I’ve spent the last two days ploughing through the draft copy of Steven’s FACS assessment. It is dispiriting reading. To see this lively young man’s life reduced to a series of scores from 0 to 5 rots the soul. In fact, I don’t recognise his life from the document at all. If it’s meant to be a potted summary of who he is, it fails miserably. But then the whole process of care assessments exist as an entity that has precious little to do with the person being assessed. And waiting in the wings is the knowledge that these 0 to 5 scores will be totalled up and fed into a computer and Steven will change from being a score to a monetary value. From a human being to a score of 276 to a cash sum in two simple steps. It seems to me that these assessments are a con – first and foremost they are an instrument for cutting costs, disguised as a service to the person needing care. Secondly, they are food for the large care industry to justify its existence. Somewhere, way down the pecking order, comes the service user and what the exercise is promoted to be about.
Talking of service users, the next phase of the FACS assessment is to have a “one to one meeting with a support planner to review appropriate services for the service user to access”. Support planner? Que? I’d like to see that job mimed on What’s My Line. Even if we leave the mystery of what a support planner is all about to one side for the time being, we’ve still got the second half of the sentence to wade through and decode. Appropriate services? Are there any? What is a service in the adult social care world of 2013?
At the last meeting of my local parent/carer group, some of the following professionals turned up – “Team manager for adult services”, “Team manager for disability services”, “Category manager for outreach services”, “Service Participation manager”, “Carers services champion”. So many people. So many services? When you get down to the nitty gritty of these meetings, you find alarmingly that there aren’t any real services being offered. The Category manager for outreach services talks proudly of its “partnership working” with organisations with snazzy names like Dimensions and Aspirations but try and pin her down to what these “services” actually consist of and you could cut the awkward atmosphere with a spoon. The minute a services engagement manager is appointed, you just know that services have become disengaged. Is this equation a truism – the more service managers employed = the less services available? If you’re going to have 20 senior services managers, you’re not going to have much money left for actual services.
So what happens is the machine starts to feed on itself even more – more services managers are engaged to reinforce the illusion that services actually exist. At school, I had a rather paranoid football coach – when a free kick was awarded against us, he would have all 10 outfield players lined up in the wall – “Most important thing lads – we’ll block the goal from the buggar’s view”. Social care line up all their services managers in the wall in the hope we can’t see through, above or around it. Trouble is, one toe punt, in the form of an innocent question like “So, what services are you actually offering” and the wall collapses.
The truth is, services packed their bag and left the building a long time ago. I’m a bit old fashioned but I don’t see something that is a statutory duty, like assessing someone’s care needs as a service. It’s a duty. We have to wise up to this. I keep hearing people forlornly hanging about for a service that isn’t going to arrive. Trapped in the illusion. Lets forget the idea of services being provided – the only way is to provide our own services. I’m not talking big jobs here – not necessarily collective action. All the things that Steven does during the week have been found by him, me or his support workers. When he goes to the Arts Centre for his music session, we don’t think about it in terms of availing himself of a service – he’s sorted something he wants to do out for himself. He pays his money and gets on with his business of the day. It’s very liberating because we don’t have to engage with the “services” lie – he can realise his own aspirations without the input of Aspirations.
Wouldn’t it be fabulous if that was something we could all aspire to?