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The Woman On The Bus (24 Hours Later)

April 20, 2013

I’ve been gobsmacked by the response to my post yesterday: “The Woman On The Bus”. In less than 24 hours it has received a record number of views. It has also attracted a huge number of comments on the blog, on Twitter, on Facebook and by direct message. The comments all carry the same message: “Report it. Report it. Report it”.

I can see that my final paragraph where I wrote “what’s the point in reporting the incident” was misleading. It was always my intention to report what I witnessed; in fact I was up until midnight last night composing a letter to Hillingdon’s safeguarding adults team (I’ve also cc’d in the CQC as well). It was never an option for me to report it on my blog and then do nothing.

My “what’s the point” statement comes from my extremely bitter experience since 2008. I feel that in all likelihood, absolutely nothing will happen at all. A huge investigation machine may clunk into action but the machine is about a process, not about action. Not about action for the person who has been on the receiving end of the treatment. At worst, my report will be seen as an attack and I, and the woman on the receiving end of the abuse will be perceived as the problem. The PR team will be just as active as the safeguarding team.

Do you think that I’m a cynical, bitter old bastard? Here are just some of my experiences of reporting something (formally and informally) or making an official complaint since 2008:

* In July 2008, Steven was attending the positive behaviour unit as a day client. One day he was kicked three times and had a cup of coffee thrown over him by the shift leader on duty. When the social worker informed me of the incident, she led me to believe that it was another service user who had carried out the assault. I might still be believing that if the police hadn’t carried out their own investigation.

* In July 2008, Steven was arrested at Heathrow after being left by a support worker. The support package had only been in place for three weeks. The CCTV footage shows that the support worker had left Steven for at least 13 minutes; he was more interested in talking on his mobile than caring for Steven. Subsequently, Steven got himself into trouble and police and their dogs arrived on the scene. The council launched an investigation and one thing that transpired was that the agency didn’t have a license toi provide the type of work that they had contracted to. Clearly, either the council hadn’t checked or the agency had misled them. Whichever, when Steven was held at the unit under the DoLs two years later, it was a shock to find that the same agency were supplying the bulk of the support staff. Steven has a police caution on record but for the council and the agency it was business as usual.

* In early 2009, Steven told me the horrendous story from his time at the unit as a day client in 2008. A member of staff thought that it was hilarious sport to throw Steven’s shoes out into the muddy garden and sending Steven out to retrieve them in the pouring rain. I reported the incident but never heard a word about any action taken.

* It’s February 2010 and Steven is three months into his year long unlawful detainment at the unit. Regular followers of our case may remember the infamous email from the social worker to her colleagues that was read out in court and attracted a lot of press attention after (“There’s always somehting or other with Mr Neary…..”). Her email was a response to me reporting that another service user repeatedly pulled the ties and zips from Steven’s clothes with the result that all his trousers, shorts and trunks kept falling down and his coat wouldn’t fasten. Because I became the problem by complaining, the matter was never addressed and for the rest of the year, Steven’s trousers remained around his ankles. The issue became framed as “Mr Neary having an issue with the care that others give Steven”. On this incident, that was true but the problem still needed attention.

* April 2010 and the professionals held a meeting. This was the meeting we discovered in court where they made the decision to move Steven away and not let him return home was made. There were 10 people at the meeting and two people openly challenged the decision. They were never invited to another meeting.

* April 2010 and one of Steven’s support workers complained about the attitude of one of the shift leaders towards Steven. For the next two weeks there was a concerted effort to get the support worker removed from the team and I had a hell of a fight to keep him. The council leant on his agency – it was horrid. Sadly, they got their way a year later and in a vile move got him removed from Steven’s support (I’d love to reveal the details of that but it would be breaking his confidentiality). Steven also paid a price too from the shift leader for the complaint. At the time, the unit were introducing a timer alarm that they thought would help Steven manage anxiety about when things start and finish. A whole set of instructions were drawn up and in fairness, he took to it very well. One of Steven’s regular support workers told me that at 8am one Saturday, Steven asked the shift leader if he could watch a Mr Bean video. The cow set the timer for four hours hence, which also conincided with the time I was due to arrive for a visit. Four hours for no good reason is also abuse to me.

* Finally, there was the consequences of Steven’s two escapes from the unit in 2010. On both occassions, I complained that the unit had failed in their duty of care but it was Steven who carried the can. His April escape led to the first of the Deprivation of Liberty authorisations and he was stopped from going out for 6 weeks and engaged in “meaningful activities” like mopping the floor and walking 6 times round the garden instead. When he escaped at 8pm one Sunday night in October in just his pyjamas, the council used that as an opportunity to step up their plans to move him to Wales. I have read both the investigation reports – they are shite. No responsibility; no accountability. Lessons are learned but only by framing Steven as the problem.

* And of course, all the staff involved in the illegal detention of 2010 are all still in post; some promoted. I don’t buy the argument about “collective mistakes” – that lets people off the hook. I’m certainly not interested in witch hunts but the service user must come first. Sadly it’s usually a case of the corporate closing of ranks.

Oh, and by the way – the head of the safeguarding adults team who will receive my letter about the woman on the bus just happens to be the lead officer of the supervisory body concerned with the DoLS. He is the chap who actually signs the authorisations. The same chap that was given such a hard time by Justice Jackson in court. I’m sure he will really welcome hearing from me.


From → Social Care

  1. In light of all of that, I’d bypass social services and go straight to the police. They have the power to demand the CCTV footage from the bus company; social services probably won’t even try. Don’t forget that she not only neglected the disabled woman she was supposedly caring for, she assaulted you. I’d also mention this to any concerned charities (eg., NAS and Mencap). This way it will come to them as accomplaint from a concerned member of the public, not a carer they regard as “trouble”.

  2. Cat Meredith permalink

    Hi Mark, I can only imagine how difficult and potentially futile contacting the safeguarding team must feel after all of your horrendous experiences, but having followed your story for a long time now, I absolutely know that you will make it. As well as sending your alert to the Safegaurding team and CQC, also copy in the Local Authority’s Comissioning Team – they are duty bound to look into the incident form a contract compliance point of view. As a safegaurding alerter you are entitled to have feedback as to how your alert is being dealt with, and the rationale for this. At the very least you should be told whether the incident is progressing through safefgaurding, and if not, why not. if it is progressing through safeguarding, then as the key witness and alerter, you should be invited to attend at least part of the initial safegaurding strategy. Make sure you explicitly ask to be informed of the outcome of you alert in your letter. If it all goes quiet or you are unhappy with the outcome, address any complaints directly to the chair of the Safeguarding Adults Partnership Board

  3. Agree with Cat Meredith. and Matthew Smith, do both. And do you use Twitter? or Youtube? This is exactly the sort of thing that goes viral on twitter, and if you have video – upload it to Youtube. Do you remember the drunk woman racially abusing people on a train to Croydon? One of the blokes she was verbally abusing filmed her put it on Youtube and the police successfully prosecuted her. Youtube and Twitter first, everything else later, I would suggest.

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