For thirteen years I worked for a counselling charity. A very small, local charity. I won’t name them in case HMRC are reading. The 25 or so counsellors had to be self employed. We had five counselling rooms, provided rent free by the church who also gave the charity an annual grant. The counsellors received a fixed sessional rate of pay. The tricky bit was what the clients paid us. We had to call it a “donation”. It was drummed into us that we couldn’t use words like ” charge” or “fee” or “payment”. Trouble is that the word ” donation” suggests flexibility and choice. Whatever you donate could vary from one session to another and in fact, you could chose not to donate anything at all. Of course, the reality was nothing like that and as times got harder, we could only accept clients who offered a donation starting from £20.
What’s my work history got to do with anything? Yesterday, the CQC published an inspection report of another care home being given an “inadequate” rating. My eyes were drawn to the report because the home is in Hillingdon. The first shock was that the home was run (owned?) by Mencap. I didn’t know that Mencap run care homes. In fact, they have 130 across the country (that doesn’t include supported living) and have 3 in Hillingdon. The responsible individual for all three local properties is Janine Tregelles. I only mention that because this is the same Janine who regularly teams up with the Challenging Behaviour Foundation to issue a condemning statement whenever a scandal in the social care world breaks. Here’s a flavour:
“Mencap & the Challenging Behaviour Foundation call on the government to urgently address systemic failings in the care of people with learning disabilities” (4.9.2012).
The CQC report makes for dreadful reading. I sat there with tears welling up and a boiling rage. I just want to focus on one of the failings because I think it’s the perfect illustration of the chasm between the presentation and the reality. And sadly, I think it demonstrates the impoverished lives lived by the residents in a place run by a charity that proclaims to be “the voice of learning disability”. The CQC noted that the care plans of the four residents (the service can take up to five people) showed that they needed 2:1 support when they were out and about in the community. The staffing records show that between 7am and 10pm each day, only two staff are on duty. The figures don’t square up. If the two staff on duty took a person out, the other three residents would be left home alone. The ” activity ” records reveal that during May, one resident went out five times. For 26 days in May, he had to stay indoors all day. Another resident went out 7 times, although three of those trips were to do the house shopping. One resident has on their person centred plan that he loves going bowling but a staff member interviewed admitted they can never take him because there aren’t enough staff. It’s just so fucking depressing. I checked the CQC reports of the other two Mencap care homes in the borough and the staffing levels look exactly the same. 15 learning disabled people in three placements (you can’t possibly call the places a home) confined because the country’s “leading learning disability charity are unwilling to adequately staff its services. Needless to say, there were no DoLs authorisations for any of the people in the inadequate Precinct Road care home.
Click on the Mencap website today and you’ll see it is splashing its annual Dodgeball Day (Tickets at £27.50 plus booking fee). What chance have the poor sods who live at Precinct Road got of going to a Dodgeball Day? If they’re very very lucky, one of them might be able to pop out to the newsagent to buy the house milk.
I don’t understand how the business, erm sorry, charity works. Presumably Hillingdon council Commissions Mencap to provide this service. Do they give them a donation? Once commissioned, do they just leave them to get on with it?
In the Mencap accounts, it records an income of £175m and 80 to 90% of that income (donation?) comes from central or local government contracts.
It’s easy to see why Mencap want to cosy up to Bubb and his buildings based plans to get people out of ATUs. More ” donations” to the Mencap coffers, regardless of the type of lives its clients will end up living in a Mencap service. It makes all the press releases from Mencap & CBF ring a bit hollow. Oh, and by the way, Mencap issued a statement about the Precinct Road report. Without the CBF. Harold without Hilda. There were no trumpets. No calls on the government to act. Just a rather grudging Apology with extraordinary language like “Mencap is committed to enabling learning disabled people to live the lives they chose to live.” They chose to live? Doesn’t seem much choice at Precinct Road. It’s bastard, not our fault guv, language. From the leading charity that gives learning disabled people a voice.
Wouldn’t it be great if those four people at Precinct Road had a voice and said: “Hello Mencap. We would all like to live our life as we chose and go to your Dodgeball contest today”.
Words and actions. The void.