And The Winner Is……..Not The Learning Disabled, That’s For Sure

This week saw the sentencing of the 11 workers involved in the horrific abuse at Winterbourne View. The sentences ranged from two years to community service; derisory sentences for horrible crimes. And sadly, it shows once again that the learning disabled draw a very short straw when it comes to access to justice.

What of Castlebeck, the owners of Winterbourne View? Well, not a lot actually. After the sentencing of their staff, the company issued the following statement:

“Castlebeck welcomes the finalisation of the legal process concerning the wholly unacceptable and criminal behaviour witnessed at Winterbourne View.

When those events at Winterbourne View Independent Hospital were exposed in May 2011, the board and the company’s then Chief Executive expressed their unequivocal and unreserved regret to the service users involved and their families.

They also gave a clear commitment to protect the safety and well-being of all those who use Castlebeck’s services and swift and decisive action was taken as soon as the allegations were raised almost 18 months ago”.

Which I think, roughly translated means: “Ha ha ha. Phew, got out of that one. Now fuck off, we’ve got profits to count”.

These sort of statements are so much part of our culture now, that they have become meaningless. They are written by committee and I don’t think either the author or the reader/listener understands or believes a word of them.

If that statement doesn’t stick in the throat, what follows causes a severe nauseous attack. It was announced this week that Castlebeck are sponsoring an award at this year’s Royal College of Nursing awards. And not just any old award – they are sponsoring the learning disability nurse of the year award. I swear to God, when I read that, I thought I’d stumbled across an episode of The Thick of It. Brass neck doesn’t even come close.

I think the point of this is that the management in these sort of scandals nearly always come out of it relatively unscathed. I’ve written about it before, but from June 2008 until September 2008, Steven was attending a unit on a day basis (This was one of those many occasions that the council suddenly stopped his support package without warning, so he had no choice but to go to this place). One day, he was assaulted by one the workers there; he was kicked at least three times and had a cup of coffee poured over him. The council launched their own investigation (whitewash) but the CPS prosecuted on Steven’s behalf. The worker was found guilty, although I never found out what his sentence was. The shift leader, who tried to cover the incident up was sacked. However, a couple of months after the incident, the manager of the unit was promoted to a senior position within the civic centre and the assistant manager was promoted to manager. All done and dusted. And of course, not a single person lost their job or suffered any consequences for the illegal actions of 2010.

Whilst on the subject of that unit, I read their latest CQC report this week. The first thing that struck me was that, sometime during the last year, the unit has changed from an assessment and treatment centre with a stay there between 3 to 18 months, to a generic care home. How did that happen? Is it not a positive behaviour unit anymore? The council’s own website still says that it is. And what  flimsy document the report is. The unit was found to be compliant in all areas but it looks like only one service user was asked for feedback and only one family member. The rest of the feedback came from staff at the unit and other interested professionals. There are some good things that happen at the unit and there are some very good, dedicated staff there but I didn’t recognise the place from the report. Do people actually make a decision on where to place their loved ones on the basis of a CQC report? I hope not.

So, that was the week that was. The residents of Winterbourne View and their families will get on with healing the scars of their awful experience; the 11 staff will get on with the business of prison/community service life. And the Castlebeck managers will be dusting off their tuxedos in preparation for a gala awards ceremony.


I Just Want To Be A Dad

I got home from work today to find a letter from HMRC, informing me that from April 2013, the PAYE paperwork must be submitted every time a payment is made. At the moment, I pay the PAYE every three months and submit the paperwork once a year.

I am resentful of having to be an employer in the first place. I am an employer because I receive a direct payments package to pay a support worker to support my son. I needed help with being a carer and suddenly found myself becoming an employer in the process.

To begin with it wasn’t a problem. When we first received direct payments in 2005, the rules allowed the support worker to be self-employed. So, I used to give him a cheque once a month and left him to sort out his own tax and national insurance. Just the way, every other self-employed worker in the country is remunerated for their services. At the time, he was working with Steven for 5 hours a week, so it wasn’t an arduous process for either him or me. Somewhere along the way, HMRC decided that direct payment workers should be employed and therefore the parent or carer had to become an employer of the PA. Now that Steven has left school and needs support during the week, our direct payment package is now 36 hours per week and I have two workers sharing those hours. Not a huge workforce or payroll but time-consuming nonetheless.

It takes me two hours a month to do all the paperwork required; not only is there the HMRC paperwork to be completed but the LA want to see the records to and they have a different format for doing them. That may not sound like an awful lot of time, but bear in mind that I only have five hours each week when I’m not caring or working – I can think of a million things I’d rather be doing with that time other than sitting with my calculator and the headfuck that is the HMRC forms.

Employ a payroll company I hear you say – my LA offered to introduce me to one. I don’t know what things are like in other parts of the country but the two I approached locally charge for this service and I would be expected to find this payment out of the normal monthly direct payment package. Our package is very tightly calculated by the LA; it works out the exact hours of care Steven needs a week and pays for those hours. There is no slack and if I don’t use those 36 hours every week, I cannot save them up for something or use them for something else. If I did, the LA would claim the money back. In fact, once I’d been putting money aside to pay for a bank support worker to cover the normal DP worker’s holiday pay. I got  a bank statement and noticed that the money I’d saved had suddenly been withdrawn from my account. I checked with the bank and found the LA had gone into my account, checked the balance and without any warning, took back the £260 that I had saved to pay a reverse worker. I had to take the week off work as I didn’t have the funds left to pay for cover.

Anyway – payroll companies. I also found out from my local ones that as well as charging for doing the payroll, all they did was to calculate the tax and national insurance and then notify me of their calculations so that I could pay the workers and complete all the necessary paperwork. That didn’t feel like much of a service to me – I may resent it but I can work those figures out for myself. In a way, that’s the easy bit – it’s the paperwork that is so laborious.

Sorry – whinge over. I love the way that direct payments are sold to parents/carers as offering “choice and flexibility” but actually you can’t really chose not to have them as then you are left with nothing. And then, having been forced to make a Hobson’s choice, you get lumbered with having to do tax returns and LA account submissions.

I don’t want to be an employer; I just want to be a Dad.



Mr Bean & The Mental Capacity Assessment

Today was the day of the mental capacity assessment to determine if Steven has the capacity to manage the money he gets from the damages claim.

It was quite a palava before we even got to the surgery. Steven’s GP is on long-term sick and the other GP who knows him really well is on a month’s holiday. It would probably have been very straightforward if either of them had been there. We ended up seeing a very nice GP who had never met Steven before. She wanted to see me first to get some background, so I arranged a ten minute appointment with her and then had to go back home to collect Steven and take him back for a second appointment 20 minutes later.

This is how the conversation went:

GP: Right Steven. Do you agree to your father managing your damages award?

Steven: (long pause) Watching Mr Bean this afternoon.

GP (even longer pause): Good. As I said, are you happy with that?

Steven: (no pause) Steven Neary’s happy. Mr Bean’s got a kettle stuck on his hand.

Assessment complete.

On a serious note, I often wonder “where does the money go in social care?” Look at the effort that goes into this assessment. Court of Protection instructs a solicitor to arrange the mental capacity assessment. Official solicitor contacts GP to carry out assessment. GP has two appointments to do the assessment and writes her report. The report is returned to the OS to submit the financial deputyship claim to the court. The damages were agreed mid June; it will probably be early 2013 before Steven sees them.

A Mr Bean postscript:

Steven and his two support workers have just returned from the local swimming pool. I’m to expect a phone call from the duty manager as “several” (read one man who doesn’t like Steven) people complained about his actions this morning. Steven took his trunks off for 10 seconds when he was in the spa pool. Last Monday’s Mr Bean episode was the one where he jumps of the top board and his trunks come off. I asked Steven what happened and he replied “playing Mr Bean”. So now we face a ban from his regular Monday trip out and I blame Rowan Atkinson.