That Risky Ol’ LBBill
Yesterday, I was remembering on Twitter the boxloads of risk assessments Steven had drawn up during his time in the Unit. Every activity, inside and outside the house was risk assessed. Every human contact he had was risk assessed. Every place he visited was risk assessed. And the upshot of 1000s of risk assessments was that he was permitted to do very little. Look hard enough and you can find a risk in everything.
The risks were assessed using a phenomenal system. One part of the assessment looked at “possibility” and was rated from “highly likely” to “unlikely” (Note there was no room for “not at all”). The second part looked at ” outcome” and was rated from “intolerable” to “mild”. The real outcome for Steven was that he was prevented from doing mostly everything even when the score was ” unlikely” and “mild”. I guess if you’re that terrified, then even unlikely means it could happen. In a month of Sundays.
Just a reminder before I go on that we’re talking human beings here.
One of Steven’s things since he was little is to smell my hair. He used to do it with other people but since early teenage he just does it with me. I’ve never really seen it as a sign of affection but it is a sign of human contact. I’ve never had a problem with it but it was an ” activity” that was risk assessed and rated “likely” and “serious”. So subsequently had to stop.
Learning disabled people aren’t allowed to develop and mature in the risk assessment world, so if you did something at 8 that was scored intolerable, you’re stuck with that for the rest of your life. When I was 13, I went through a short lived phase of lighting my own farts. Possibly an ” intolerable” score. But I haven’t done it for 40 years and have no intention of doing it again. I’ve matured. My rating could safely be adjusted. Steven kicked a dog when he was 9 but 16 years on dogs are still considered “vulnerable” to a repeat “serious, likely” attack.
The fabulous Rob Mitchell replied to my tweets suggesting that riskassessments are not about the risk but about worry and helping the worrier. I agree. Its about liability. Give someone a plastic plate instead of a China one in case they throw it. Make someone sit in the dining room with a 12″ portable TV instead of the communal lounge with its 42″ plasma in case of? I’ve no idea. Risk assess learning disabled people in the same way that you might risk assess a dangerous dog or a faulty aeroplane and you either put them down or take them out of action.
I was mulling all this over yesterday as I was in a meeting to discuss draft two of LBBill. Lots of hope and energy about people being able to chose where, with whom and how they live their life. I love how we’ve got rid of terms like residential home, ATU, supported living and just talk about a person’s home. But then I think about the risk/liability stuff and wonder if that is one of the reasons why those places are still so popular. In risk terms they rate lower than someone living in their own home. Sure, some people die in State settings. Some mouthy family members talk about how dreadful they are. But for the most part, people are silenced. Nobody hears or knows what goes on there, so the risk of public exposure and liability is curtailed. The people living there have been put down or taken out of action.
When you’re not seen as human, normal life rules don’t apply. The State wouldn’t be accountable if I lit one of my farts and blew up W H Smiths but it would if I was an autistic man and I exploded my own home. Life in an ATU doesn’t stop risk – it just creates new ones. It doesn’t even really contain things. But what it does very successfully is hide things. Invisible lives don’t matter. They don’t count. The LBBill is going to be so bloody annoying because it has a polar position to the current thinking. Bloody hell – its saying that a learning disabled person has a right to live a risky, messy life. The bounders.
From → Social Care