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Is It Okay To Reactivate A Trauma?

April 6, 2013

Don’t bother with that one – I know the answer. Trust me, I’m a counsellor.

I took a phone call from Hillingdon last night. They are planning on carrying out Steven’s next mental capacity assessment this week. This is the assessment to decide if Steven has the capacity to take on a tenancy. I was thrown by this because at the moment, there isn’t a tenancy on the table. My current tenancy ends in July and won’t be renewed. I haven’t found anywhere yet that is suitable that I can afford without the housing benefit. Steven isn’t eligible for social housing as under Hillingdon’s housing allocation policy, his damages preclude him. That just leaves what has been Hillingdon’s prefered option all along; that Steven becomes the tenant of a suitable private tenancy and uses his damages to meet the rental liability. But even if that was the best option and in Steven’s best interests, there isn’t actually a tenancy in the offing right now.

I know that the MCA states that any capacity assessment has to be for a specific decision. Hillingdon feel that “has Steven got the capacity to manage a tenancy?” specific enough. No matter that there isn’t a specific tenancy on offer. I can also see that like 2010, the outcome is a foregone conclusion – they will decide that he lacks capacity and therefore be able to make the decision themselves. I know that the MCA talks about having the capacity to make decisions with support but that has never entered into any of Steven’s previous assessments. I know from my conversations with housing professionals (not the Hillingdon ones) that there is now a good body of case law to support a learning disabled person being deemed having the capacity with sufficient support but I don’t think that will come into the assessment either. Also, a private tenancy agreement and responsibilities is very different to a social housing tenancy agreement but I can’t see that being factored into the test.

So what this means is that the assessment will be carried out in only the vaguest terms. And that really worries me because I can predict how Steven will react to it. Up until now I’ve shielded him from all the housing issue as I know how much the uncertainty over where he is going to live deeply unsettles him. I guess it’s the same for most people with autism – a vague idea of a home somewhere is going to provoked massive anxiety. In Steven’s case, this is magnified many times over as he still experiences the trauma of being away from his home for the whole of 2010. It’s the thing that myself and the support workers have to reassure him about the most. I’ve seen him get so worked up about going away again that he has thrown up or soiled himself. I have to sit with at night at least once a week whilst he sobs and pleading reassurance that he “will live in the Uxbridge house with Dad forever and ever”. Just imagine what damage a non specific mental capacity assessment could do with this level of trauma and vulnerability.

At best, it’s another example of putting processes before people; at worst, it’s a deliberate attempt to destabilise Steven again.

Found it!

Back in 2011, Hillingdon were trying to get Steven to go back to the unit for his respite nights. In order to achieve this, they tried social stories and subliminal messaging exercises. None of them worked; they only increased the distress Steven experienced. I wrote to the council’s in-house psychologist requesting an external assessment as I felt the level of trauma he was expressing and feeling shouldn’t be ignored. This is the reply:

I understand your concern regarding Steven’s level of anxiety and the resultant behaviours and reassurance-seeking. I think it is certainly understandable that he feels this way. However, anxiety is not reflective of psychological trauma in itself, and his functioning appears to be intact at other times. Therefore, I do not believe that an assessment of trauma is warranted at this time as there are no significant symotoms, however, it is important to continue to monitor his feelings and behaviours (as you are doing through daily documentation). In addition, the social story will hopefully be effective in reducing his anxiety, as will the desensitisation programme. It is therefore imperative that this are implemented as soon as possible and that Steven is consistently reassured by all involved in his care”.

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From → Social Care

6 Comments
  1. Mark do you have the number for the OPG supervision team? If you don’t I can dig it out for you. What does your deputyship order actually say? If it gives you sole control to manage ALL financial decisions for Steven then the question of whether Steven has capacity to manage a tenancy has already been answered, he doesn’t… clearly not, otherwise you would not have been appointed to manage his property and affairs. Hillingdon cannot take the decision themselves because they cannot decide how he spends his money, only you can do that and he is not homeless yet, so has no need to take on a tenancy.

    Can you speak to GP about how traumatic any questions about living elsewhere would be for Steven.

  2. Oh and another thing, just because I have the capacity to manage a tenancy it doesn’t mean it would be the smartest financial move for me to do so. The same principle should apply to Steven.

  3. Helen – the OPG supervisor is on my phone call list for Monday morning

  4. I see it was another Hillingdon late Friday afternoon bombshell too! They just love doing that to you don’t they!!!

  5. Alison Davies permalink

    Hello Mark. I have been reading and catching up with your blogs via a friend. It is shocking how your local council is continuing in harrassing and trying to deny you and Steven a right to have suitable accomodation together and everything else they are throwing at you both. I sincerely hope a positive outcome will come soon for you both. I know it’s hard to keep fighting but you are an inspiration with your strength to carry on with the fight for the both of you.

  6. swanarchie07 permalink

    I rwakly live your post but what strikes ne the most is even now with your wealth and knowledge of the system you find it difficult to get the correct support and are made to continue fight for a life not just any life but that of an ordinary life. Hope thingswork out quick as I know far too well what its like to be caught up in the cross fire of social care and an ordinary life xxxxx good luck

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