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A Proliferation of Partnerships

May 14, 2014

On the day that Private Eye ran the stories that G4S has been awarded the Help To Work contract by the DWP and Barnet council has handed the running of its cemeteries to Capita, my two stories will seem rather small fry. How can I compete with Capita’s statement that “processing of the deceased” is an “opportunity pipeline”. But I’ll try because today I’ve encountered two frustrating examples of that most modern of modern ways of doing things – partnership working.

Yesterday, small drops of water started coming through my bedroom ceiling. A wet patch started to spread with alarming speed across the ceiling. The Housing Association were on to it like a shot and within two hours, a bloke from the maintenance company they’ve contracted to do their maintenance work (working in partnership with drips?)was up in my loft. Not good news – there is a hole in the roof. And neither party in this partnership deal with rooves. That is down to the owner of the property. Hold it right there. The housing association aren’t the owners? No. This is how it works. The council has a duty to house Steven and he joined the council waiting list. Unfortunately, the council doesn’t have the housing stock for its homeless residents. So, the council sets up a partnership with a housing association who do have a housing stock. We move in. Then today, we discover a third party in the partnership deal – the owner of the house we’re living in. (I don’t know if Steven counts as a fourth party in the partnership as he’s the tenant. I suspect not – he’s not important enough. All I want to know is, out of this holy trinity, who is responsible for roof repairs? One of the great bonuses of partnership working is that it becomes nigh impossible for those on the receiving end of the service, to find out where the responsibility for anything lies. Public services have become like convoluted private equity firms, where tracing ownership is impossible. It works a treat.

Later, I had to go into Uxbridge to pay the direct payment tax bill(another of the joys of personalization). Sitting outside Gregg’s was an example of Hillingdon’s non building based drop in services. Half a dozen service users crammed around one table. Two staff from the agency contracted to facilitate outreach services, were spread out on an adjoining table. A third worker was plugged into a fascinating text exchange by the scones. I stood there for ten minutes and not a single second of engagement took place. One guy spent the whole time trying to unwrap a sandwich. Another guy was caked in jam from several doughnuts.I remember the announcement in my carer’s newsletters about the exciting possibilities this partnership between the council and the agency would bring for the service user. I’m sure that the agency are quids in and the council has managed to rid itself of another pesky service that it has a statutory duty to provide. I can’t for the life of me see what is exciting for the service user in this modern way of working.

Coming home I saw a poster advertising a “carer’s fair” next month. It is being run by several local charities in partnership with the council. On similar lines I’ve got the review of the personal budget next week and one of the people attending is from a local disability charity, who are in partnership with the council to provide “personal budget support”. Its a massive win win for the council – they get shot of a job they don’t want to do (provide support for the recipients of their personalization scheme) whilst getting the charities well and truly in their pockets. As I learned in 2010, even though these charities exist to support the disabled and their carers, they can’t actually do that for fear of upsetting their paymasters.

A final gripe – I don’t like the phrase ” working in partnership with families”. That’s not how its meant to work. In public service, you’re meant to serve. That is the deal of that partnership.


From → Social Care

  1. Weary Mother permalink

    I have difficulty with this partnership idea too. Partnership – in whose eyes?

    What we get in reality is pretty like a ‘Victorian’ marriage – eg totally unequal in every sense. The other half has all the power; the bank account and the house and even has full rights over the children. An arranged and imposed ‘relationship’ where in reality we can get nothing at all, and can have to beg for respect, and if they so decide our ‘Partner’ can take our children and put them in a very very bad place (Shades of Dickens, Mr Squeers, Oliver Twist etc etc etc ………………?) .

    Every time I meet my ‘Partner'(s) however smiley, I get a very sick feeling and feel very, very afraid….. when I dare to ask for more?

    No divorce? Not allowed, and the seemingly good guy (charities) in reality are bed with my ‘Partner’……….

    Must be a book in this somewhere?

  2. Sally permalink

    I am boiling with rage about the forlorn group you saw at Greggs.I seldom see any interaction or care taking place either. And why should ddisabled people people mill about on the footpath or squash into little tables?
    You are so right. Partnership is an odious word. It is meant to play to our vanity (“Gosh, I have been promoted!”) but of course shifts responsibility. Suddenly a task is the parent’s as well as the service’s.
    “Partnership” is meant to play to our wish to be consulted. No. It is just a work and responsibility dump.Read that word, know that most of what happens next will be down to you.
    I too am getting coy little letters from a local charity offering (and offering ) personal budgets support.They will explain the set up and help parents sign up. Clearly the only reason parents don’t leap at this is because they don’t understand how great it is. They know many local parents don’t want the budgets and also know we want our Day Centre back.I hate seeing a respresentative form the charity simpering next to the council at meetings about this, any objections waved aside.
    Weary Mother, Have you seen “Gaslight”?Not only are we all in a VIctorian marriage in a meaningless powerless role, not only is our spouse up to no good with the maid but there’s nasty work afoot!

  3. Weary Mother permalink

    Yes Sally I have seen it. The analogy of the power mad scary ‘maid’ is a good one.

    The care world that I have lived in for over 70 years , is an upside down world of the subordinate and the subordinated. The people who should serve our children, for they and we pay their wages, too often dominate us consciously or unconsciously. We/our children are the people who should define and measure and set the standard of what is a ‘partner and or partnership? We should have this by right – as the customers – and we pay them twice through local and National taxes. Often three times with our top up. Yet, watch the look on care professionals face if we call ourselves or others like us, customers. We are ‘clients’ and ‘patients’ (people who are done to and who wait patiently). Libraries of SW etc books discuss what we should be called, and I am still to see one not full of disgust at the ‘customer’ word.

    Sadly too many talk, train, write about and profess to do differently, and they don’t. They just talk about it. But are probably are unaware?

    It seems this status distance is inoculated in and strengthens with contact with the similarly inoculated. Such a pity. and a real loss to see when a ‘good’ new professional for example, begins to show all the subordinating symptoms.

    Yet my son’s current support worker could not be different. He has had no professional conditioning; he used to be in the building trade,and he likes and respects my son, He listens to me, him jokes with my son – knows him and treats him like his friend/ mate…all for his six quid etc an hour and no benefits….. He is a down to earth real person….and a real partner. Hope he stays.

    He would be proud to be called my son’s partner – flattered if I called my son his customer….he would understand and agree with both.

  4. Sally permalink

    He sounds great! Mark is so right-this is about being a service. By all means consult wiht the people you serve, but its for you to provide a clearly defined service.In the same way, I am happy for the dentist to ask me how my teeth are, but I am not a partner and don’t expect to be handed a drill..
    Clearly defined: How many times have I argues and argued to try to find out what a service actually provides rather than supports/signposts me to do myself?

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