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Love Baffles

October 22, 2015

George Julian did a fantastic job live tweeting the LB Inquest. To have that level of detail so closely recorded will be an important record for years to come. One of the many discussions that has occurred since the verdict has been the psychiatrist’s real loathing of Dr Sara Ryan. I was in the courtroom for the second part of Dr M’s evidence and her disquiet was visible. Even on video link, it was shocking to see her freeze every time Sara’s name was mentioned. Why?

I think it’s about love. Or the complete incapacity to recognise and understand love. Every time Sara talked her love for Connor, and indeed her ability to love from a very deep place, came through very powerfully. This is extremely threatening. The minute professionals who build such a fragile façade are confronted with love, the entire edifice comes crumbling down. The ensuing exposure often results in aggressive attack.

I have my own experience of this. I took a friend to a meeting which included nine professionals. The main agenda point of the meeting was the LA’s plan to move Steven to Wales. As usual, I put up my normal argument that if they let Steven come home, all the challenging behaviour would disappear. The chair of the meeting said: “Mr Neary. Why do you believe your opinion is more valid than any of the professionals sat around this table?”. I responded, “Because I know him. Because I love him”.

At this point, my friend nudged me in the ribs. I looked across and the social worker was laughing. Love had become laughable. It was invalid. So consequently, if knowledge arises from love, then that knowledge becomes laughable too.

On a surface level, my expression of love was sneered at but on a deeper level, it must have pricked something. From that point on, the tone of the meeting became very aggressive (on their part). An already frosty atmosphere became a Siberian winter. I had said something very unsettling and the only response was to attack.

Love has no place in social care. You dare not speak its name. Even worse, you better not imply love by your expression or behaviour. Love is as relevant to person centred plans, one page profiles, risk assessments as a stale Jaffa cake.

I’m not saying this is true of all professionals in social care. Obviously it is not and I’ve met lots of people who exude love and maintain their professionalism. But be very afraid if you come across one who doesn’t recognise what it is like to love or be loved. Your love will wound them and, unconsciously, they will want to wound back.

What Dr M needs more than anything is several sessions on her own couch.

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From → Social Care

21 Comments
  1. Deb. permalink

    As I have said previously on twitter, to describe Sara Ryan or indeed any person/parent as toxic, is in itself a toxic comment. In fact I would treat it as malicious gossip, or a comment made with malicious intent. One thing is for sure- it showed a true example of the unprofessional, irrational and at times abusive behaviour which I for one have witnessed on several occasions over the years – and is clearly accepted as OK within this Trust.
    Southern Health have publicly proven what I have always known, they are the ones with the problem.

    • Lizzie D permalink

      This is one of the reasons why I wince when I see “more training” given as an answer to the problem of poor care. I’ve come across the smirking social workers, the dismissive doctors as well – haven;t we all? They are “trained professionals” and so superior to us. They know more without even meeting the people we love, know, and understand.

      One doctor I had the misfortune to come across wrote a report that implied that my daughter wold have been MUCH better off if she had been pried unwillingly away from her family at transition. Somewhere like Winterbourne View (pre-scandal) would have been much better for her. Wonder if he still believes that? Probably.

      If they were trained to have a bit more understanding and accept that we, and our charges, are individuals with normal feelings, let go of the damned stereotypes and certainties, that might help.

  2. weary mother permalink

    Not only in this Trust. I have seen it over and over again throughout my sons half century, from people in NHS and LA’s. And it always looks the same. Status driven certainty. if I ever write my book it will be called ‘who do you think you are’.

    How can the brain of a human being (one would suppose) with people in their own life that they would walk on red coals to protect, corrupt and distort the same when they see this in another. Fear it so much that they would see a vulnerable person die rather than acknowledge it.

    Many say that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

    Or are they just very bad people, unworthy of analysis for they began beyond a cure?

    And our beloved people will just keep on dying by the same .

  3. I started a counselling course once & dropped out because everyone on it needed counselling. I assumed it was because everybody had huge issues that they’d signed up.
    At work I also came across students attracted to teaching or social work or psychology because they were needy. They were looking for something for themselves. At best it was a need to feel important in someone else’s life, at worst it was to exert power over other people.
    I often wanted to jump up and down shrieking “This is a job of work! It is not therapy! Your issues are not the focus of this!”
    But for the worst practitioners it always was all about THEM.
    There have always been abusers in the “caring” professions. That’s why it’s so important to have good insightful bosses, who value & encourage their good staff, and keep a beady weather eye out for bad practice.

    • It’s precisely because anybody offering counselling/psychotherapies needs to be fully aware of their own issues, that accrediting counselling bodies lay such stress upon reflective practice and reflective supervision. Which we know did not happen even at the minimum required levels in STATT.

      A good supervisor will challenge as well as support; their aim is to help you grow as a practitioner – pruning as well as watering. (Sloven seem to have just kept shovelling on an excess of manure.)

    • I agree. I supervise some students on placement and they tell me some horror stories about their courses. Typically, the course becomes a 7 hour therapy group and the theory and practice get sacrificed. This isn’t new. The diploma I did at the end of the 90s was just the same. You can’t blame the students. It’s lazy, self indulgent teaching. It means you end up with qualified counsellors who shouldn’t be let within a 100 mile radius of a client in crisis. Scary.

      • Sally permalink

        I am afraid that just about anybody can call themselves a counsellor on utterly minimal or Mickey Mouse training . The question is what are their qualifications and which professional bodies are they members of? (Eg counselling psychologist) Beware qualifications which sound most impressive but are actually a grand title attached to stuff all. I have met people setting themselves up as private counsellors on six weeks training. They were too self important and silly to realise that they were untrained and un qualified.
        Ben Goldacre’s test iof hooky qualifications was if the grand-sounding establishment would accept his dead cat as a member for a fee ,paperwork and bunch of unchecked assertions. Many did! She has a lot of qualifications.
        Crap qualifications mean there is no continuing professional development and no reputable clinical supervision.
        I also did counselling training at the tail end of the dark days of counselling-crummy encounter group style self indulgent tosh. There are still awful courses run by terrible frauds who have no idea of good ethical counselling skills and practice but have a yearning to have authority professional standing without all those nasty years of training and be a bit of a guru.
        My impression with Sloven was that there was minimal clinical supervision. A supervisor outranks you. It’s your job to work with them. They are accountable for your work. A good supervisor would have lept on the Dr’s sustained condemnation of Sara as, and the very least un professional and demanded this be addressed.

  4. I’ve only been following this case from afar (albeit with shock and horror), so am
    not clear on all the detail. But, even if there were issues between LB’s family and the professionals and staff, surely that is irrelevant to the case in question? – a vulnerable person with epilepsy should NEVER be left unsupervised in the bath. In terms of investigating this tragic death, nothing else should be considered. By making it personal, the professionals are just trying to shift the blame.

    • Lizzie D permalink

      The only thing surprising about that is that they haven;t quite succeeded. Blaming, silencing and judging parents is built into the whole edifice. It is so easy! HIs mother said he had had a fit? What do mothers know! I had years and years of that, and it is beyond terrifying.

      Very sad to read in her latest post that even someone as courageous and determined as Sara is questioning whether trying to protect Connor backfired. Those who knew better and let him drown never seem to question their behaviour.

      We had a lovely carer, for several years. Ideally suited to care. She studied for a professional qualification, and now has a job in a Social Services Department. I was gobsmacked when she explained some of the pressures on her in her new job to hear her tell me “Of course, the parents are the problem…”

      Seems they get upset when told there is no money for the help they desperately need. Poacher turned gamekeeper.

      • Sally permalink

        Well, we are often a problem! We are a pain in the neck because the service is inadequate and keeps collapsing around us ! We write letters, ring up ,sound narky rather than grateful.
        Imagine if the service was adequate, even good. We wouldn’t be on the phone asking what is going on or arguing against some sort of decision which is going to make our lives and the person we care for awful. We wouldn’t be difficult.We would sit back , happy in the knowledge that things were pretty good and that, crucial this, if there was a problem that it would be sorted out. We wouldn’t be frantic and frightened and exasperated. We wouldn’t have that sinking fear of what was coming next. No we would be appreciative, very grateful and baking cakes and doing the weeding. Really. For a well run sensible service for my son ,I would paint their buildings and sing their praises.
        I have sat in staff meetings and heard irritated descriptions of “Mrs X on the phone again…very demanding…she wasn’t us to do A for her person but we don’t do A .” And we didn’t provide A. But now I know nobody else did. I understand that Mrs X who was probably beside herself with rage and exhaustion had not gone elsewhere because elsewhere was also useless.imnow understand the fear and fatigue under the irritation. We want so badly for the services to be good.

        The service is terrible-but we are told it is good
        The service is being reduced-but we are told it is better than ever
        The service changes its remit so it leaves our person outside it-but we are told that phantom other services will pick up the work, or perhaps our person will learn to do it themselves
        The services tell us we are in charge but we feel helpless.
        If the service was good the difficult parent complaints would shrink right down.

        The incompetent Dr seemed to think it would be some sort of loss of face to take Sara’s report of increased fitting seriously. It was not a bizarre claim, seemed very likely and there was nothing to lose by investigating it, ordering tests and checking the safety procedures for Connor. That would have revealed the bath danger in 5 seconds. Sadly it was about ego and taking on that “difficult Mrs X”

    • weary mother permalink

      Conditioning happens in both professional training and in the job. Starts in training/education and is topped up daily in the job. They morph into alien creatures unrecognisable from the eager and passionate most seem at the start of their training. My sons care manager made senior care manager months out of her probationary period. Gone is the friendly approachable and interested young woman. She has been replaced by someone that speaks from a distance far outside us, and as soon as we try to explain where we are, we are briskly reminded that her time is precious and we are wasting it with noise. I had the feeling recently that we, son and I, were in a scene from Dr Who where someone we had greeted expecting warm and friendly – spoke in a different voice and slowly transformed herself in front of our eyes into into a very scary cold thing. Transformation now complete, and well topped up.

      Thing is the same people, on reading this would just look at each other in group solidarity raise eyebrows and shake their exasperated overworked heads.

  5. Meg permalink

    Thank you for that Mark. For some months now I have been labouring under a new manager who thinks the capacity to be emotionally moved by another’s plight and professionalism are mutually exclusive. Drives me bonkers!

    • Pauline Thomas permalink

      I must own up to the fact that whenever a doctor introduces any new medication for my son I go and look it up on the internet. I look at the pros and the cons. I keep an open mind because I know that we are all individuals and differ in what we can or cannot tolerate when it comes to taking medication. My son happens to be sensitive to high doses of certain neuroleptic medication. He has tried several different ones and none of them have helped. Some have made him worse.

      I confessed this to the endrocologist who sees my son once a year and who is looking after his bones (thinning of the bones caused by years of anti-epileptic medicine). ‘ I do not mind that at all’ he said ‘ I like my patients to be well informed’. ‘E-mail me and tell me what you think of a new drug I would like to give him’ What a breath of fresh air!

      On the other hand the psychiatrist who is at the moment trying to cure my son of his psychosis (again brought on by years of anti-epilectic medication) feels threatened by me surfing the web. I know he resents me wanting to know about the medication he is giving my son. He is arrogant, full of his own importance and I feel sick everytime we have to see him. I so desperately want to feel at ease with him. I have, thank god, occasionally seen a spark of compassion when he talks to my son. I hang on to that. I do not really mind his opinion of me just as long as he wants the best for my son.

      • Pauline Thomas permalink

        Sorry I lost the thread of your blog Mark. Love is what makes mums and dads, brothers and sisters, friends and partners go into battle to get the best for their loved one. That is why we grieve when they die or are ill-treated, or are in pain. My love for my son is tinged with pity and sadness because I cannot always help him to feel better. That is why we are so bloody pissed off when the people who have it in their power to make their lives more tolerable do not listen and turn away.

  6. Cathy Hodge permalink

    I wonder about the lable “social care”.
    Care seems to be the one thing missing, time and time again.
    Mark, your comment about the social worker laughing, made me want to reach out and slap some sense in. Where is their compassion?
    It is truly sickening, that the professionals dont act very proffessional.
    And calling Sara Ryan toxic. Another low blow, designed to veil the true issues.

    • Meg Graham permalink

      Cathy I agree with you wholeheartedly. I work in adult learning disabilities as a community support worker with wonderful people who strive every day to maintain their independence in the community. In the last 5 years there has been such a sea-change. Everything I and my colleagues did, used to be, as far as was humanly possible, driven by our client’s (we’re supposed to call them ‘service users’ and I despise this label which comes from banking) needs and aspirations. Now everything is driven by financial constraints. Desicions are based on what’s affordable or what will save money, they used to be based on what was possible and the loss of innovation, strangling of imagination and the disdain with which compassion is held by too many ‘professionals’ is killing off the opportunities, options, hopes and dreams of the wonderful people I try hard to support. However, please believe there are still wonderful people who work in LD. Some are even social workers! Unfortunately, those whose hearts have not been hardened and those who are not working solely with their careers in mind, are too often burning out under the strain of carrying more than their fair share of caring.

  7. Sarah permalink

    There are good health and social care professionals out there … please can we hear something about them too? They don’t always get it wrong.

    • Pauline Thomas permalink

      Sarah you are right. There are good and caring health and social workers and teachers, carers, doctors, and epilepsy nurses out there too. There have been people who have brightened my son’s life and added quality to it. They know who they are and I thank them.

      However it seems to me that in these last ten years or so, the ever changing face of social care with its outsourcing, financial restraints and the use of gobbedy gook language to try and con the people into believing the services are better, have had a devasting effect on carers and loved ones alike.

      • Meg permalink

        Pauline you are bang on and Sarah is right too. There are wonderful people working hard in social care generally. The two things they need to do their job well are time and resources, both of which have been slashed. You’re right about the gobbledegook too. As a LD community support worker I attend training in varioous guises. A lot of this I just don’t recognise as part of my job, often because the things I already do have been renamed or even rebranded. Another issue is that ‘professionalism’ and compassion seem to have become mutually exclusive. I have been berated and belittled by a manager because I expressed my sadness at the effects of cuts on a lady I support. I don’t believe anyone should be allowed to work in any of the caring professions unless they can show they have compassion.

    • nic permalink

      Sarah , I witnessed a compassionate health care professional in action this week , the first for me in a decade but yes they do exist and we should count their numbers. I was supporting a home PIP assessment, the nurse assessor wove a bit of magic into the hour with her humanity. The thanks given to her by the applicant at the end of the assessment were heartfelt. She was the last of a host of face to face contacts but the first to truly connect to the person she was speaking to, I could envisage her working anywhere in the world in any setting requiring nursing skills. She wasn’t an actress and she will be remembered regardless of the assessment outcome. Caring professionals make all the difference, everyone appreciates the human touch.

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