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Bowling, Breaststroke or Barry Cryer?

August 3, 2015

Lots of old family sayings came to mind this morning as I browsed Twitter. “You could have knocked me down with a feather”. “Well, I’ll go the foot of our stairs”. “I never believe a word that Audrey Brush says. Take a look behind her net curtains and she’s nothing like the woman you see in Platts”.

In fact, that last catchphrase is probably the most apposite for this post. Today, Mencap have launched a new survey to find out why people with learning disabilities don’t go out in the evenings. This is what they say on survey monkey:

“Mencap is interested to hear your thoughts on why people with a learning disability may struggle to have a full and active social life. We would like to hear your thoughts on why this is and how this could be improved”.

This is a week after the CQC found one Mencap’s own residential homes as “inadequate” and amongst its findings was that the four residents hardly left the premises as between 7am and 10pm, only two support staff were employed. As all the residents need 2:1 support when going out, it doesn’t need a statistical genius to see that those residents aren’t going anywhere. Looking at the CQC reports of other Mencap care homes, this staffing ratio seems to be the norm. One of the residents at the “inadequate” home loves bowling but is never allowed to go because the staff aren’t available to go with him.

So it might be a case of putting your own house in order before you launch a national survey. What’s the betting that in a couple of months time when the results are in and collated, Harold & Hilda will call on the government to address this shocking level of understaffing that leads people with LD to lead such impoverished lives. In service provision land, it is not encouraged to take a peek behind Audrey Brush’s curtains.

I’ve written before that we go to the fabulous local Mencap pool twice a week. It is run by a magnificent team of volunteers. In the 12 years we’ve been going there, it is very very rare to see people from care homes attend the pool accompanied by their paid carers. It is ironic that none of the three Mencap care homes in the borough are able to avail themselves of this great Mencap resource because they won’t employ enough staff to enable their residents to go there.

I guess the results of the survey will be pretty obvious. “Yes. We would love to go out more but the home I live in doesn’t have enough staff to support me to get out to places”. I don’t think for one minute this is just down to Mencap care homes. I suspect it’s endemic across the care home sector.

I wonder what spin will be put on the survey outcome to disguise the reality. They might try and do what the ATU did with Steven back in 2010. I got three tickets to go and see Barry Cryer at the Ruislip Comedy Bunker. I thought Steven might enjoy it because Mr Cryer often turns up in dictionary corner in Countdown. Needless to say the bunker was risk assessed and deemed too high a risk to accommodate Steven on a night out. I went with a mate and Steven was prevented hearing Barry’s joke about the perils of eating swan. But, you get my point. In the same way that “clinical reasons” are given for not moving people out of ATUs, the reason for people not going out gets shifted on to the “problem” person. It really is quite shameful.

This isn’t the post I was going to write today. But the post I was going to write, coincidentally fits it with the Mencap survey. I wonder if the cost of going out can also prohibit people in care homes. Yesterday we went to one of our local council run swimming pools. Steven has a leisure card and me and the other carer were allowed on for nothing. £1.80 for a good hours entertainment. However, not all places are as enlightened about carers. I remember the theme park in Great Yarmouth last year and I ended up paying £100 just to get in for Steven, me and the 2 carers. No concessions at all. And when there aren’t any concessions, the person ends up having to pay for their carers as well. Most people with learning disabilities are having sizeable chunks of their income taken under the Fairer Charging Policy, so they are not left with an awful lot to take up memberships or have nights out. If we’re talking equality then the person should pay for their gym membership (for example) out of their own income rather than have it included in their personal budget but if the gym charges a daily rate for casual users then paying for the carers you need to support you there starts to tot up and for many becomes unaffordable.

I don’t want to do Mencap’s work for them. I don’t want to give them a get out clause for their woeful staffing levels. Because at the end of the day, you may have the money to go out but if there are only two staff in your care home, you ain’t going anywhere. Except to sit on your sofa and listen to Barry Cryer on Radio 4.


From → Social Care

  1. LunaLovegood permalink

    It is not just Mencap. Most of these main charities believe their own rubbish. The MS Society and Scope are my pet hates. What I cannot abide is the NHS specialists who don’t do disability but behave no matter than “street pimps” as they pursue every disability award going. I have a lot of time for community charities or individuals who try to do their bit. A neighbour who does the garden for no cost because disability is expensive. We share the same LA and they are super super bad.

    • LunaLovegood permalink

      Error on 3rd line
      matter should read better i.e. behave no better than

  2. Lisa permalink

    A Mencap day service gave my son dreadful anxieties which are still very much present 3 years on. Impossible to shake off. They charged for 1-1 yet he didn’t get that. Spotting them out and about with 1-3 support. He didn’t go back, yet they still wanted a months notice money. They are all about the money. Eurgh.

    • That’s dreadful Lisa.

    • LunaLovegood permalink

      I agree about being impossible to shake off anxieties. I relate to that. I wish I could deal with it but I cannot.

  3. This sounds awful I used to work for another ld charity freeways that had residential homes and supported living flats and never really saw this problem. The only time it arose was when someones health really declined and needed 1.1 support urgently and it was given but no one else could be permanently employed until the funding came through from the panel. We had 8 service users all on the autistic spectrum and they all had allotted 1.1 hours per week ( set by the ss of course) and staff were rostered in to facilitate the activities they wanted to do. It was sometimes annoying to be asked to do a three hour shift on a Sunday to support someone to go to church or the local disco in the evening and shift times started all over the place. But the residents were happy and some had more active social lives than me. I think this was a much better way of working and the staffing issues were easily worked around as the home employed permanent staff on the “regular shifts” and then had enough “bank staff” where I could email the manager and go im free here here here and here until this time and then would be matched up to the activities that the residents wanted to do on those days. I think there was only once or twice that activities got cancelled like when 4 members of staff got flu

  4. weary mother permalink

    This may sound as though coming from a bit left field, but, because LA’s can refuse to fund support to both day and evening activities, people stay at home. ‘Fairer charging’ has produced eye watering increases in care charges. But if people rarely go out, even small amounts from what is left can gradually mount up. This can mean that they are excluded from legal aid if their savings topple over the low amount of savings permitted. And if they have savings over another low threshold, they pay more for their care. So can spend what could have been used for happy access to a ‘normal life’, on legal fees and increased charges?.

  5. Sally permalink

    The situation is our Brough with Care Homes has dramatically worsened over the last 6 months or so-and it wasn’t any too good beforehand. The residents are just given nothing to do! At 23 or indeed 43, they are expected to be tucked ip in bed absurdly early, not because of any need for rest but because otherwise they are sitting about, bored ,miserable and of course more likely to behave in challenging ways as a result! (Which then justifies further restrictions on their activites etc)

    I have a friend, parent to a young man with multiple disabilities, who is a Grand Master of assertiveness in dealing with Care Home managers. He showsup at his son’s care home daily with a time table of what his son will be doing do and argues away the feeble justifications for the minimal plan they were hoping to put in place. This is good, but if he was not on their case every single day nothing would happen. And it shouldn’t be down to how difficult and skilled a negotiator a parent is.
    Re:Greedy expensive amusement parks, my favourite cop out line used to be on, I think, the Legolland website. Along with many other parks, to get a handstamp which meant the disabled person could skip some queues the disabled person needed to queue outside to get in to the park. Then queue again at the handstamp office.
    As far as I remember,Legoland explained that they do NOT offer any concessions for disability . Why? They supported inclusion.

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