My blog post yesterday, “Blowers”, got some really interesting responses. Everyone seemed to get Steven’s George Michael joke and his reaction to his own joke. I think people got that the two minute interaction between Steven and I captured the really important stuff of life.
So why don’t people in Service Land get this? If that story had been fed through the 2010 PBS filter it would have come out labelled as “inappropriate” and would occupy a negative framing. Sadly, I think if it had been understood, it would have been translated into that bizarre social care language that sucks all the life out of anything that provides us with meaning. Katherine Runswick Cole tweeted about her family day out to look at pylons and asked whether that activity would have been viewed the same way. I suspect that it would have been. Hard to see what “measurable outcomes” on a care plan could be achieved by looking at pylons.
What troubles me is that I detect another form of discrimination going on here. I think that since the birth of reality TV where we are all encouraged to vote and pass judgement on someone’s character or their destiny, we have all become much more judgemental. Someone can be nominated for eviction on Big Brother because they are a little bit different and their fate becomes the topic of much water cooler discussion. But by and large in our real lives we can be judgemental of someone without it having major consequences. Not in the social care world. If talking about Fawlty Towers for 30 minutes is deemed by a behaviourist as inappropriate, you could end up losing your liberty. Having a challenging behaviour scrutinise your relationships with a fine tooth comb can be very challenging. Steven had spent 19 years of his life, greeting me by kissing my head. Suddenly, that became dangerous. That embrace was logged as challenging behaviour and put his future family life at risk. Things like love, fun, interests really challenge the challenging behaviour crowd. I feel it is especially dangerous because it can easily become a destructive weapon of power. We may tut about the chap in front of us in the queue at Morrisons but we can’t change him. We can’t legitimise our judgement of him. But we can with learning disabled people. And I suspect that learning disabled people receive the full pelt of judgements that are bottled up in all other areas of a professional’s life.
I’m typing this on the train to Northampton. We’ve just pulled out of a station and at the end of the platform were about half a dozen people trainspotting. Whatever you may feel about the pursuit of trainspotting, you would notice them going about their business, possibly pass judgement but two minutes later, they will be gone from your head. But if those trainspotters had a learning disability, their activity will be poured over by a whole multi disciplinary team of experts. Some of that team would decide its worth by totting up the measurable outcomes. A funding Panel would chew it over to see if it merited paying for a support worker’s time. The PBS people would draw up a risk management plan for the day out. Circles of Support would be formed. A care planner would look into how trainspotting fares in the person centred plan. Poof. All life gone.
In my counselling work, there’s one thing I love doing with clients. I like to get them talking about their interests. Most people come for counselling because a part of themselves has died. Or never been allowed to be born. One thing I know is that when you get people talking about their interests, they come alive. It doesn’t matter what the interest is. Sometimes people will talk about stuff that I know nothing about. Or have never been the slightest bit interested in. It doesn’t matter. I am usually on the edge of my seat. Interests are what makes us interesting. They bring us alive because they release a creative part of ourselves. They give us some meaning to our lives. We learn to live.
Perhaps that is what is so challenging to the experts. A person who is really living might not need their input.