A Quiet Night In
The excellent Mark Harvey has published some fascinating results of a project carried out by Hertfordshire CC. Members of his team did an 8.30pm “swoop” of 21 residential services in the borough to see what is happening. The 21 sites were “home” to 136 residents. This is what they found:
- 17% of people were in bed asleep.
- 21% of people were in bed awake
- Of the remaining 62%, 43% were in their bedclothes and only 19% were still in their daywear.
This doesn’t surprise me but it is deeply shocking. In an age when so much of the social care narrative (spin?) is about “choice” and “independence” and “person centred plans”, these results show that the reality is very different.
I showed the results to two of Steven’s support workers, who have both spent time working in residential placements. They both said that a “night shift” for staff usually starts about 7pm. It used to be later but managers are more and more, offering staff just two shifts – 7am to 7pm & 7pm to 7am. And the latter, “night shift” has far less staff employed than a day shift. It is not uncommon to have just two staff on duty to care for up to 10 residents on a night shift.
The consequence is inevitable. For any resident, whose care plan states they need 2:1 support when they are out and about, they won’t be able to do anything in the evening because it would leave the “home” with no staff to support the remaining residents. One of the guys told me about a man in his 40s that he was supporting who had been a season ticket holder for his local non league team ever since he was 8. It was the most important thing in his life. But for the two years, he had to live in the Unit, he wasn’t allowed to attend a single evening fixture and missed most of the Saturday matches as well. This happened with Steven when he was in the Unit as well. Since Steven was 11, he has gone to the Mencap Pool every Friday evening. There weren’t sufficient staff on duty at that time of evening (5.30pm to 7.30pm), so I was classified as the “second support” and went with him. Of course, I didn’t mind doing this – it was one of the few times during the week we were allowed to see each other, but if I’d been unavailable, that important activity for Steven couldn’t have happened.
I don’t think this is just happening in residential homes. People keep telling me stories about our local “independent supported living scheme”. In theory, each person has their own flat and the opportunity to live their own life. But the truth is from about 7pm, there are only two staff on duty for nine flats, so most, if not all, the residents are packed off to their flats from 7pm until the day shift staff arrive the following morning. It’s a crying shame. These flats are in the perfect area for someone to have a decent social life. There are a couple of pubs within short walking distance. The Arts Centre is about five minutes down the road and they do some fabulous stuff every evening. Stockley Park leisure centre and Uxbridge Football Club are very very close. Sadly, for an independent supported living person, all of these places are off the radar, completely inaccessible. And all because the needs of the service and managers & staff are put before the people for whom the service is meant to be geared. All in all, it’s not a service. It’s a non life.
Steven was totally institutionalised during his year at the Unit and it has been near impossible to reverse that. Although, he can tell the time, Steven tends to map his day by the TV. So, even though he has been home for four years, as soon as Come Dine With Me starts at 5pm, Steven wants to have his tea. Then as the 6 o’clock news starts, he asks the support worker to start running his bath. Then as News At Ten starts, Steven takes himself off to bed. I know that routine is crucially important to Steven to help his anxiety, so I’ve respected this routine. But I’m left feeling sad, that some of the things Steven used to do in the evenings prior to his time in the Unit, don’t ever cross his mind anymore. He used to go to a disco once a month but when he was at the Unit, it was driven by staff availability. Sometimes he couldn’t go at all. On the other occasions, he could go but had to leave early so the staff could get back to provide cover. Now he never mentions the disco.
Time and again, during the discussions about #LBBill, people have said that the place in which someone lives is important but no as important as the kind of life they live wherever they are. Someone may have their own home but if they can’t live a life within their home, what’s the point. Mr Harvey’s report this week demonstrates that all too clearly.
From → Social Care