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Logging Unreality

December 17, 2013

Wow. My blog post from Sunday – “Logging Reality” has drawn some fantastic comments, both here and on Facebook and Twitter. It seems like I’m in the minority amongst parents and carers in my actions to rid my house of all the reporting logs, ABC charts and SMART forms. Most parents and carers like to have a record compiled by their support staff, usually in the form of a daily diary. There has also been several comments that see these records as a safeguarding issue – they are seen as protecting the person if things go wrong.

I guess part of my resistance to the logs is the scars of the experience of 2010. I sat in a courtroom in 2011 where one aisle was blocked off by boxes of social care records from Steven’s year in the Unit. Thousands and thousands of pieces of paper and I didn’t recognise my son from any of them. All the recording done at the Unit seemed to serve two purposes. The main one was the gathering of evidence to support the council’s plan that Steven needed to be moved away. As the judge said, there was no analysis of these records – there was no consideration that there might have been a different option to their plan. So, basically the records were contrived to support an agenda. The second purpose is along the same lines. It was to present the Unit in the most favourable light and show they were doing everything they could to “transform” Steven. Small examples, like I’ve quoted before, was the recording of food. I wasn’t allowed to read any of the records whilst Steven was there – some nonsense about breaching other people’s confidentiality. But every now and again when they weren’t looking, I’d sneak a look. “Blimey Steven – you had steak and brocoli for tea last night”. “Not brocoli – threw it in the bin”. So, the records became about showing a false reality of what they wanted to be seen to be doing for Steven. It ran and ran, even after Steven came home. One day, browsing the home logs, the social worker commented: “He’s only eating carrots now. He was eating a much wider variety of vegetables at the unit. Why are you not keeping that up?” See what I mean? And to reply: “But he wasn’t actually eating a wide variety of vegetables – you were dishing them up but he wasn’t eating them” is massively problematic because the subtext to the brocoli is – your records are based on a lie. A little bit too exposing.

But I digress. Steven has just gone swimming and when he gets back, he will give me an overview of the morning. He’ll tell me which cab driver drove him there, which friends he saw at the pool, what drink he had after swimming, and whether he had his “silly or sensible head” on. I don’t think Steven thinks he is giving me a report. I imagine it’s like any other family when one member comes home after time out and likes to talk about what they’ve been up to. Thankfully, Steven has the language to do that, so we can engage in his phenomenological experience of the trip – rather than a second hand, fettered account from someone else.

I found out on Sunday night after posting the blog that the agency are now insisting the support workers file a report after their shift and send it to the agency. That’s fine with me. I don’t have to be part of the process. And the support workers can continue to devote their time with Steven to engaging with him, rather than making notes. I can see though, that in taking the position I am, it causes big ripples amongst the professionals. They want to be seen as doing something – and they are but what they record is the sterile stuff. In taking a stand, I suppose I’m challenging the whole nature of what the professionals see as having “value”. And trying to rid our home of concealing a hidden agenda behind what could be a useful tool. Tomorrow morning, I get a lie-in whilst Steven and his support worker listen to a C90 tape and dance their hearts out. I come downstairs later and they are both dripping with sweat. It’s fabulous and I know that Steven thoroughly enjoys this time. When we used to have the reports, this wonderful moment became condensed into a tick box called “facilitated physical activity”. The heart and soul ripped from one of Steven’s favourite events of his week. We used to have a support worker who wrote the most fabulous reports, one of my favourites being: “Steven oozed with delight as he sang Heartbeat to his friend Dave at the Mencap pool”. A few weeks at the Unit and that was soon knocked out of him.

If I believed that these reports had a single value to our life, then obviously I would encourage them. But as things stand, and because I need to hold on to some semblance of trust, I prefer our life lived rather than recorded.

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From → Social Care

8 Comments
  1. Nichola permalink

    The scourge of the box-ticking mentality compromised the quality of my sister’s life. The agency support workers spent most of the time they were with my sister ‘doing paperwork’. Many of the logs exposed some support workers’ preoccupation with their own feelings and, in some cases were a valuable indicator of that person’s suitability in the job. But on the whole, these were meaningless time-wasting exercises. Meanwhile, the subtle manifestations of my sister’s moods and attempts to communicate were overlooked. Since directly employing three women, whom my sister adores, paperwork is limited to single-line entries in the diary when necessary, such as recording a visit to the GP or late arrival of day services’ minibus. Logs have little to do with safeguarding and more to do with protecting corporate reputation. But the hideous lack of humanity of this system is the greater crime – treating the subject as an entity to be monitored, judged and contained.

    • Weary Mother permalink

      Re recording:
      I commented recently on a ‘one page profile’ on my son; a new innovation by our LA.
      The one page profile described him, at best, as someone who if you patted him on the head he would have licked your hand. He is a very wise many faceted man who has been in the social care system for over 40 years, who has Down’s. The unsmiling photograph; a fuzzy black and white from neck up, made him look like a workhouse inmate just as likely as not to bite you in the leg. The narrative on him was in most areas years out of date and in others, just plain wrong.

      This ‘one page profile’, is on his record to help ”new staff who have no experience of working with people with learning disability’, to ”know” the client.

      Heaven help us all.

  2. Eileen Grace permalink

    HI Mark – nothing wrong with logs, as long as they’re truthful and the “logger” is trained to recognise what’s important to record. Understand you don’t want to build up a load of files at home. Understand the company needs to have their logs so they not only have a record but hopefully a useful one which will be helpful to Steven. Are you comfortable about not knowing what’s written down or do you have regular opportunities to discuss things with his team and agree/disagree? And. of course, merry xmas to you both in your new home.

  3. Hi my daughter’s carers make reports about everything she does from personal care to bowel movements feeding, drinking it is a massive invasion on her and our life’s when we are with her doing things with her they don’t record the good things we do in fact its like we are having nothing to do with her. Although i see these reports are a big intrusion on our life’s i know they are important in case there are any safeguarding issues god forbid anything happens to her these records would be used in court by the police. The carers have been told that i will not let their paper work come before the care of my daughter.

  4. Beth permalink

    I loved both blog pieces for the reaosn you say, all too often people get stuck in blandness rather than vibrancy. Outcomes not Outputs – reports could be a photo, stuck to a sheet of paper along with a ticket stub and a quote from steven. it doesnt have to be this way, and it is because “we” parents, people like me who doesnt have an learning disability but does have social care allow it and so do they.

    My daily care log – 3 half hour visists to help me shower and get dressed say hel,ped with shower, dried hairl, helped to get dressed had a chat. never varies. no mention of what we chat about, or what I chose to wear and why or whether we laughed or shared a story nothing just blandness..how exactly is this an outcome other than I was clean.

    its vital to challnege and ask why, can we do it a different way – i loathe we do it this way because we always have..well if we as a human race only ever did that we would still live in a cave eating raw fish.

  5. Sally permalink

    I also agreed with your post. The recording was absurd. It was intrusive and intimidating-where exactly does a worker get off in reproving you about Steven’s veg input? Did you ask for this sort of guidance??? How belittling! You were being asked to log a huge number of aspects of Steven’s life, and the workers ditto, until you and he were more logged than living! It all seemed a bit of a revenge situation.

    I too have had workers reading logs unasked, and passing reproving comments. Unless you have an agreement that this is an area you need help with, its none of their damn business. How would they like it if you marched into their houses, peered into their fridge and tutted about their veg input, at any time on any day, forever?

    Its absurd when workers are filling out logs rather than interacting with the man in front of them and you are right to ask that they fill out whatever they like at the office instead. If there are concerns that the logs are accurate-that the workers did do what they say or did stay as long as claimed-you could always offer to go in once a month or whatever and read them over.

    It is absurd when you are asked to keep piles of paperwork which are a storage problem, logging multiple aspects of your lives. You are not paid to do this. (they are). You have a right to a life. Exactly how much time a day is it considered reasonable to expect a parent to fill out forms?

    I was using some of my direct payments for a special needs sitter to walk my child home and play with him for an hour while I cooked tea. My account of this was brandished at me. Mrs X could only be paid to play at home not walk him back-unless I logged what sort of games they played walking home (15 minutes) to justify the DP being spent that way. I felt terrible, frightened and as if I’d been caught out in some sort of fraud. Dutifully I logged the games they played walking home and was munificently allowed to keep spending the DP like that. When I remember being lectured about this by a patronising 20 year old I am so angry I can barely type.

    I think logs should only be used with a clear purpose for clearly defined things, with a mutual agreement. It should be totally clear why this is being done and how the info will be used, and who is entitled to read and pass comment on the info.Even if a parent is really struggling and needs guidance-and this could happen for any parent-there should be that agreement.

    You hold firm with them,Mark!

  6. Kay permalink

    The recent study on how another form of documentation – photography – can impair attention and cognition in the moment and thus impair later memory, tends to support Mark’s principles on data logging:

    “When people rely on technology to remember for them… ..it can have a negative impact on how well they remember their experiences… …Research has suggested that the sheer volume and lack of organization of (documentation) for personal memories discourages many people from accessing and reminiscing about them, In order to remember, we have to access and interact with the (documents), rather than just amass them.”

  7. Andrea permalink

    I have read both of the last two posts about the records and your words strike a chord deep within me. My daughter has a file a mile long and much of it is the opinions, thoroughly censored, of professionals who have spent very little real time with her. It is annoying and frustrating when those pieces of paper are given more value than my pleas for support and services for a child who is really not very well in the recesses of her mind. I won’t even get started on the lack of resources available to her in the first place.

    I admire your decision and you ability to make clear the positive benefit it is having for you and for Steven.

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