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“Why Don’t You Talk Properly”

July 27, 2013

Two timely incidents yesterday, following my post on the BBC Ouch Website.

Steven was out and about with his support workers yesterday and they bumped into one of the staff from Steven’s time at the positive behaviour unit. I remember her and liked her a lot. She used to work hard to engage with Steven, especially tuning into his music likes and dislikes. They got chatting and she asked the support worker: “So, what does Steven do on his community programme these days?” Awkward moment – the guys didn’t know what she was talking about. We don’t frame things that way at home. We talk about; going to water aerobics; the gym; the day centre. If she had said – “So, what does Steven get up to during the week these days?” a conversation would have followed. It was a minor moment but illustrated the point I was making on Ouch – the language is on their terms. You have to learn it or you’re not able to converse.

Last night I got an email from a new follower of this blog. He told me that the post resonated with him a lot and he quoted a paragraph from a letter he received on Wednesday morning. His son has been receiving a care package for the last seven years, made up of direct payments and he employs a support worker out of these direct payments. This is the opening paragraph of the letter:

“I am pleased to notify you that your fairer access to care services assessment has been processed and you have been awarded a personal budget of…….”

This was the first time he had heard the phrase “fairer access to care services” and wasn’t sure what it meant. He was also confused at the talk of a “personal budget”. What has happened to direct payments? And the amount quoted was significantly less than the old direct payment package.

Two things here: the letter made the assumption that the reader understand these terms. And secondly, and more sinister, the use of the word “fairer” hides the fact that the budget has been cut.

Last night Steven was watching a Fawlty Towers DVD. It was the one where Bernard Cribbens wants to “Reserve the BBC2 channel for the duration of this televisual feast”.

Basil’s reply was quite apt – “Why don’t you talk properly?”


From → Social Care

  1. Badger permalink

    The ‘Service Providers’ don’t reserve their double talk for the ‘Service Users’. I work in a learning disabilities unit which used to be run by the NHS. Just over two years ago we were ‘privatized’ and taken over by a third sector care provider. The NHS staff were transferred under ‘TUPE’ which is an undertaking that the new employer will honor the existing contracts and terms and conditions. After less than a year we were told that out wages would be cut and we were to lose some of our annual leave. This exercise back stabbing was called ‘Equal Terms’ because, we were told, it was ‘not fair’ that the organization had employees doing the same work for different rates of pay, even though that was the inevitable result of the TUPE process. So failing to honor an undertaking is presented as something good and positive!

    The fact of the matter was that the local authority had cut funding, so our new employers could not afford to honor the TUPE requirements, but why not just come out and say that instead of dressing the whole episode up with weasel words and try to make out that they were doing something positive.

  2. a mother permalink

    A weary mother
    Thank you

    Please set up your foundation. My son is learning disabled. I have fought for the last 10 years, firstly (and failed) to get his LA to listen to us,and subsequently when he was harmed beyond repair, I failed again, to get justice for him. They still don’t listen and it is all happening again.. It is so wrong . .

  3. Nichola permalink

    Mark and Steven, it is inspiring and reassuring to hear your story. My sister has severe learning disability, including some of the features of autism. Four years and seven months ago Mum died and my sister, who had lived in the family home with her, was catapulted into the labyrinthine and Kafkaesque nightmare of ‘person-centered plans’ and direct payments. The battle to keep my sister in her own home with the right support has been an exhausting and eye-opening ball-breaker. We tried a couple of agencies who employed the scrapings from the Job Centre barrel on minimum wage. My sister endured a parade of numbskulls through her home – people who failed to check supplies of medication, left doors unlocked, couldn’t cook, couldn’t drive and who didn’t have an iota of understanding or intuition about my sister’s condition. They spent more time filling in forms and ticking boxes than interacting with my sister. The upshot is that my sister, after suffering a major loss and tolerating so much crap, finally has things the way she wants. We have the funds to pay for the best possible support, her three support workers are hand-picked by her, she maintains her routine, her confidence has grown and she enjoys a social life! The whole process has taught me to question everything, especially the state’s paucity of ambition regarding the lives of people with no voice. Mark and Steven, so good to hear you are almost there. If I can help in any way please don’t hesitate to contact me.

  4. Otter permalink

    Oh great, “Does she take sugar” syndrome.
    How many times – speak to us about us, not to those with us
    and if you have jargon in your head, phase your questions jargon free
    it is not us whose communication skills are lacking

    • Liz. permalink

      In theory, Otter, I agree completely with what you say, especially the bit about who is lacking in communication skills. The jargon is only one aspect of the failure to listen.

      I speak, a lot of the time, for my daughter. She makes it very, very clear that she needs and expects me to do that, and gets quite distressed if she feels that I am attempting to let her get her own views across without support from me. Steven’s view of what he wanted and needed was ignored. It is too easy to pretend that the views of a parent are irrelevant and biased – but most of the time we are a lot more motivated to act in their best interests than those with budgets to deal with. Too easy to sideline us.

  5. sparrow permalink

    Hi Mark + Steven, read you on Ouch, joined the blog immediately. It was a Kafkaesque nightmare you both endured, truly shocking. So pleased to hear things are better. Language! A few words spring to mind as well as those already mentioned. Inclusion, especially for school kids – sometimes covers as a budget cut. Modernisation – now that’s a brilliant 1. Means all things to all people. Use it any way you want. The problem is that our society doesn’t seem to be bothered enough about people with: various conditions, health problems – mental, physical or both, other difficulties, etc. Also they don’t seem to be bothered about the poor, the elderly etc. They don’t seem to recognise they could easily become one of these groups. Society is mind-boggling unfair + is getting worse. I really worry about where it’ll all end for us. Will my son’s funding be cut, if so by how much. How will it affect his daily support? Will this affect him detrimentally + if so what can we do? Back to square 1? Will he have to attend atos interviews? So many battles. It really reminds me of George Orwell’s 1984, the way language is used now to give a certain impression but mean something else in practice. Keep up the good work

  6. From the Wild Wood permalink

    Mark and Steven – I have been catching up with your blog at odd moments throughout the last couple of days. As a fellow traveller through the Orwellian/Lewis Carrollian swamp of ever more contorted gibberish and ‘procedures’ I have every sympathy. Re your housing problems, I wondered whether you have tried contacting the charity Shelter who, in my experience, can be a huge support .

    My very best wishes to you both, and I do hope that you find a really lovely home soon..

  7. Tell me about it :/ I nurse in a mental health unit. the patient was “brittle” otherwise a bit annoyed with staff. “Joe accessed leave appropriatley” He went to tesco and enjoyed himself. “version 6” self harm suicide risk screening tool. SPEAK English people 🙂

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