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A Sheepish Return

March 2, 2013

Erm …… Is it okay to come back in?

Thursday and Friday in Leeds for the Best Interests Assessor’s Conference were two very crazy days. I’ve often said that angels crop up in the most unlikely of places. But the trick is being able to see and hear the angels when they appear and not to be blinded by cynisism or depression when they appear. So, with that in mind, I’d like to thank from the bottom of my heart, the following angels who arrived over the last two days. In order of appearance: Victoria Derbyshire, Ben Conroy, Hazel, My Sister Jayne, Luke, Derek, Yvonne and the all the good folk from the Yorkshire and Humber BIA conference, Ian and Val. You’ve all pulled me back from a very dark place.

I arrived in Leeds mid afternoon on Thursday, exhausted and in a black hole. I found myself bursting into tears on Kings Cross Station when I discovered I’d missed the train by five minutes. It didn’t matter that another one was departing in 20 minutes; I fed it into the malaise that I’d felt since the meeting with Hillingdon on Wednesday. Throughout Thursday, I tried to do all sorts of things to chill me out but none of them worked (I was having to deal with my landlady and the leaking radiator most of the day!). I had an hour in the spa pool in the hotel but unusually, I came out more stressed than when I went in. I had a lovely meal in the restaurant but I couldn’t finish it. I took some of my favourite DVDS with me but didn’t get more than five minutes into them. I went to the bar and had a pint and tried to read my Barry Cryer (one of my heroes) book but couldn’t even finish my pint. I retired to bed with Question Time on and found myself getting seriously worked up by the terrible Tory woman on the panel. Probably too much detail, but I couldn’t even have a wank! I must have fallen to sleep about 12.30.

I was woken up on Friday morning by my phone ringing and it was the Victoria Derbyshire show on Radio Five Live. They had read my last blog post and Victoria wanted to interview me. I’ve been interviewed by Victoria three times previously but I felt nervous about accepting. I didn’t want to piss off Hillingdon any more but then thought there was nothing I could say that would make our relatsionship any worse than it is. As usual, Victoria was very fair and at one point made me cry by remarking that I sounded very weary. It lasted about 15 minutes and I was gobsmacked when I heard the show back on I Player – they hadn’t edited the interview at all and I had been given the whole 15 minutes aired. It was only 8.30 am and I did the whole interview in my pants sitting on the edge of the bed in my hotel room. Thank you Victoria – I think she recognises our story as symbolic of a lot of what is wrong with the social care field and what happens when power is abused so cynically.

By the time I dressed and went downstairs, the delegates were arriving but I had to miss the first session as my solicitor from 2011, Ben Conroy had set up a conference call to discuss the hosuing problem. I’d had to check out by this time, so I had to find a quiet space in this busy hotel. I ended up in a corridor by the spa pool. Ben is great – very direct and it’s pow pow pow – this is what we have to do. By the end of a fifteen minute phone conversation we had worked out an action plan that hopefully will answer whether the actions of Hillingdon in the three big issues (stopping my HB, forcing Steven to become the tenant and blocking him from social housing) are illegal.

The conference was now well underway and as I made my way to the main hall, I met Hazel. Hazel is not a BIA or an AMHP; she is a parent like me. She introduced me to her son who looked remarkably like Steven. Hazel is from the Get Steven Home group and she told me how she had been in a similar situation to us and had a long battle to get her son home. I got choked up when she told me that she had travelled across Yorkshire to hear me speak. For the first time since the group started in July 2010, I met someone who had been a supporter from afar. It was ever so heartening.

During all this, I was taking phone calls from my sister Jayne, who was trying to sort out a plumber for my radiator back home. As well as succeeding in that mission, she also announced that she had found me a potential flat. And the best thing about it was that it was away from Hillingdon but so near as to not affect my work, Steven’s activities or his support. I had never considered moving to the next county before; I’d never realised that the borders of that county are so close to where we currently live. Wouldn’t that be magnificent – to one day announce to Hillingdon that we’re moving away. (When I got home, I discovered that the flat had gone but it has sowed a seed and I am definately going to pursue this option). She’s great, my sister. Whenever I’m in a hard place; she’s my rock.

It was time for my Q&A session and they both went really well. Derek and Luke chaired a session each and it was fascinating how interested people were in our story. It was weird how respected I felt by all the people at the conference compared to the way I’d been treated like a piece of shit by Hillingdon two days earlier. Of course, people are always fascinated by the hidden agenda and I kept being asked what I thought 2010 was really all about. Now that’s it all over, I can verbalise my theories and its was interesting that they made a lot of sense to the delegates. We had a discussion about the abuse of power and I shocked them by telling them the story from Wednesday’s meeting. The housing manager was insisting that Steven’s damages preclude him from social housing. To illustrate his power, he talked about a young caretaker who had died suddenly leaving a wife and three young children. The council had to evict him from his caretaker’s property but then, with pride, the manager announced that they hd no duty to house the wife and kids because of the pay out from the staff pension scheme. I didn’t think it was a story to be proud of and I’m sure was only told as a cock wagging exercise. It’s not pleasant to be involved in this arrogant power weilding. One of the good things about going on the Mark Neary roadshow is that I’ve now encountered lots of other BIAs and La officials and they have nothing like that sneering atttitude of Hillingdon.

I was getting texts from Ian and VJ throughout the day and when I got home and they both know how to drag me out of my black moods. I’m very lucky.

And that was that. Exhausting but after the hell of Wednesday’s meeting, I think I found a big bit of heaven again.

And if you don’t mind, I think I’ll come back.


From → Social Care

  1. I’m so glad you’re back. I think you’re wonderful. We have our own battles going on with social care, and the depths to which they will sink are nothing short of vile. I’ll think of you, and your strength, next time I have one of my ‘can’t go on’ days.

  2. Welcome back Mark 🙂

  3. Clare Palmer permalink

    It’s great you’re back. I was really upset to read what had happened and the depth of your despair. If it’s possible for you to move out of Hillingdon I do think that would be a good plan. If you are dealing with intransigent obstructive council officers who have got a lot (of face) to lose by behaving humanely towards you, it’s very difficult to shift that.

  4. Thank you for not giving up although I recognise those feelings you went through. You have a very engaging blog, just being yourself with Steven, and it would be a loss to everybody if a certain Council bullied you, so much, they effectively shut you down.

  5. Suzanne permalink

    Had you gone somewhere knew you would not be down long weebles wobble but they don’t fall down it not an option you not the pope you can t resign

  6. Shit Mark, reading through your blog backwards to catch up, you’re really being put through the wringer. I’m glad Ben and Victoria have swung into action. Hope the flat hunt goes well, moving to neighbouring area sounds like a good idea. The Yorkshire and Humber BIA’s are great aren’t they? Good luck with it all, thinking of you.

  7. lambethss permalink

    Keep fighting don’t let those scumbags in Hillingdon Council win

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