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All Aboard A New Reablement Journey

September 15, 2013

Last week, in Learning Disability Today, a new scheme was launched – “A New Reablement Journey”. (You can read more about it here –

The broad ideas of the scheme sound fabulous and the writer, Ruth Gorman’s enthusiasm for the scheme is definitely infectious. My fear is what will happen to these interesting ideas when they land on Planet Social Care and into the hands of the LA’s efficiency savings brigade. Will it go the same way as most of the other big ideas and get presented as one thing, whilst hiding the real agenda – cutting budgets.

I fear that the writer may have opened the door to potential misappropriation by the language used in the launch (“Oh no, here he goes again. That Neary has always got something or other about language”). It’s frustratingly vague. I’m not even sure if “reablement” is a real word – it comes up as a spelling mistake when I proofread this post”. Is “reablement” from the same family as “enablement” and “empowerment”? And whats with the “re”? Did I have once have ablement, lost it, and have now got it back it again? Do I reable myself? Does someone reable me? I don’t know. And is it just me, but I get a bit cringey at “journeys” – it smacks of Denise Van Outen on Strictly Come Dancing.

When I’ve written about the language of Planet Social Care, some commentators have just picked up on my irritation of jargon. But that’s only a minor point. My main beef is the disguise of the language, or rather what is being disguised by the language. Surely, the best operating principle is that the clearer the language, the less chance it has of being hijacked.

All professions have their own language. I work on Planet Counselling and the climatic conditions there are foggy with terms like: counter transference, unconditional positive regard and locus of evaluation. I like reading other counsellor’s websites to see how they describe their services – “I will accompany you with my empathy as you experience the emptiness and despair of your void”. If I was a client, I’d run a mile from that – “You’re not coming anywhere near my void, thank you very much”. I have never used that langauge with a client, or if I did, I’d make sure they had a short tutorial first on what it meant. “You know your problem Bob – you’ve got a rigid external locus of evaluation”. Bob would think I’ve gone mad. In my professional world the language can be about power but I seldom find that it is used to conceal another agenda. I only ever really come across that in the social care world.

So, good luck to the New Reablement Journey. I really hope it succeeds.

I just wish it had a better name, that’s all.

Update 15.56pm on 15th September

Here is the link to the full New Reablement Journey implementation plan –

I’m getting more and more cross, the more I read. Have I got this right? – it’s another layer in the assessment process! LAs will contract out this reablement implementation to an organisation, who take charge of setting up the person’s “journey”. It talks about a more “richer, natural” service but surely it will mean that money will be siphoned off the money available to the service user (as they will be encouraged to use more natural resources other than paid support). That money will then be free to go to the organisation setting up the journey.

Could someone get to the end of this document (I had to have a lie down after “harvesting” and please tell me I’ve got the wrong end of the stick.


From → Social Care

  1. It does have a better name: ‘Life’

  2. Weary Mother permalink

    I have been told that my son is about to be renabled. What are they going to do to him? Who will do it to him and will it hurt?

    • Keep repeating my tip from the Carespeak book – “What exactly do you mean?” and don’t stop asking the same question until you get an understandable reply

    • Weary Mother permalink

      In the eighties I attended a conference where a talking head strutted the room jeering at elderly parents who’s ‘docile’ middle aged (Downs) children ‘wore ankle socks and clutched teddy bears’. These were the same parents whose children had been the subject of fear and ridicule all their childhood; children who were put outside of education, support and respect by every one outside their families. These parents were also placed outside communities and they did it all, ALONE. Educated professional people without a clue of how these parents had struggled for decades, jeered at them in public. Shame on them. This was the era of hospital closures and ‘community care’. A time when new services, and jobs for social workers and managers mushroomed with new money from the sale of hospital sites. It was bonanza time, a new era…of ‘independence’ etc etc’ for people with learning disability. We parents of young learning disabled people believed in it and were enthused and worked so hard to make it all happen. Then the money got spent and every thing gradually closed down. The public services soon discovered that many learning disabled people needed more support than evangelism alone could provide. More was needed and it cost more than just tipping people into the community to learn ‘independence’, by osmosis So came the solution: a social ‘care’ world of new words, words that describe nothing at all. New careers built of words. Over these past years diminishing care has been called all sorts of new things, renablement just one of the most recent. This clutter of empty words has left many learning disabled people more handicapped than helped; disabled rather than reabled It is more than silly to believe that just by inventing a new concept, and by calling it something new ( gobbledygook would be more honest and just as useful) people will suddenly spring renewed into happy independence. Reablement is yet another word for nothing at all, …….. For the king is absolutely naked!!!

      • I agree with all you are saying and also along with all this goes increased powers for social services ending up with people being moved from home, DOLs etc.

      • Sally permalink

        Brilliant. You are so right.There was no thought about the funds running out. I was conned too. The parents who did it alone-like the woman who wrote “She’ll never do anything, dear” about her struggle to find help for her daughter with Downs-deserved medals and praise. They got ignorant scorn.
        Could just one of these con artists define “reenablement”? And explain how people with LD/Autism are to be made independent, goal setting, social network building, non vulnerable, non service needing under this magical process? Have they found the cure to LD? We should be told!

  3. duncfmac permalink

    I really worry that concepts like this are born from chance conversations and then rolled out. The piece by Ruth Gorman is dripping in jargon language – so much so that I thought it might have been you Mark giving an example of the problems with this type of terminology! This is another one of those cover cutbacks with a laudable idea initiatives. These ideas should be empirically examined by impartial experts in social care before being implemented. At its core this is about getting clients to be as independent as possible then withdrawing care services. This worries me not least because people have good and bad days, but mainly because my experience here is that care workers are under pressure to make progress and that often leads to unrealistically positive assessments that make them look good and please their managers.

  4. Liz. permalink

    I am afraid I read this article with a very jaundiced eye. It may be well intentioned; it might even be a wonderful concept in abstract, idealistic terms. But it just seemed to me to be a re-branding of the old “Independence Training”. What you are struggling with in your attempts to translate is the gap between the signifier and the signified! “Independence” is a very good word – which I dare not utter around my daughter, because she has a more accurate understanding of what it means in reality. Benign neglect at best, and an excuse for cutting back on expensive support workers.

  5. david permalink

    Word invention and jargon is the first refuge of the scoundrel peddling lies and snake oil. Snake oil salesmen hide behind it and use fancy sounding terms to con people out of their money and give them something worthless. I’m not saying that this is the case here, but certainly my BS meter has been activated.

  6. Nichola permalink

    Ruth Gorman’s vision of “richer, natural and more sustainable support networks and community connections” as “an alternative to paid support” is nothing new. Let’s see this miserable piece of double-speak for what it is: another dispiriting promotion of an unrealistic ideal that attempts to absolve the state of its duty to ensure the well-being of people with LD. Properly trained support workers and a pared back management is what is needed. People who work in the industry should be professionalised. Learning disabled people should not be at the mercy of ad hoc “natural” systems and the scrapings from the job Centre barrel.

    • Oh crikey Nichola – I missed that bit about “an alternative to paid support”. This must be a 2013 version of “circles of support”. The use of the word “richer” is classic – inadvertently reveals the whole intention

  7. Liz. permalink

    Did you miss the cost, as well? £30,000. But you get lots of wall charts, progress sheets and weekly meetings for that. I do like the idea of all this person centred planning. Who wouldn’t? But the clients better want what is available, because there isn’t any money to do it properly or deal with the real barriers.

  8. Sally permalink

    I have read the document and it is a pile of jargon-but new jargon so it must be good, of the type I have see 1000 times working in the NHS for 14 years.
    Such schemes are put in front of managers and execs who fall madly in love with them-they sound important, they will be cheap, they take responsibility from us,they come with lovely designs of trees/rivers etc-lets go for it! They are promoted by either non front line workers-or ex front line workers who have sold their souls to rise in management and make a mint flogging schemes.
    People who actually have to deliver or live with the consequences are then brushed aside or seen as negative-you aren’t embracing the journey of your clients etc etc .

    What it comes down to is the more new words and overworked metaphors used the more a service is abdicating responsibility.

    Mark you are right that all services have their own language, but the point of all such language is that it describes actual concepts as clearly as possible. If someone asks: “what does so and so actually mean?”, they will get a clear answer, whether its in medicine, car mechanics or bread making.
    A year or so ago my NAS group had a worker come out promoting the “circle of support”. The bright eyed promoter of this service used jargon without the faintest idea of meaning and was unable to define any of his terms, or explain why he was using words not actually in Engilish. And yes, the vital questions were dodged until we all felt like Paxman trying to get an answer out of Michael Howard. Who will call the support meetings? Who is responsible for checking that they have happened? What will autistic people who don’t have friends do? This group is vulnerable to exploitation by pretend friends-who will check the friends? If someone can’t use this what then? (“there will be social workers. Are there the funds for any? No. Any plans to secure this? No.)

    Most vitally and never made clear-what will this scheme or any such scheme replace???? Whatever nice sounding tosh comes out it will be about replacing an existing service with something which costs less and which is far less the responsibility of the tosh promoters. If an existing service isn’t being closed now-wait.

  9. Sally permalink

    Sorry to go on, but I’m furious!
    A couple of questions arising from this most annoying document.
    What is “natural support” (as opposed to-?). The word natural is thrown about. Its meaningless.

    What is “social capital?”-we are! The more “social capital” an adult with LD has the less he/she needs any services under this model.

    Do we realise that under this model an adult with LD is cured-made into a confident independent individual with dreams etc after a very simple 4 week reducing intervention? Your son/ daughter unlikely to be sorted in this way? Too bad.
    This is a model of brief intervention and cure which doesn’t fit the overwhelming majority of adults with LD-if they could be sorted by a 4 week contact it probably would have happened.It has no research worth a damn to back it up.It just doesn’t seem to have been written by anybody who has ever met a person with moderate or severe LD, let alone autism.
    Help! This model mustn’t be allowed to go ahead!

    • Weary Mother permalink


      So many memories come to mind out of this discussion. One, of not so long ago, where a rosy cheeked recently employed something or other (the role titles change) at a carers ‘consultation’ meeting, flitted enthusiastically round the room of weary but respectful 70 and eighty year old parents. All still caring for their adult learning disabled sons and daughters at home, (Many of whom have very recently lost all day care/support.) ”I have come to tell you about ‘caring in the community”…her young eyes shining brightly!

      • Sally permalink

        That made me laugh-tiredly! They should have thrown the biscuits at her.
        I remember a palpitating young thing admitting that our excellent LD drop in centre ( place for lots of jolly activities, companionship, outings, services) was to be closed for good, rather than “temporarily closed to redecorate” as various council weasels had claimed. .Ah, she said to the older parents, you could all pool your direct payments -and set up a place yourselves! (That is: find, rent, staff, insure, manage a site. On pennies. In your 80s.)
        Why, you can use the direct payments for heaps of exciting things-shopping! And, ha ha, one chap went scuba diving with his!” Her ignorance of the actual abilities of people with LD would have been funny if it wasn’t so pitiful. And the elderly parents were polite, as they had always been. Looking back, we should have hurled things at her, staged protests for as much media attention as we could get-anything apart from polite objection, which we knew would be ignored or repackaged as failure to appreciate the wonders of the new system.

  10. duncfmac permalink

    Sally just wanted to say you have completely nailed this for me- spot on. My son is only 7 but I am so worried about the future for him and so bogged down with his care etc I can only concentrate on the here and now. This is one of the reasons I so like Mark’s blog and so despair of the way our society is going!

    • Sally permalink

      Thanks. My son is 9..I’d say the burden is about 10% living with the condition and 90% terror about his future.If there were good services for him later, that 90% would be lifted. Its so had just caring for them to have any energy left over to write complaining letters, pursue services, keep an eye on what’s being taken away for the older ones..I love Marks blog too.

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