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Hope Springs

February 16, 2016

Yesterday I had my latest carers assessment. I’m not sure why I’m bothering to write this post. I might as well copy and paste the post I wrote about the 2015 Carers assessment. Or the one in 2014. Or any of the six that I have had prior to yesterday’s non event.

Even though I know the form. Even though I know that an LA has a statutory duty to carry out a carers assessment but no duty to meet the needs that assessment throws up, I cannot help but feel a bit hopeful. The hope is nothing concrete. It’s not focused on any particular outcome. Perhaps it’s just a hope of being listened to. Can you imagine in any other profession having a duty to assess someone but no duty to act on that assessment? (Doctor to patient – “I’m afraid you’ve broken both your legs Sir. I have no duty to treat those breaks but I’ve carried out my duty to assess you. Right, hop off home now”).

Although my carers assessments normally take about two hours, the scope of them is incredibly limited. The sole focus is on my physical and mental health and what I’m like at money management. That’s it. It ignores the big things like: I can’t have a relationship (I’m not sure I’m looking for one but the possibility would be nice). I can’t work full time. I can’t undergo a fitness programme of any real significance. I can’t be spontaneous (“Hi mate. I’ve got a day off. Do you fancy a boozy lunch?” “Can’t mate. But we can plan one for two weeks time, on a Monday”). I often have to miss meals. I can’t have a bath for longer than ten minutes. None of that stuff is even on the radar of the carers assessment.

Instead, we have the usual embarrassing conversation about counselling – “If you ever feel the need to talk to someone about your stresses, I’ve got the number of a local counselling service”. “Erm – that’s the one that I worked for, for thirteen years”. Or, “If you need any help with budgeting your finances, I can refer you to the local disability charity”. Thankfully, this year, we didn’t have the toe curling questions about my sex life – “Are you satisfied in that area of your life Mr Neary?” “Yes thank you. I have my Blondie DVD and a box of Kleenex”. (Obviously, I didn’t say that but I wish I had the balls to).

At some point, I switched off and started to wonder about the job satisfaction of the assessor. This must be all she does all week. Two hours to fill out a 30 odd page form. And then file it away somewhere. I remember the research I did for the Carers Solidarity group back in 2011. I did FOI requests to all LAs, asking about the number of the assessments they carried out and what the outcomes were. In my area, in 2010/11, Hillingdon carried out 1236 assessments. 8 of them produced practical outcomes for the carer. 1228 people spent two hours for nothing. Mind, Hillingdon did better than Bexley. They carried out 1170 assessments and had 0 practical outcomes.

I think it’s got worse since then. Those lucky 8 Hillingdon residents got a direct payment to go towards something or other. Five years on, they probably wouldn’t get that gift. But even if they did, thanks to the Fairer Charging Policy, they would have to pay for it. I might be awarded a therapeutic pampering day but I would have to make a contribution to the charge. My wallet would get as big a pampering as I would.

I don’t really want pampering. The cruel thing about a carers assessment is that by it’s very nature it sets you up to be hopeful. You can’t help not be, even though you know the outcome in advance. Yesterday, I felt hopeful – Today I feel like shit.

In woke up this morning feeling cross with myself. Cross that I had conjured up an illusory expectation. Ermintrude said to me on Twitter that it would be better to frame them not as an assessment but as a chat or a catch up. I agree. Then my total expectation would be about being listened to for a while.

Perhaps that’s just pampering.

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From → Social Care

12 Comments
  1. Pauline Thomas permalink

    Mark imagine your carers assessment was going to fulfil all your needs. Imagine that your LA was not only listening to you (ha! ha!) but was actually going to act on the needs that you have. What would be the dream?

    • I can’t even begin to go there Pauline. Too painful.

      • Pauline Thomas permalink

        Sorry Mark. I should know better. I can relate to some of what you write but I cannot begin to imagine what it must be like to be all and everything to Steven single handedly. The paperwork alone would finish me off. Managing the support workers would be another chore that would wear me down. Yet without all that input from you what would be the alternative?

        The carers assessment is presumably to address the needs of the carer. I do not know about you, but me and my husbands needs would be met if my son’s needs were met. Get it right for him and you have got it right for us. We do not need pampering deals or respite to go and have a meal. We want to grow old knowing our son is well, happy and being helped to live a life worth living. What parent does’nt want that for their child?

      • Yes Pauline, I agree with that. If the State really recognised the family unit then the care assessment and carers assessment would go hand in hand.

  2. Jan permalink

    Mark, maybe you need to tell the LA that you are not a carer, you are a Dad! Maybe you need to tell the LA that Stephen needs to become more independent of you while you are fit and well enough to guide the transition for Stephen’s greater independence. Maybe you need to tell the LA that in order to work and have the right to family life you cannot continue to be an (almost full time) carer! Maybe it is in Stephen’s interest to learn to become more independent of you so he will not be completely thrown into autistic anxiety should there ever have to be a sudden change! It is in the Care Act, it is in the Autism Act that his needs must be met. It is in Stephen’s interest to be in his own home having the life he want’s to lead and he must have a suitable budget to fit his need. It would cost considerably more, as we well know, if his needs are not met.

    • Lizzie D permalink

      But it comes out of different budget! I know, in theory, that it is possible for a carer to say all that – but it always seemed like living dangerously to me.! LA will meet the costs – so long as they are kept low enough by parent doing most of the caring. Rather difficult to hang on to people being cared for where they want to be if it gets pricey.

      I once went a meeting with about 50 family carers present, and none of us had had a carer’s assessment. Some didn;t know they could. Not sure if the Care Act has made much difference.

      I had always assumed any financial help was means tested, so didn;t bother, but it seems in my LA it isn;t. And hasn;t Fairer Charging gone now, along with CRAG?

      Don;t think it is your optimism that makes you feel sad, Mark. It is just that when you focus on what an abnormal life you have as a carer, it does get rather depressing. And realising that only another carer is going to understand it. I don;t want to be pampered for a day or counselled either – but a bit of real help might work and a bit less of being made to feel you are under scrutiny.

  3. Magi permalink

    I’ve decided not to have a carers assessment, just too personal and too painful. Filling in the text on the missing pieces in my life – relationships, hobbies etc. Not knowing who would read it or where it would be kept.

  4. Lisa permalink

    I hear you Mark. We go along with it thinking we might vaguely be missing out on something if we dont. I had a small terrier who liked assessments/meetings at my kitchen table. Hed sit on the head chair looking from one person to the other as they spoke and would even sigh at apppropriate times. He*d always go for the ankles when leaving. Your post brought back memories, thank you.

  5. nic permalink

    go your own way, the assessment is nonsense, you know that, and do you seriously want a financial assessment of your very own for your eligible needs ?

  6. weary mother permalink

    Would love a terrier like that, I know ankles that need a really good nipping!

  7. Judy permalink

    My experience is mental illness rather than disability but the carer’s assessment is the same. It took me quite a long time to get my head round the idea that they had a duty to do a 2 hour assessment but absolutely nothing would come from it. What a total waste of time and money…..And of course if you say what I really need is my relative getting appropriate treatment and then I would be feeling much better, you are judged as being over involved, controlling etc etc etc

  8. Like others have I have refused a carer’s assessment as I know that I wouldn’t reach the threshold in order to receive any services. But I have tried something else.

    Our CCG has said on several occasions that rather than doing the same thing only cheaper to save money, they want to do things differently. One thing that they have started is Social Prescribing. I have blogged about it here:

    https://romneyhouseppg.wordpress.com/2016/02/16/social-prescribing-connecting-people-with-non-medical-services/

    Social services clearly can’t deal with these things as they have had huge cuts to their budget, but on the medical side, they know that health is greatly effected by psychosocial situations. They have done trials in other parts of the CCG area which were successful, so they have rolled it out to the rest of the area. Our surgery is one of the ones that will have a dedicated social prescriber one day a week.

    It feels like the NHS is stepping in to fill a gap that is not being filled by social services at the moment. Hopefully this will actually decrease some of the pressures on primary care and the NHS. Ours is being funded jointly by the district council and the company that our GPs set up to administer what was the Prime Minister’s challenge fund.

    I couldn’t decide if I wanted a referral for me or my son, but ended up asking for a referral for my son saying that we are a bit of a double act, we come together. It will be interesting to see how it works, especially as I am sort of on both sides of the situation as a parent carer, but also as part of the PPG which is supporting this scheme.

    I know that other areas are doing social prescribing now (see the links at the end of the blog post) so I thought I would mention it here in case it might help others who have been frustrated by the empty Carer’s Assessment.

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