Last night, I had an online conversation with another parent who is desperately trying to get their son out of an ATU. The professionals are using a Mental Health Section 3 as their trump card and it all feels pretty hopeless. We got around to discussing whether an Article 8 (HRA) challenge is the best way forward. Photos have always been an important feature for the family in recording and sharing their family story but this led to another brick wall with their current situation. The psychiatrist has refused the family’s request to take photos and even more terrifying, has threatened the parents that their use of social media and their public campaigning could have dire consequences for their son. This is a familiar weapon. I remember the list of sanctions that were given to me when I first went to visit Steven. One of the orders that Hillingdon wanted Justice Jackson was that there should be no mention of Steven online, written or pictorial. There were the heartbreaking pictures at Christmas from Leo Andrade of visiting her son at the ATU but his younger brother had to stay outside the Unit’s iron gates. Connor Sparrowhawk’s younger brother Tom wasn’t allowed to visit him whilst Connor was at STATT. It’s all about power.
I know that this is my particular bee in my bonnet at the moment but I really believe that the only way that we are going to bring about long lasting change is for the real human to be seen by the world. It serves the professionals’ purpose only too well to present the learning disabled person in their care as not quite human. Compare the dreadful presentation by the professionals at Connor’s inquest with this wonderful film made by My Life My Choice:
Steven loves doing his radio programme each week. He doesn’t really grasp the scope it has but he is fascinated that people in Sweden and Brighton have viewed it. It’s vitally important for people to engage and for their stories to be told. I am immensely proud that some of Steven’s expressions have slipped into common usage. I like the idea that there are people referring to “silly talking” and “Simon le fucking Bon”. I don’t view this in any grandiose way. I just see it as him making connections. Like human beings do.
I often wonder how Steven sees himself. Does he notice his “difference”? Does he register that the conversations I have with him are quite different to the ones I have with the support workers? I dunno. What I do know is that Steven gets beyond excited when he finds that someone does something he does; has been somewhere that he’s been to; knows something that he knows. A very early memory is of the day a plumber came to fix our radiator in the hall. Steven was having a music session. As Lionel Ritchie came on the turntable, the plumber started singing along to “Hello”. Steven was amazed – “Rob knows Lionel Ritchie words” and went off bounding around the living room in a state of Tiggerish excitement. Just a few weeks back, Steven nearly went pop because the Sainsbury’s delivery man had seen Mr Bean in America and knew that Mr Bean sneezed all over the portrait of Whistler’s Mother. Yes, Mr Forster, you got it right. Only connect.
Professionals tend to view their services and their places (ATUs etc) as a vacuum. The not quite human’s life goes on hold whilst they are in these places. It’s easy to see why. What is being offered is nothing like a normal human life. All references to a normal human life have to be removed for the duration. It is too threatening for it to be any other way.
The son of the lady I was talking to last night is a fascinating young man. He is interested in so much but none of that can be encouraged or expressed in the ATU. In fact, quite the opposite, it has to be surpressed, for the system to function.
It doesn’t matter how many Concordats, Vanguards etc bloody etc we have. Until we see human beings, nothing will change.
From → Social Care