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Dignity, My Arse

October 13, 2015

Yesterday at @LBInquest we heard the lead psychiatrist talk about the fine balancing act between respecting dignity and safe bath care. If it hadn’t been for all the preceding testimony, it may have sounded genuine. But of course, it wasn’t.

The trouble with a broken social care is that it repeatedly takes important words and ideas and sucks them of any life and meaning. Fundamental values like dignity become corrupted, so their only value to the corrupted professional is to mislead or cover their own arse. Or both. Whether you see it as doublespeak or nothing speak, it kills the very idea of being human.

I don’t think the psychiatrist really gave a toss about her patient’s dignity. I’m not sure it even registered. You have to have very skewed logic to believe that it is dignified to leave someone with epilepsy alone in the bath, whilst at the same time promoting the idea of pinning someone to the floor by four people on their first night in the ATU. You either treat someone with dignity or you don’t. It’s not a selective activity.

Like many things in social care, dignity gets trotted out when the intention is to obscure. Yesterday it was announced that a new “Unit” is being built in Wiltshire for people with learning disabilities. It talked about patients and beds whilst presenting itself as a home that will give people their respect and dignity. Let’s cut to the chase. Despite Valuing People and Post Winterbourne View, it’s a new fucking ATU. They might call it “The Daisy” and bang on about dignity but it’s still another long stay unit. Even if the owners get their dignity gig spot on, it is still pretty undignified being sent to a place like that when you could be living in your own home.

Southern Health in their undignified witness evidence are mistreating humanity. They are perpetuating the worst indignity – that people with a learning disability are not quite human. Read the tweets of the psychiatrist’s evidence and try to find any trace of her according Connor the dignity of being spoken of as a person. It’s not there. Dignity dilemmas are a get out clause for their deathly care.

I despair every time I hear professionals talk about dignity. Even the well intentioned make my bum cheeks clench. I hear people talk excitedly about the possibilities of the One Page Profile. I would consider it pretty undignified if my life was reduced to one page. I bet the writer of the 1PP would too.

I have a fairly sound picture of the construct of my dignity. And Steven’s too. It is nothing like the social care world picture.

It’s dignity Jim. But not as we know it.


From → Social Care

  1. Heidi Sumner permalink


  2. Frannie permalink

    So true

  3. Helen permalink

    Most, of the health and social care system is now an exercise in verbal congratulatory self-flagellation. Disguising, f-all care. In fact care and love are so much hated that many self advocates are not allowed or don’t allow others to use the word care (in case it blows away – the word only -empowerment) – and love from a family or friend is just thrashed into oblivion. Helen

  4. The real problem here is that when we deprive vital services of the money they need to meet the needs of real people with real needs and real lives, and when we privatise to the lowest tender, and when we rely on those willing or desperate enough to take low-paid low-resourced and low-trained jobs to do the actual work, we lose all sense of the centrality of actually meeting anyone’s needs.

    Tragically, it’s all about the money, whatever the rhetoric might suggest.

    I work with schools, and daily I despair about the gap between what I see on the ground (dedicated, committed professionals working their socks off to try to make things better for their most vulnerable pupils, without the time or money needed to enable them to do it), and what I hear from politicians.

    I read about your campaign for your son in the paper and have great admiration for your tenacity and what you achieved. I despair that you needed to do it, and that LB died and that his family continued to be put through this hell of denial and lies and half truths. And that it will be repeated time and time again.

    • Helen permalink

      Totally agree – Deborah – but language has long been used to obscure this truth – and complexities of good care – which should and does look seamless. Helen

    • Sally permalink

      Agree. It is shining out in the LB inquest. The takeover by Sloven which broke up the usual hierarchy so nobody was in charge clinically. Everything fragmented and tendered out- the cleaning to a service which walked out and nobody to pursue this. The good staff talking about the problems trying to hold it all together.
      . And in the middle of that the idiotic touches, like the. much trumpeted Rio computer system, renowned throughout the NHS and especially mental health services as crap. A colleague of mine said. “Rio…if you sat up all night trying to design a less suitable system for mental health care you couldn’t. ” Staff were meant to wait to hear from “Rio champions” when they complained.
      Sloven were making a mint and this chaotic expensive but inadequate mess was the result.

  5. As Humpty Dumpty, said, words, are whatever I want them to be.

    As, with all these recently promoted, subverted laudable concepts, ie ‘appropriate’ is another one,they are used to hide a multitude of sins.

    ‘Dignity’, allows superficiality, to be more important, than gross abuse, and even death.

    Thomas Rawnsley, was reported by his mother, to be almost permanently naked, in his mental hospital corridor, whilst my daughter, is not allowed to be, on her way into her bath, see my blog.

    It was not undignified for Thomas, to be hurled into vans per se, and in full public view, leg restrained, sat on, dragged around, tortured for months, nor, for that lady under the chair in Winterbourne.

    Nor, is it undignified to lie in a bed on a ward of 8, writhing in agony, sicking up salt ,whilst dying from impactions and, over medicalisation ,as did the many in St Andrews.

    Nor, is it undignified, to have all your personal minutiae discussed, your parenting, and home verbally trashed, and lies put in official documents, by GPs , agencies and care and education workers, in secret.

    Yet, it does impinge on ‘dignity’, to use spy cameras in state care, as, the only means of finding abuse.

    ‘Dignity’, stops people screaming of abuse, is used to allow the horror of abuse to be hidden, silences dissent, and hides reality.

    Someone, ie the judge, and the government, (which is were all this tripe comes from), should put an end to all this nonsense, that the state/ LA, are allowed to insult us with.

    • Pauline Thomas permalink

      Is it dignified that a whole office of social workers can switch their telephones on speaker so that conversations can be easily listened into by all and sundry and laughed and gossiped about long after the distressed caller hangs up. It happens.

      • Yes, they smerk , sneer, patronise, and laugh at us, and, do what they want with our lives, and our children, with complete impunity.

        We are afforded no dignity. We literally have to jump, at every/any request, no matter how abusive/unnecessary/ demeaning/invasive or impossible.

        If we don’t we are not, we are not cooperating, and when we do, it is ignored, and stated we are still not cooperating.

        It is called oppression, and bullying, and, is a complete removal of any thread of dignity.

        As you cannot complain about them, as you know I’ve tried.

        Complaints are stalled by court proceedings, which are then in secret.

        So any old lies is allowed, as the processes both in COP and Care, are inquisitorial, and in secret.

        And there are no fact findings in respect to their allegations.

        So they do not have to prove them

        It is beyond scandal, that we have no Magna Carta RIGHTS, let alone our Human Rights to a family life, privacy, and a fair trial.

        Let alone dignity.

        But then we are only the parents.

        This country is now the wild west.

  6. nic permalink

    There is and always will be a need for assessment and supported living long term for some people after parents, siblings or partners have died or become unable to support. I know that my friends sons will enter some establishment at some point in the future. Would it be possible for them to continue to live at ‘ home ‘? No the tenancy would not transfer, no funding would be made available for their high support needs with challenging behavior. There is no extended family. As a friend what could I throw in ? I know a few routines, some non verbal communications and their likes and dislikes. They could not live in a small shared home with other people, the assessment has already been made.

    My friend needs to know their day one assessments will have an accurate record of seizure activity. What crinkled closed eyes and giggling means and what manic activity and increased agitation means. Her observations will be her only legacy to them unless money enters her life. Deathly care, no. Supported living with the relevant levels of security if it is required as per at home. People to clean and cook in support and then people to enable independence. Something has to exist, there will always be a day one assessment for a young man/woman. Restraint never.

  7. meg permalink

    Oh Mark. I feel your anger and frustration and your despair. I come across words in client profiles like ‘dignity’ ‘service user led’ ‘choice’ ‘options’ and every time I see these words and phrases I just know that something, a choice, and option, is being removed to be replaced with a cheaper and less appropriate ‘opportunity to engage with the wider community’. So a specialist drop in becomes a visit to a cafè, two to one support becomes a group activity they all have to do at the same time with 2 support to 3 or more clients. It’s diabolical and even worse for those who live alone, independently. Many have no family to speak up for them and their rights and dignity get trampled under boots labelled ‘best interests’ or ‘service user led’ which are just euphamisms for ‘cheaper’! There are a many front line workers like me who try to do their best but as soon as you look up beyond immediate supers you’re into management and that means costs. Makes me sick sometimes. Sorry. A bit of a rant

  8. Sally permalink

    The tweets of the inquest are horrible. Of course “dignity” is being used to try to gloss over neglect .Like LB’s autonomy is being used as an excuse for him not being encouraged to keep to his routine of much loved activities and tasks. The number of times I have heard “Oh we asked if he would like to do X and he said no” and you know that it was asked in such a way that your young person was given a cue to refuse, was likely to refuse what they would have enjoyed.
    The one page summaries are insulting !you are right.

  9. Judges should have the skill to weigh up dignity versus safety, and if they don’t, it’s not because they can’t, it’s because they won’t.

  10. Nothing very dignified about being left alone in the bath long enough to drown there. A preventable death is the ultimate indignity.

  11. Brilliant piece.

  12. Shirley Buckley permalink

    Mark my son Martin has had epilepsy since he was 2 -for the last 37 years. The absolute unbreakable rule is NEVER A BATH. Martin is in the bath – he has a tonic clonic seizure he breathes in – his lungs fill with water, he cant expel it and he drowns.

    • So even the earshot/arm’s length rules aren’t good enough if a person has tonic-clonic seizures like LB did? They can drown *even if there’s someone there to pull them out* or drain the water?

      Ye gods. Don’t think anyone at the inquest was au fait with that.

      Just horrifying.

  13. Trudy permalink

    Our sons and daughters become conditioned to keeping their head down. They go along with whatever keeps the people paid to care, happy. Our sons and daughter learn the hard way – and with each new staff change are quickly modified to say all is OK. If mum or dad complains on their behalf, support staff – ‘not happy’. my son’s expression, and our son/daughters can be punished for our ‘telling’, by the silent treatment from worker, at best. This silence really upsets my son. The intimidating away power from parents and from vulnerable people in this way is passive aggression, and it has a lasting effect.

    At present time agencies in my experience are so strapped for staff that they take almost anyone, and short of murder or visible gross larceny, support staff can do almost anything and not be fired. We have no idea what goes on. One of my sons support workers is lovely; is the most gentle and kind person and he treats my son as a peer and my son flourishes when he is with this man, another worker is the opposite. Till the latter commits a serious and visible felony he will remain in post.

  14. Cathy H. permalink

    My heart goes out to LB’s parents, having to endure this horrid crap.

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