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Logging Reality

December 15, 2013

Several months ago I made the big decision that I was not going to allow any more logs to be compiled or kept in our house. You may remember that the social care team and positive behaviour team wanted us to keep records of everything – what Steven ate each meal, what he got up to during the day, what he talked about, and their biggest interest was in recording every aspect of Steven’s behaviour. I had four lever arch folders of logs, written over an 18 month period and nobody ever seem interested in the content of them. It was recording for recording sake. When I took them to meetings, the only outcome was that we should even more logs – they cry always being that the logs didn’t contain enough information for the professionals to carry out any analysis. Analysis of what? Why?

I snapped one day. I read the log and saw the following entry: “Steven enjoyed good interaction with his father, with plenty of communication”. We’d been watching a 1993 episode of Gladiators. Lots for Steven to talk about. I can tease him about his crush on Jet. He’s made up a whole back story to the bit where Wolfman removes one of the contenders shorts whilst doing Hang Tough. He likes to discuss why Fash is wearing his blue jacket today and not his yellow one (“Got a bit of jam spilled on it”). And every order John Anderson barks out, he expects me to repeat. But the coldness and lack of detail of the report pissed me off. Even more so, was the judgement phrase “good interaction”. Petty perhaps but in that moment, we said goodbye to logs.

In the last couple of weeks, the professionals have started to wobble about the absence of logs. The social worker came to do her FACS assessment. She asked for a “quick look at the logs”. I reminded her that we didn’t keep them anymore, so she asked about “incidents” recently. I told her (truthfully) that we’ve only had 1 one “incident” of Steven hitting out in the past seven months. She asked for details and meticulously wrote down chapter and verse. I asked her why she hadn’t recorded the fact there had only been a single incident (especially considering, 3 years ao, the Unit were recording 10 per week). A couple of days after this, the support agency were inspected by the CQC. The inspector phoned me for feedback and the one thing he seemed bothered about was the lack of recording. I told him that I didn’t object to staff reporting their day, I didn’t want them to do it in my home and keep the records there – if they wanted to file a report after their shift and keep it in the agency’s office, that is fine by me. The inspector was thrown by this and we had a discussion about the use of these records and do they add anything at all to Steven’s life. The inspection (that produced a good report) has rattled the support agency and they have been putting some pressure on me to reintroduce the logs. I’m resisting. This has got through to the staff and they keep asking me when I plan to start them up again, even the direct payment worker, who has got nothing to do with the agency. But I’m going to hold firm. For a good reason.

There might actually be a link between the stopping of the logs and the fact that we’ve only had 1 “incident” in seven months – the timings fit. Just perhaps, because the staff are spending less time recording, they’ve got more time to actually engage with Steven. The other morning, I went downstairs and Steven and the support worker were at the dining table eating their Frosties and porridge. Steven was educating the support worker about the career of Aled Jones, from Walking In The Air through to Daybreak. It was a lovely moment. A few months back, that wouldn’t have happened. Steven would have been sat on the sofa eating his Frosties, whilst the support worker would have been sat at the table, writing that Steven was eating Frosties. A small moment perhaps, but it strikes me as significant.

In the process of logging reality, you end up creating a different reality. An unhealthy detatchment sets in, both in the language and in the relational. It feels much more beneficial to have Steven, I and the support staff, living a reality that we might share, rather than removing oneself from the reality to report it in a sterile fashion. It’s a weird irony, that in recording a person’s reality this way, you end up taking all the reality out of their experience. Surely it is far better to have people really engage with Steven and actively take part in his life, rather than be a bystander who observes, judges and records. I guess the social care world is slightly frightened of authentic engagement – it starts to make the learning disabled person human and that would never do.


From → Social Care

  1. Amanda permalink

    This says it all in your latest blog: ‘…Because the staff are spending less time recording, they’ve got more time to actually engage with Steven…’ That line should be they key part of compulsory carer training

  2. You have beautifully illustrated something that drove me wild when my little two were at pre-school. The staff were so busy recording what the children were doing that they didn’t have time to interact with the children.
    It’s endemic in education (all in the name of accountability) and it’s sad to read that it is present in social care too. What will happen when the two are linked more closely together, I wonder?
    Thank you for sharing.

  3. Weary Mother permalink

    Just in case

    Spot on as always Mark

    I know that we all know that the writing about us and ours puts us through a power filter. It transforms us to suit. The writers down, always the more powerful, diminish us or inflate us; they invent every aspect of us and our lives.

    My son knows this. I know this. It changes us and makes it makes us the grinning grateful for every small thing, performing as required. Just… in case,….. ‘they’ ………..write us down.

    The filterers invent us into; the over protective ‘us’, the backward thinker ‘us’, the know it all ( the ‘who do they think they are, the clever dick)’ us, the always critical so watch them ‘us’; the nasty complainer ‘us’ or the always happy chappy/always angry dangerous and out of control….’us’.

    Even when we (the written about) know we are getting a pretty mediocre service, or we are being just being talked down to yet again as though being seen from a long way off, we just grin gratefully …offer the cup of tea……smiley face…. ”lovely day” ..
    ………………………just in case?

    Till we cannot do this, be this, any more…….and we are written down.
    Another ‘us’, for always………………. just in case.

  4. anonymous permalink

    All this family life invasion, and scrutiny for a Care Package.

  5. Liz. permalink

    And who are these people, who know better than “us”? Do they have a sterling record of getting it right? Is there an exact science out there, with all the answers?

    And it isn’t about getting a Care Package. It is, indeed, about power, Those who need it, whether from inclination or training. The only way they can have it is to take it from us.

    None of us are perfect. We would all be grateful for real help and guidance in a really hard job. But “the help that is no help” , the abuse of power, the false certainties, the latest untried theory – we all end up weary and embattled.

  6. Sally permalink

    I’m grudgingly all for recording when there’s a purpose, an aim and a time limit.Its meant to how to understand behavior and to figure out the best help-or to record how helpers are helping and how they’re doing their jobs, but! Hang on…am I meant to be doing this? Mark you are right as ever-if they’re so keen on it, they do it. In their own time. At their workplace.

    Dumping endless recording with no clear purpose and no end on parents is surely about a lack of staff. Usually staff record. Parents are now being asked to run their homes like clinics because there are no clinicians doing anything, so we have insane pointless recording, recording with no point and no end, recording with no purpose. What exactly is meant to happen to the mountains of paperwork Mark has filled in?

    Its also a way of intimidating us.Dare to complain about lack of help, get accused of not doing your sheets….and Weary Mother, you’re right, we SMILE because we are frightened.That sounds too dramatic, but i think the fear is realistic.

    Its also a result of the closure of services. The workers helping our children are no longer at a day centre and are not monitored well-result, the supervision is meant to happen in our homes by us.rather than by a manager
    I am staring at a letter from a challenging behavior clinic. Lots of blank monitoring sheets enclosed.The help they suggest is along the lines that I record my son doing ABC every day and put strategies DEF in place-then record the results. At the clinic I was finally brave enough to say ” I want you to do something, I don’t just want monitoring and advice sheets, I have box files of them”
    This is what has turned up!

  7. Sally permalink

    Its just occurred to me that the mountains of recording we are expected to do is us being made to prop up service closures, and appalling, inadequate new deals for the disabled.. The endless recording is mean to give the impression:
    That workers are just as well trained and supervised in “non building based day services” (They aren’t.)
    That behavioral problems can be just as well addressed with minimal actual clinical help (They can’t)
    That client safety and well being are just as good outside a day centre.(They’re not)
    That services haven’t vanished-and here is the paperwork to prove a service exists! (They have.)
    That parents have a close working relationship with services, and feel a real sense of partnership as they move to the happy level of independence, that is, being assistance free! (We don’t)
    That services are doing something helpful. (They aren’t)
    That parents are delighted to do the admin and monitoring which was previously done by paid staff in proper settings. (We aren’t!)
    I really don’t want to be made to prop up this farce.

  8. Kay permalink

    “I may be old and unemployed, but I am not yet reduced to being administered totally from above, like a worthy but derelict sundial” – Gideon Somerville (Dorothy Dunnett)

    • Pauline Thomas permalink

      What we are now called, wait for it, is ‘experts by experience’. Which really means we are more likely to be abandoned by the authorities because apparently we can mange on our own.

      • Pauline Thomas permalink

        I should have written ‘manage’ but the word ‘mange’ best describes how I feel after a long day caring.

  9. The problem with communication between people is that it so nuanced. It can’t be standardised, and to measure or assess its quality is probably impossible to do. The system is geared up to be endlessly checking that things are being done ‘right’ but the result of that is that only the measurable things are included in the list of standards, leaving out one of the most important aspects of good quality support.

    I’m tempted to suggest keep a log for a week which records every time the staff are connecting with Steven where they used to be writing log entries!

  10. Kay permalink

    Pauline, rofl, when did you get into my house to borrow my shoes?

  11. Kay – you have mange in your shoes? Has your airing cupboard packed up? Does your damp course need seeing to? I think we should be told…….

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