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Haggling & Blaming

October 27, 2015

There’s a couple of social care issues that I’ve been mulling over the past few days. I’m not sure I have any answers but it’ll be good to put them out there.

We’ve got a couple of significant anniversaries coming up in the next two weeks. On Sunday, it will be two years to the day that Steven finally got his own home. After a horrid 18 months of facing being homeless, Steven got allocated the home that hopefully will be his for as long as he wants it. Then, the following week, will see the first anniversary of me getting the keys to my flat. It’s been a year of big adjustments for me but it has been wonderful to have a space that is restful and creative.

Steven’s care plan is due to be reviewed in December and I’ve been wondering whether I should revisit something that has been unresolved since I got the flat. Obviously having the flat means that I want to use it and not just for my work. Last November I took advice and told social services that I would not be available to provide Steven’s care three nights each week. I also tried to play them at their own game, stressing how valuable this additional independence will be to Steven. Now, here’s the first issue – why does everything in social care have to be haggled? At first, I was told that I would only be “awarded” one night per week. I challenged that decision and it was increased to two nights. It had nothing to do with Steven’s needs and how they are met. The transaction was reduced to a car boot sale transaction – “I’ll give you £1.50 for that Elvis print mate”. Meeting a need was reduced to haggling and even then, the full need was not met. I haven’t told social services this but I’m getting my third night and paying for it myself. But I’m not going to be able to afford it forever. What strikes me though is that, even after I’d made a categoric statement, there was no attempt to consider Steven’s needs. Not then or since. I wondered whether a safeguarding official would turn up to see if I’d gone off and left Steven on his own. But of course, they know I’m never going to do that and that is why they can haggle away to providing the bare minimum. Nobody is going to check or reconsider their decision because they know that I’ll step in. I’ll rearrange my plans because I have to. Perhaps that is why haggling is so commonplace.

The other issue is parent blaming. I wrote about this a couple of weeks back and since then I’ve been following several conversations on the subject. It seems that mother blaming is far more prominent than father blaming. Certainly at LB’s inquest, Sara got a much harder time than Rich and it was racked up to such an extent that she became a “toxic” woman that one of the psychiatrists refused to work with. Earwigging these conversations led to me to reflect on how I’ve been shifted dramatically from one box to another by Hillingdon’s social care team. When I was married, my wife definitely came off worse from the professionals. She would challenge them and then be completely ignored. Then the professionals would turn to me, as if I was seen as more reasonable and more objective. Looking back, there were plenty of times when they played Julie and me off against each other and it was deeply uncomfortable. I’ve got old reports describing my wife as “the problematic mother” and “too controlling” but I get off fairly lightly. Until we split up and then I suddenly found myself saddled with those roles. I became “problematic”, “uncooperative” and “passive aggressive”. It’s damn hard not to take it personally but I always felt that for the social care illusion to hold up, someone has to be given that role. It’s like the old psychology chestnut of the drama triangle where the three roles are played by the victim, the aggressor and the rescuer. Social care likes to see itself as the rescuer no matter how nonsensical that is in reality. But when two parents become one, the fragile illusion becomes very shaky and the social care position switches to the victim. The parent, whether it is a mother or father, is forced into the role of the aggressor. It’s the only way for the fake edifice to sustain itself. I think a very useful rule of thumb is that the more you are painted as the aggressor, the more likely truth is that you are on the receiving end of an underground aggressive attack.

The other thing I’ve noticed in my limited experience of blaming is that whether it is the female or male parent on the receiving end, it tends to be the female professional doing the blaming. I don’t think the blaming game has ever happened to me with a male professional. They criticised me but it has been upfront. I think the trick with this blaming is to go straight for the things that the parent values most. Julie was often blamed by Whistler’s Mother for being too nurturing or too pushy. The blame on me was different. I remember a meeting with just me, Whistler’s Mother and one of her senior female managers. Between them, they couldn’t think of one thing I do right in being Steven’s father. By the end of the meeting, I felt like my balls had been sliced off. I remember I had them when I walked into the meeting but somewhere during the meeting, they had been surgically removed. Probably because the values I hold dear as a man and as a father were shredded.

Although, the two issues I have raised here are very different, I think both whether you’re dealing with haggling or blaming, you have to be on your toes all the time. Nothing is straight forward. Nothing is as it is presented. And nothing is like your reality.

In Steven’s music blog, I’ve written how he likes to change the lyrics of songs to reflect his personal experience. So, on that note, next time you hear the Jackson Five, you might want to sing this chorus:

“Don’t blame it on the mother.

Don’t blame it on the father.

Don’t blame it on Steven Neary

Blame it on Whistler’s Mother”.

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From → Social Care

10 Comments
  1. francesbell permalink

    l can’t really say why -but this post resonates so much with me. I’m thinking that systems / institutions in evading blame look around to find a location, and mothers are usually most visible. If they aren’t then you Dads step into line. But it’s worse than that as the blame focus pre-exists the young person’s assessment -and that is really scary.

  2. Sally permalink

    I find disability services and social care always zero on me as the mother. Some of it is sexist. When I try to share the load and ask my husband to call so and so , I will get the call back ! Always! If he leaves a message for them to call him, they call me back at home not him on the work number which he always leaves!
    When I ask “did you try to call my husband ?” they will say “no,”or better yet “we didn’t want to disturb him”
    And refusals go straight to me even if my husband has made the request. He is treated with respect as someone who’s time is of value who is a good rational person. He is also (and we do laugh about this) more.likely to be called by his professional title. When he comes to a meeting he is thanked.
    I though it was just sexism at work. Now I think it’s also splitting. It perpetuates itself. If you are the one who gets the refusals and rude treatment you are the one upset on the phone and become that unreliable irrational person. As opposed to the sane rational one.
    As for haggling, Mark you are so right. Yesterday I was stuck in my kitchen chair for over two hours haggling over getting some assistance . I was taken over my son’s papers line by line and word by word. Any attempts to cut to the chase. (“Can we please have the direct paymenst back?”) were deflected back onto the assessment or on to vague talk of support unspecified. For two hours!!! And she will be back! When she left my son was bursting with boredom and yelling to be taken out, and upset because I was crying and gathering up piles of papers.
    It’s is seen as greedy and vulgar to ask for something specific. Further evidence you are a difficult person.

  3. Shirley Buckley permalink

    Mark there is a huge psychological basis to this. Always go for the weakest (and the mother is always the weakest because of her emotional ties to her vulnerable child) The adverserial court system obviously encourages this). They always threaten with stopping all contact and have the power to do this. And it IS always the women. Or nearly always. The judge in my case was the worst of all. It is a modern day witch hunt

  4. Shirley Buckley permalink

    just checked my sources. The similarities between the Salem Witch Trials and the Court of Protection are obvious.

  5. Lisa permalink

    I can identify with what you say Mark. Regarding the female professionals usually doing the blaming, this has always been the case with us over twenty five years. One female psychiatrist started fishing with ‘do you have the same surname as your child’ ? I knew what she was getting at. Another doctor ( I cant remember if it was a school doctor or a locum) I kid you not, asked me first, if I ‘thought id been evil in a previous life’ to have this child now ‘
    ‘ inappropriate things said to parents of children with disabiities’ hey.

  6. Helen permalink

    If Steven needs overnight assistance and it is stated he needs – say you are having your 3 nights – give them a reasonable timescale to to comply – IE a start date – when they don’t send anyone who has been properly introduced and trained for Steven – report to safeguarding, start the complaints procedure and move towards the ombudsman – there is too much verbal crap about person centred, meeting individual needs, independence and all the other blah, blah ….. Nice words, no delivery etc. Oh yes and send them your bill for all the extra nights you do.

  7. Trudy permalink

    It is the only route to directly engage with LA. But:
    Safeguarding took 5 months to reply, LA complaints system runs rungs round all without any useful conclusion; and they can back slide on this almost immediately. Ombudsman took us over 18 months and in our experience is pretty toothless, and LA’s can just ignore their findings.

    Best route is the law, legal aided if possible although legal aid is very hard to access now

  8. But it is “they” that reduce us to the irrational, angry, sobbing, swearing mess that we become- not just through the huge battle for more support/input, but also by being so very difficult to deal with on an everyday level- the general inefficient bureaucracy that wears you down. Prior to having my disabled daughter I would never, ever have thought I could behave the way I have been known to now- sobbing and screaming down the phone whilst on a bus being one example recently. That is not me. I hate what “they” have turned me into, and they then get to use it against me by them labelling me “difficult”

    • Sally permalink

      Don’t you find it’s very hard to explain to anybody not caring for someone with a learning disability quite how awful the process is? It sounds ,on paper, straightforward. You simply set up this and arrange that ,and life chugs on. It s very hard to explain about the refusals ,the changes with no notice, the eternal cutbacks labelled as exciting opportunities. The meetings, the lectures.
      I would say that more than 80% of the strain of caring for my son is down to this awful endless process. The remainder is actually managing his bahvioir and looking after him.
      I have often thought of adopting or fostering a learning disabled child. We would love to offer a home and would be very happy to love and look after such a child and of course the house is pretty well set up! What put me off is not the child’s needs. Its the horrible process of dealing with the authorities!
      If there was a reliable reasonable service you would see far fewer “difficult” parents sobbing in corridors.

  9. James permalink

    I’ve wondered whether the concentration on mothers is sexist in origin or whether it’s representative of a devaluing of those who are not in paid work. When one becomes a single, male, parent the crap one cops might be the ‘one at home with the child’ stuff, rather than the sexist stuff. I have a colleague who has children with her female partner. One works and the other is at home (at the moment). If they have any involvement with Social Services it would be interesting to know whether it’s the at home one who gets demonised. If she does it would rule out the sexist bit, as they are both female.

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