Signpost To Nowhere
Here’s one of my new year resolutions. In fact, I am going to start it straightaway. I am going to avoid clicking on any link that leads to me to an article about “what carers want” or “help for carers”.
Once upon a time, carers may have got some practical help. Or they may have had a kind hearted professional just listen to them for half an hour or so. All of that has gone. The modern way, the modern input is for “signposting”. You don’t get a social worker anymore – you get a human sat nav who signposts you directions to destinations that presumably you didn’t know about. Help with running a personal budget? Take the third turning on your left. Want to sign up for a creative writing course? Take the sharp right bend off the High Street. Nobody does anything. Everyone signposts.
Trouble is, the signposts invariably lead to dead ends. Or you find you’ve been giving a map that has no bearing on your journey. You can go along with it, if you fancy trying to navigate Balham high road with a street map of Dieppe. If I’m setting out on a journey I’m unfamiliar with, I’d quite like a navigator with me, or perhaps someone to share the driving. As a carer, I will get neither – I’ll be pointed to some vague point in the far off distance.
Once you’ve been signposted and you think you’ve stumbled across your destination, what awaits you? You’ll probably find someone putting in a lot of energy into establishing whether you are a carer. I don’t understand those articles that appear with depressing regularity – “how to identify if you are a carer”. Don’t people know? I do. Most carers I know, know all to well what their role is. Has anyone turned up at their local health centre for a blood pressure check to be told – “oh, and by the way, I think you’ll find that you’re a carer on the quiet”.
Once it has been established that you are a carer that is pretty much the end of the signposting. You may be told that sleep is important to fulfil your caring role. You may be advised on the value of a good diet to preserve your health – extending your caring longevity. And if you’re signposted to one of the national carers organisations, you may be asked if you fancy knitting something to help other carers. Oh – and you may be told all about an organisation called the Citizens Advice Bureau, who can make sure that you’re getting all you are entitled to. No more carers links for me. I’d rather not ever have to have another carers assessment. They take up two hours of valuable time but unless you enjoy being patronised, they’re not really worth the effort.
I’ve had five carers assessments over the past four years. I may have had more (or less) but they were so uninspiring, I may have merged one with another. One that was slightly different was when I was identified as my wife’s carer, so this one was done by the NHS. The forms were exactly the same as the social care ones but there was a slightly different emphasis on the questions. This may because it was carried out by a mental health worker and she was applying the same tone and manner that she might adopt with one of her patients. There was a lot of time spent establishing my money management – Did I get into debt? Do I buy lots from catalogues?!! Did I shop around for food bargains? It was relentlessly middle class and deeply offensive. Then with a quick change of gear, she moved on to my decision making capacity – Did I have difficulty making choices? It was such an abrupt change of topic that I thought we were still discussing money. By now, I was fed up. “Funny you should ask that. I can’t make up my mind whether to spend my last £50 on paying the gas bill or buying myself a new gimp suit”. She was on the ball, I’ll give her that, because my facetious remark opened the door for her to question me about my sex life. It was horrid – my weak joke was checkmated as she had an inner wank at my expense. When I got the final assessment through, there was no mention of sex – there wasn’t even a section of the form that came anywhere close to the topic. It was the final humiliation.
Every now and again, someone will come along and ask what I’d like in my role as a carer. I was asked yesterday. It was well meant but the truth is, I don’t really have an answer. I know what I don’t want or need to be signposted to but I don’t have any firm ideas on what I’d like instead. Respect? Time? Time off? An acknowledgement that all the signposting in the world leads to shite city? Sometimes to be left alone and not have to engage with the illusion that carers are valued would be a start.
From → Social Care