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When I’m Dead And Gone

August 8, 2012

Yesterday was my day off from work. I had big plans: housework first thing; then off to an early showing of the new Batman and then home to do a new tape with Steven. (We’re working through the alphabet at the moment and yesterday were up to “J”, so anticipating The Jam, Just Jack, Johnny Cash amongst others). The carpets remain unhoovered, Tom Hardy missed my presence in Studio 2, but John and Edward got an airing. Instead, I found myself sitting in front of my computer screen, paralysed by the Serious Case Review report into WinterbourneView (see here: I swung between sobbing and barely controllable rage. I had to have four attempts before I could finish it as I found it so emotionally draining. A serious thumbs up to the author, Dr Margaret Flynn, who didn’t pull any punches at all.

There have been several commentaries on the report, written much more eloquently than I could. My overriding feeling is what total cunts they all were. Not just the 11 perpetrators of such vile abuse, but all the other cast of characters in this terrible drama. I found myself getting just as angry by the quote from an anonymous Castlebeck director as I did about the violence his (or her) staff carried out. How about this statement for brass neck: ‘We’ve learned our lessons and the review marks the start of  a new chapter for care in our sector.’ That’s alright then. Now fuck off and go back to counting your profits. What sort of spun out society have we become that people believe that kind of statement is okay? On several occasions throughout the report, the author mentions Castleback’s lack of co-operation with the review, falling back on that old chestnut; the information is commercially sensitive. So, commercial sensitivity comes way ahead of the sensitivities of the patients and their families. It’s good we all know where we stand.

What can we say about the South Gloustershire safeguarding adults team? Not a lot. Except, you’ve got your priorities all wrong and if you spent a little less time arse covering and more time looking after your clients, perhaps…… It galls me but doesn’t surprise me that the only time they really sprung into action is when there were complaints made about patients or their families. Those complaints about patients or families were always acted upon but complaints about the staff etc just hit an arse covered wall and died. I’ve learned over the last few years dealing with adult social care that there always has to be a human shield, and invariably that shield is either the lowest ranks or the situation gets completely flipped over so that the aggrieved becomes the aggressor. When Steven was attending the Day Centre back in 2008, he was assaulted by one of the staff there; he was kicked three times on the leg and had a cup of hot coffee poured over him. The attacker who was quite senior and the shift leader tried to cover it up. It took two junior members of staff to report it and persisted to such and extent that it couldn’t be ignored. We weren’t informed of the attack until 8 hours after it happened; even then the social worker presented it to us anonymously, so I (to my shame) assumed it was another service user that launched the attack. The two junior members of staff had a very hard time and a lot of pressure was applied to them to dilute the incident. Nevertheless, the senior staff and managers could use the attacker and the shift leader as their shield. In 2010, when Steven was at the positive behaviour unit, I insisted that Steven’s normal support workers continued working with him. But in the authority’s eyes, they were lower than the unit’s own staff, so they became the new shield – if anything untoward happened, they carried the can. Two of Steven’s workers were suspended over an incident where they were put into a terrible situation by the unit’s shift leader. A week later, two unit staff had a massive argument in front of Steven and one threw a heavy object at the other, smashing a window. Nothing happened to either of them. All of the managers and social work staff involved in the year of Steven’s illegal detainment are still there in the same posts; there were no consequences for them at all.

Now comes the really hard bit to write. It’s not a new thought, prompted by the events at Winterbourne; I’ve had sleepless nights for several years over the issue. What happens to Steven when I’m dead and gone. Every time I go to a meeting with social services, at some point during the meeting, I am asked the same question: “What are your plans for Steven for the future?”. I’ve probably given the same answer over 40 times now but it doesn’t stop me being asked again. Perhaps, I havent given the right answer but they don’t want to tell me that? Perhaps, it’s just a box to be ticked and my answer is completely irrelevant because they already know the answer in Steven’s case? Who knows? For what it’s worth, I’d like (and Steven would too) for Steven to have his own place with live in support. he finds mixing with his peers very challenging, so for me, a multi occupied place would be out of the question. Steven could either continue to live in our privately rented property (landlady has already acknowledged that would be okay) or at some point, Steven would have the home we own that his mother currently lives in.

But deep down, I know that if I drop dead tomorrow, none of that will happen. I know that by the time I’m being laid out at the undertakers, Steven will be in a car to that care home/hospital in Wales that the council wanted to send him to in 2010. His links with everything he knows and loves will be terminated as quickly as my life had just ended. And wherever he ends up, he could find himself in a lovely, empathic place or he could find himself in another positive behaviour unit. Or another Winterbourne View.

And it’s too painful to write any more on the subject


From → Social Care

  1. Oh Mark, I know.

  2. Jayne Neary permalink

    Over my dead body would he be in that car going anywhere x

  3. Audrey O'Keefe permalink

    Mark tells it as it is…….the truth…… and that’s why he is my hero……. solidarity

  4. Lesley Sharkey permalink

    Don’t give up hope to your son having a future and a life of his own. There are good organisations out there providing 1:1 support. With an individual budget you and your son could design the support package that’s right for you.
    Look at for more information on individual budgets and to find out more about the kind of creative support you should and can expect from and organisation check out my work’s website it’s such a pity we don’t work down your way but I’m sure in control could recommend some providers when the time comes. Also couldn’t agree with you more revarding the winterbourne report!

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