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Dear Auntie Betty

October 6, 2013

Dear Auntie Betty

I’ve been a reader of your agony column for many years and feel that your old world wisdom could help me and my friends during this difficult time in the social care world.

I am a 30 year old man with autism. For many years I have attended my local day centre where I have been able to develop my talent for art. I have made many friends there and the centre offered lots of interesting and safe things for us to do. I even met my girlfriend, Sally, there, as Sally is very keen on cooking.

A year ago, the council closed down all the day centres and replaced them with two hubs. One is at the local disused recycling centre and the other at our local swimming baths. Sally and I accessed the hub at the pool. It was a disaster from day one. I tried to set up my easel on the top diving board but was swiftly ejected as it was considered a health and safety risk. Sally, gamely tried to prepare her shepherds pie in the shallow end but unfortunately the mince clogged up the filter system and turned the water brown. For the next six months we were only allowed to sit in the spectators section and watch other people enjoying themselves.

Last month, the hubs were closed down and the council have relocated us to their non building based drop in facility. At Costas. Unfortunately, neither Sally or I like coffee. And the tables are very close together, so there is no room for my easel. We are only allowed to stay in Costas for 15 minutes and then we have to access the community. My umbrella flew away on the first day in the high winds and we both got soaked to the skin.

We cannot afford to buy anoraks as the council charge us each £38.75 per week for providing the drop in service. I am confused as all the council people tell us that it is good to have this new choice and that we are becoming much more independent with the new service they are offering. Sally has got blisters from all the walking the streets that we do.

Have you any suggestions for us?

Yours sincerely


Dear Phillip

Oh what tangled webs these council officials weave. I do not have much experience of local politics, apart from a momentary lapse of judgement in the 1980s when I had a 7 year dalliance with the borough surveyor.

Like you, I cannot abide coffee – I cannot tell the difference between a skinny latte and a chubby mocha. And their biscuits are so tiny. One bite and they’re gone.

My column is founded on good old fashioned common sense and I’ve been racking my brains for a solution to your problem. And by golly, I think I’ve come up with one.

Set up your own hub in the civic centre. Get as many friends from the day centre as you can find and turn up one day en masse. You could set up your easel in the main reception and Sally could use the staff canteen to prepare her meals. You could hold band practice in the housing department and purloin the chief executive’s office for the psychodrama group – the mayor’s outfit should provide lots of therapeutic material.

Get the staff to join in and charge them through the nose for the service you are providing.

Good luck

Auntie Betty (Mrs)


From → Social Care

  1. Brilliantly written……

  2. Meg permalink

    The whole situation is so unfunny Mark. How you retain such a healthy and most acutely and accurately pointed sense of humour amazes me. Keep it up!

  3. Weary Mother permalink

    Thank you Mark
    Hilarious and sadly very true, and close to home.

  4. Sally permalink

    Thanks Mark-very funny and true. Also, a good idea. Why not have a sit in with our adult LD offspring? We could all show up at the civic centre of your choice-media also alerted-and set up some Day Centre activities. At best it will be fun, get good publicity and make a point-and the Mangers would have to explain, hopefully on National TV, what exactly a non building based service is…

    • Weary Mother permalink

      I’m in……..

    • Weary Mother permalink

      Mark and Sally,
      did you see the broadcast on BBC news this morning where rep from Directors of Adult Care appeared to be very complacent indeed about care services. Appeared under stress while she defended the indefensible. I am still shaking with outrage, is that what they really think? She insulted all family carers currently doing their (adult care) job.

      • Sally permalink

        I will look it up-am I strong enough to stand the rage, I ask myself.
        My son has just asked what will happen to him when school is over and I am dead ! .He is frightened.
        I can’t point at any nice building and say he might go there. ..Should i point at the streets? At the general public-like the rude street sweeper who just shouted at him for playing with the conkers? “Maybe these people will talk to you as you wander about one day!
        We are simple people we carers. One bit of unctuous praise thanking us for caring, that’s all we need and we can be flattered into accepting anything!

  5. Weary Mother permalink

    I think this woman (the top bod in Directors of Adult Care) was given the short straw, to defend the indefensible. But she stated that 15 minute calls to disabled people are often OK because family carers are present. Also if people feel their needs are not being met they can ask for a reassessment! I never thought of that. (Sorry, sarcasm, last refuge of the weary!!)

  6. Steph permalink

    Hi Mark, I’ve been following (on the quiet) your blog but now am ‘coming out’ both as an arm’s length carer for my brother with Autism and an ex-social worker – made redundant 2 yrs ago as part of the then economies to the department. I’d worked for them for 25 yrs in a LD team and watched all the changes going on – leaving because I felt I could no longer sanction/ support in practice what I was being asked to do in the name of “Care in the Community”. My job prior to leaving: Carers Support Worker for carers over 60 helping them to plan for that time when they would no longer be around to advocate for their son/daughter; LoL!

    Ironically I joined the local CLDT team back in the ’90’s to help encourage people to feel they could go out in the community for a coffee like everyone else rather than be packed away in a small industrial unit like the rawlplugs they spent days putting into boxes for the princely sum of £3. per week wages!

    I put your link on facebook to remind my ex-colleagues who still work in the dept about where their responsibilities should lie. Sadly everyone is still so frightened for their jobs that they will ‘tow the line’ and try not to think about the knot of disgust that sits in their stomachs re the conflict between personal and departmental values.

    And as for the 15 min Homecare calls – don’t get me started! I could rant all day over that one! Its been going on for a lot longer than just recently publicised – as we all know!

  7. Excellent piece as usual.

    You’re not still paying £38 a week to these charlatans are you?

  8. Brilliant & soooooooooooo true! Laughed & then felt guilty because it ain’t funny anymore.

    Like the idea of setting up Day Centre activities at LA Civic Centres. All Civic Centre groups should then go on exchange visits to each other – a sort of “community integration” activity just so that first & foremost Adult Community Care can get at least one tick in the box for delivering against their commitment. It’s called “independence” or is it “Valuing People Now”? I forget!

    Incidentally, why not start with the swanky new Brent Civic Centre that opened just a couple of months ago. Cost £150m to build (that the borough residents know about anyway!). Oh yes & this was being built during the time of cuts in services which started with LD Day Centre closures. Apparently the building foyer is so massive that they have security guards & receptionists acting as escorts otherwise you would spend the whole day just walking around the foyer. A quite little corner will be great for LD Day Centre activities. How about that?

  9. stop making me laugh and depressing me at the same time never mind according to the latest bbc poll people are happy with recycling improvements and care deeply about potholes

  10. ParentCarer permalink

    When I am feeling down in the dumps I read your blogs as they are so true and you have a knack of making me laugh. I am a mother of two men with learning disabilities and Autism

  11. suzanne coward permalink

    very sad story but cant we access any direct payments for any of the group .We pool our payments and create our own service that we want and hire our own meeting rooms and pay a creative arts teacher.

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