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The No Jobs

September 10, 2015

Back in the early 90s I worked for a Local Authority. I was the training officer in the Housing Benefit department. A large part of my time was spent running the four week induction course. One module was called “Public Service” and it was meant to instill in people that their primary function was to serve the ratepayers of the borough. In our case, that service was about assessing people’s entitlement to Housing Benefit and paying them on time. In the module we used to have interesting discussion around the question, “Do you see your role as paying the claimant every penny to which they’re entitled or not a penny more than they’re entitled to?” The answer, of course, is the same but it revealed people’s ideas about public service.

Fast forward 20+ plus years and I’m pretty sure that module would have been dropped from the training. In fact, the ethos behind it would be seen as laughable now. The idea of service no longer exists and the State’s view of the Public is one of sneering, suspicious contempt. Rather than provide a service, the servants role now is to say “No”. I’m aware that using the word ” servant” is likely to raise the hackles of the Public servant.

This post is prompted by another phone conversation with the direct payments manager yesterday. As usual, the call was to berate me. This time it was because I forgot to include the time sheets with the July Personal Budget audit return. Every time we speak, she feels it necessary to remind me that her job is to “protect the public purse”. The conversation reeks with distrust and threats.

But I am ” the public”. It is my purse. The biggest danger for the public servant is to turn the public into an abstract. An other species. Sadly, this is what has happened.

Yesterday I followed the live tweeting from the final pre Inquest meeting into LB’s death. It was harrowing to read, goodness knows what it must have been like to actually be present. I don’t think the concept of service even remotely registers on the Southern Health radar. Or the Oxfordshire CC radar. All their energy goes into self protection and their primary means of doing that is to discredit Sara Ryan and the family’s reality. Truth. Integrity. Service. All sacrificed to preserve some idea that the State must be faultless. How can it be otherwise with such polar opposite aims from the Inquest – the family want the truth. The public bodies want to conceal the truth. Service turned completely on his head.

Also yesterday, I phoned an LA housing department. I’m trying to support one of Steven’s support workers with his housing crisis and he put me down as a reference. Now I know there is a shortage of social housing but everything about the conversation was geared to say “No”. I was talked down to. There was nothing collaborative about our encounter. If service no longer exists, then what exactly was that woman’s job?

On the induction cause, we used real life cases. If the trainee started referring to “the claimant”, I would remind them that the case we were working on was Rupert. Or Amarjeet. Or Muriel. Real people and real lives.

I’m a dinosaur but to me, that’s all that matters.

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From → Social Care

3 Comments
  1. I fondly remember writing an essay on the reforming Directors of Education in pioneering Local Education Authorities in 1950s and 1960s. Transformed the lives of so many children and young people for the better. Those days are long gone…….

  2. Sally permalink

    The attitude is so hostile, pompous and suspicious in our LA that I feel like I am wearing a striped sweater and mask like an old time burglar.”protect the public purse” yes, we have that, and my favourites, my name rapped out in disapproving italics at the start of every sentence and the cries of”we must be needs driven, not resource driven…so and so is not an appropriate use of funds…”
    My crimes are usually along the lines of minor forgetfulness which is always speedily corrected by me but doing this does nothing to allay the tone of the disapprover.That or I have done nothing at all wrong ,but still a snippy reminder is deemed necessary . I suppose it’s just in case I decide to use my son’s DP on, say, Cartier jewellery or going to Monte Carlo for a weekend spree.
    I completely understand that checking must happen and that if we haven’t sent in all the bits they need to remind us. I would expect a pleasant businesslike tone. What have we all done wrong to make them so snippy?

  3. Pauline Thomas permalink

    Sally your remark about the cries of ‘we must be needs driven and not resource driven’ must be the new mantra that is instilled into every LA’s social worker force.

    My son is going back into day services again after five years. We were told by the manager of the care management department that there is no such thing as entitlement anymore. There are now only needs led services available.

    I am not rubbishing the people telling us this as we found the care managers giving this information to us to be really nice. They are telling us that needs must be the only criteria for any services offered by supposedly cash strapped LA’s. My son’s needs are assessed as being worthy of a five day week programme of day services. My son’s wishes are to be uppermost in choosing what he wants. He must be the driver in what he receives. We get that, we want that. However, and there is always an however, my son wants to go back to accessing a day centre. Unfortunately for him there is now only one day centre left in our LA (there used to be three) and it is so over subscribed that there is a waiting list. A shocking betrayal of people with LD by our LA.

    He can have someone from a care company to take him round the shops and into MacDonalds. Alright for half a day but a bit wearing when you are expected to be out for six hours. Winter months would be a bit challenging too. The people who thought up ‘Valuing People’ and their ethos of everyone out in the community and the abolition of day centres got it all wrong for a large section of people who actually enjoyed the social side of the day service which was found in some day centres. If the abolition of day centres was what was needed why are so many people wanting to access our one and only remaining day centre?

    We now have to search round for places for him to access and then go back to them with a plan and hope they will fund it. I think it is called direct payments. My son is 43 and we are in our 70’s. We are tired and worn out and worried and clueless.

    Our saviour in all this has been our local Mencap. They have rescued my son and provided him with two days a week programme of meanful things to do and with a support worker who is really good. They are supportive to us too. Take a bow Bromley Mencap.

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