I’m just coming back up for air after the incredible response to my shout out for contributions to a book about the lives of learning disabled people post children services. 77 emails within 48 hours. Loads of Private messages on Twitter and Facebook. A really wide mix of responses from families and from people working in the system. Thank you so much.
The one thing that is immediately striking from all the stories is the downright unsuitability of nearly all the service provision. The stories fall into two camps in the main. I’ve been told umpteen stories of people receiving no support (or pitifully small support) rendering the chance to live a meaningful life, totally impossible. The second, shocking camp, is the many stories of totally inappropriate, entrapping housing.
If you read these stories, you’d think there were only three types of housing available for learning disabled people: ATUs, large 20+ bed residential homes or blocks of supported living units, shared with other learning disabled people. Another thing that seems very common is for places that are presented as one thing but in reality are something quite different. This shows up particularly around supported living. Often it’s just a care home rebranded. Most worryingly, a number of people don’t know what they’re living in. They’ve been dumped in a container. The Lenore Care Home model is truly flourishing.
There appears to be little or no choice. And there’s an abundance of people being lumped together because they have a learning disability. Can you imagine The Daisy building 40, two bedroom units, pairing up 80 strangers and promoting it as home for 80 diabetics? Or imagine St Andrews applying for an 120 bed extension to House 120 gay men in their Sixties. Or people going to an ATU to have an operation and then staying there for eight years. But its considered fine to chuck 80 autistic people in the same place.
It’s made me realise how lucky Steven is to be living where he does. He lives in a normal house in a normal street. It’s a Brookside Close type cul de sac. Across the road he’s got the Asian teacher and her disabled father; the retired couple, the extremely large traveller family who’ve had two houses knocked into one. On our side of the road is the Iceland delivery driver, his wife and kid and next to them is the house with the four students from Brunel in. The only thing we all have in common is our difference. And that we’re very different human beings. With very different lives.
But as I bless Steven’s good fortune, I remember how he came to be in the Cowley house. It wasn’t person centred planning. It wasn’t a careful assessment of his needs. It wasn’t a best interests decision. It wasn’t choice.
He’s there because the council sought revenge for the court case and damages, set us up to be evicted, made us live with the fear of homelessness for 18 months and then gave me 6 hours to accept what they were offering.
The fact that it has turned out to be the best for Steven is pure fluke. It’s not a cage.
From → Social Care