora Borealis in Wedde in Groningen. By Wednesday, February 9, the last of the ten residents must have been transferred to another care facility as a result of an investigation report full of dramatic conclusions.

    The common thread in this: at the care farm, bizarre punishments were sometimes used to teach the residents what was and was not allowed: employees who smear peanut butter on the head of a resident who then had to lie on the floor to be licked by the dog, clients pulling their hair back, clients who have to lie in the garden under a dripping garden hose, a client who is pushed with his head into the toilet, a resident who had a whole orange pushed into his mouth, residents who are put outside as punishment or have to sit in the cleaning cage, food that is taken away and ticks that are handed out.

    Lawyer Krol-Postma does not want to comment on those matters. But according to her, this is “not Aurora Borealis’ policy.” Certain employees are no longer active in the organization. The management of the healthcare institution has also never seen the images that undercover journalist Alberto Stegeman made of the abuses. “So we have not yet been able to respond to that or give any nuance about it, which is one of the reasons why we object to the temporary closure,” says Krol-Postma.

    Hidden cameras Alberto Stegeman

    So the case was filed last year by Albert Stegeman. After a report, he made recordings of the abuses with hidden cameras and shared his findings with the police. And he then also informed the GJI Inspectorate. The police then shared a report with the inspectorate, which then investigated and spoke to numerous people involved.

    The big question that looms with the report is: how could it have come to this? How could the four partners of the care farm, which started in 2007, and the four employees (including an intern) cross the line with the ten residents?

    ‘Need to put client outside for a while’

    Aurora Borealis herself says she ‘works from an anthroposophical and holistic vision’. The healthcare institution uses ‘a method of clarity, structure and boundaries’, say the directors of the institution in the report. In doing so, it may be necessary to “make a client learn from his wrong behavior by putting him outside for a while,” said an administrator. One of the nurses says that clients with severe multiple disabilities ‘know very well what they are doing’. Such as deliberately making loud noises to force attention.

    “Then a limitation is needed,” the inspector heard. In the report, one of the caregivers even casually gives an example where ‘he knocked down a client’. “In self-defense,” said the nurse, “because he was threatened.” The Inspectorate has found that clients with severe multiple disabilities, in particular, who cannot stand up for themselves because they cannot communicate verbally, have not received the care and support they need.

    That the management of the institution was not really aware of much harm is proven by the fact that they themselves called the inspectorate to come and have a look, after Stegeman confronted them with what he had discovered. Incidentally, he will not broadcast the images he made until somewhere in mid-April.

    Some former employees have filed a complaint against the healthcare institution. In a response, Aurora Borealis said it ‘takes the findings very seriously’ and is working on points for improvement. Whether they will ever be allowed to resume their suspended work is highly questionable.