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Flip Reverse It

August 20, 2013

One thing has bothered me since I wrote the piece for the BBC website about the language of the social care world. In the article, I quoted someone from within the field who told me once that the reason why phrases like “accessing the community” are used is because there is a lot of pressure on staff to present everything the learning disabled person does as having a value. This was borne out from several of the comments on the BBC Ouch page where many professionals from the social care world echoed this belief – they may not agree with the language but it is important to promote the value of a learning disabled person’s life.

This is total bollocks.

I’ve started to write the Carespeak book and a recurrent theme through every chapter is that it is important to consider that the complete opposite of what is being presented to you may be the actual reality. For example, if you are having “independence” bellowed at you, you may find yourself feeling more restricted than ever. One of my favourite therapy books is “The Shadow in The Helping Professions”. The book explores the hidden agenda that may be at play, which is always an important aspect to reflect on. One of my closest friends has a brilliant operating position that “there is always a part of ourselves that is up to no good”. Once we acknowledge that, it is fine. The book makes a similar point – be alert to the shadow being in force when something is being forced upon you.

This weekend, I was reading a blog by a woman with three children, one of whom has autism. In her son’s care plan, she was bemused by the statement that her son is “engaging with rebound therapy five times a week”. This was news to her! It took her a while to decipher the code but eventually she realised that it related to the trampoline she’d recently installed in the garden. Rebound therapy has value – playing on the trampoline doesn’t.

By reclassifying the family activity of trampolening into rebound therapy, a whole industry springs into action. Social workers, care plan coordinators, psychologists, behaviourists all suddenly have a purpose. And that for me, is where the value bit comes in – it boosts their purpose, justifies their salaries. Calling it rebound therapy doesn’t add any extra value to the service user but by heck, it makes the system feel like they’re offering something valuable. And therefore, by default, the people in the system become valuable. It’s a self-perpetuating, self important illusion. A very normal family activity that the young lad gets an awful lot out of has suddenly become a vehicle for the sustaining of a whole industry.

I had a problem with Steven’s old social worker back in 2009. She wanted Steven to attend citizenship classes instead of going to his water aerobics group. “What did you learn at the citizenship class today?” having much more value than “who did you chat to at the water aerobics group?” And I think it was problem that we,as a family, organised the water aerobics group for him – she could claim no part in this part of Steven’s life. He went to the citizenship class once – didn’t understand what he was doing there, got terribly anxious and had a meltdown and never went back again. Compare that to the pleasure Steven gets at water aerobics when he’s chatting away to his elderly friend Sid, as they bop away to In The Navy. Something with “value” may not be remotely valuable to the person.

I don’t want to compromise Steven’s quality of life and the things he finds valuable, by enabling someone else to think they are adding value to his life when really it is about pumping up their own sense of value.


From → Social Care

  1. This is so true! It’s as if people with learning difficulties aren’t people with things they enjoy whether they have value or not like other people but some other breed!

  2. Mark Grainger permalink

    Absolutely spot-on Mark! If I hear one more example of self-justifying “Carespeak” I think I’ll spew!
    As long as those in the social care field can write something in a report that makes them sound/feel that they’re adding value themselves, that’s all they care about. Meanwhile back at the coalface, parents like us are more concerned about what actually makes our disabled child happy!
    Keep blogging Mark – love reading your comments – they resonate with real world truths that only people in the same situation can recognise.

  3. aul Robson permalink

    Rebound therapy ….. hysterical.

    Or it would be if it wasn’t used by numpties to justify their existence.

    There’s three imperatives in social care now:

    – hit the asinine statistical target of the day/week/month/year
    – cover your backside, make sure you can’t be blamed when stuff goes wrong
    – protect your job / budget and extend it if possible.

    oh and,

    – stay away from actual real work with actual real people in need as much as possible

    It’s sad when you are shown to be psychic.

    When the ‘social care budgets’ first came out I said to my colleague, what’ll happen is they’ll set the budget not according to the cost of what the carer needs but what money they’ve got, which will be steadily reduced in favour of more administration. There will be lots of PR about empowered service users, but in the end the service users will be dumped on from a great height.

    The other thing I asked was who is the actual employer ? If you ’employ’ a carer are you responsible for all the HR ? Can they take you to tribunal ? and all the other unanswered questions.

  4. Nichola permalink

    Typical tail-wagging-the-dog mentality. Care organizations (public and private sector) are more concerned with reputation and perpetuating their existence, and the language, as you say, bolsters this aim. The authorities’ idea of ‘value’ also exposes a depressing paucity of ambition for the lives of learning disabled people.

  5. david permalink

    Every industry in existence has this sort of thing – ranging from the Health and Safety Executive, gas fitters, air traffic control, railways, you name it there’s this sort of crap. It’s about bogging folk down in semantics, tying up their jobs in red tape and slowing things down. Gas fitters are bogged down in red tape and spend more time with government busybodies than sorting boilers. It’s about justifying their jobs. There’s something in HR called the Dilbert Principle – the inept are promoted to middle management to keep them from causing chaos at the front-end, which usually works. However it seems to me that it doesn’t work and we end up with rebound therapy (which I thought was about sleeping around after the breakup of a long term relationship incidentally). There isn’t any value in me knocking back a few pints with the lads down the local instead of working overtime on a Friday. Between doing a few hours overtime or a few hours swigging, guess which one I’m going for of a Friday *hic* And yes that’s my rant over about red tape, semantic marshes and Dilbert. And ice cold Tenents lager.

  6. Excellent blog. Carespeak adds value to carespeakers and does nothing for clients.

  7. foginthecloister permalink

    This is so true, Mark (hello from another parent with autistic children! :)) and in my worst moments I forsee a world in which so much productive work has been automated that most jobs consist of people policing other people’s lives in some way.

  8. I had a long discussion the other day about the long term effects of the practitioners in the industry of social care,Do social workers and the commissioners develop mental health problems or sociopathic behaviors after a number of years of practice ? Deceiving so many people many who are vulnerable must have a negative effect . ”Although hypocrisy has been called “the tribute that vice pays to virtue”,[5] and a bit of it certainly greases the wheels of social exchange, it may also corrode the well-being of those people who continually make or are forced to make use of it.” As Boris Pasternak has Yurii say in Doctor Zhivago, “Your health is bound to be affected if, day after day, you say the opposite of what you feel, if you grovel before what you dislike… Our nervous system isn’t just fiction, it’s part of our physical body, and it can’t be forever violated with impunity.”
    Has Social care morphed into a corporate monster ? Corporate Persons Are Diagnostically Sociopathic.

  9. Weary Mother permalink

    Weary mother

    I so agree with all these comments.

    In the ‘good’ old days where reviews and assessments were done by any one in the multidisciplinary team, we used to always win on our bet that if the art therapist did the assessment the need would be for art therapy, if drama therapist assessed then the assessed need would be for drama therapy, etc etc. Now the assessment is done by an unqualified care assistant and no needs at all are identified……………..

  10. Edna permalink

    The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie — deliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth, persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic. Belief in myths allows the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought. John F. Kennedy 35th president of US 1961-1963 (1917 – 1963)

    The social care world has developed on a mountain of myths allowing a vast number of people to believe what they are doing has some inherent value to those they purport to ‘help’.

    Unfortunately most of the so called professions that have come to dominate the lives of families and persons in need have more opinion based existence. The self importance leaves no room for the discomfort of thought..

  11. Eridanus permalink

    As a disabled person in the US…

    I joke (only slightly) with my doctors that every 6-9 years they change all the names to keep the ‘secret knowledge’. This idea came from years ago, when I was diagnosed with sicca complex. In my mind I was frantic. I have a complex! What kind of complex? How would my life change?

    Sicca complex means I have dry eyes and mouth. Really!?! We needed a name with the word complex attached? You couldn’t just write dry eyes and mouth in my file? You needed to activate my adrenal glands for dry eyes and mouth? Just, REALLY!?!

    Which is why empirical evidence shows me people are defending their jobs with new names to continue their ‘secret knowledge’.

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