The Best Interests Inequality
Since Friday, I’ve been stressing like mad over a decision I need to make. I’ll write more about what the decision is all about in a later post, but suffice to say, that it is basically about whether something is in Steven’s best interests.
I make best interest decisions all the time, probably more than I realise, so why is this one so difficult? Lurking beneath every decision I make on Steven’s behalf is a fear of how that decision will be interpreted by the official bodies. Families who come into contact with social care have every iota of their lives judged by professionals and I haven’t met anyone who doesn’t find this deeply threatening.
Yesterday, Sara Ryan posted some details about the Southern Health records that form part of the court bundle for the inquest. Part of them include pages of “family observations”. During the observations (which must happen whilst the family are visiting their loved one in the Unit), staff assess the family on issues like: “scapegoating” and “emotional tone”. I don’t even know what that last phrase means but I googled it and it seems to have its roots in scientology! Whatever it means, it is awful to have normal family interaction judged by a complete stranger for its emotional tone.
Back in 2010, as part of the fake transition home plan, Steven came home for three hours on a Tuesday evening. He was accompanied by one of his usual support workers and a member of staff from the Unit. Steven chose to follow the same routine that he would have been doing had he been at home on a Tuesday – namely, a music dvd session. This involves lots of singing and dancing. Three of us would be bopping away whilst the staff member from the Unit was making observational notes in a little black book. There were times when I wanted to scream at him – “What the fuck do you think you are doing! Coming into my home and judging whether our loving family interaction is appropriate”. But I never did. I just gritted my teeth and carried on with one of the most awkward weekly three hours of my life.
Anyway, back to best interests. I am perfectly content to let a court make a best interests decision but I am desperately uneasy about the State making one. But as I wrote about in the last blog post, albeit on a different topic, the family is to be distrusted and treated with suspicion, whilst the State is faultless and a model of integrity. Every best interest decision I make for Steven goes under the microscope but the State can make far reaching best interest decisions without any scrutiny whatsoever.
I don’t think the State should be trusted with best interest decisions. Their agenda is so loaded. Day after day, we read stories of people losing their ILF payments and having their care packages slashed. There is never any mention of best interests in these decisions, although you often have it framed vaguely as “choice”. People are still being taken away from their family homes and left in ATUS for years at a time, with very little acknowledgement given to their best interests, except for the typical, receiving assessment and treatment is in the person’s best interests argument. People are having their night time support removed and left with incontinence pads instead. But that is okay and in their best interests because the pads promote their independence. When it comes to spin in order to justify a best interest decision, the family are minnows compared to the deviousness of the State.
Sad to say but “best interests” are often used to gain compliance. You’ve got to be pretty self assured when you are threatened with the court, if your idea of best interests disagrees with the social care professional. Your lifetime of experience, love and intimate knowledge rarely counts for anything when the State wants to save money or get its way and decides to use best interests as the leverage for this. My experience in 2010 was certainly that Whistler’s Mother used every possible decision I made (or Steven made) to undermine us. I remember Steven deciding that he wanted to join a health club for a swim on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. The social worker’s view was that he should be attending college on those days and wanted to sign him up for a “Community Responsibility” class. Scared of her, we took him to one of the lessons and he lasted ten minutes before he walked out, very agitated. Rather than accept that it was completely the wrong thing for Steven, the support worker and I got blamed for not being encouraging enough.
Game playing on a sinister scale.
From → Social Care