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Is Social Work Human Rights?

July 23, 2016

The week before last I attended a conference called “Social Work is Human Rights”. It was a stonking do. All the speakers were informative, entertaining and passionate about their subject.

In the week that has passed since the event, I keep asking myself: “Is social work human rights?”

Of course it is. But there’s a very big BUT.

In my experience and knowing the stories of the guys from 7 Days of Action, plus the ones we’re gathering for the next push of the campaign, there are hundreds of dudes denied their human rights. In fact, their human rights don’t come into their current “care” plans at all. Rather than being the defenders of the dudes’ human rights, the State in the form of social services or the NHS, are the chief perpetrators of removing/blatantly ignoring their human rights.

I suppose it’s that same old conundrum that I’ve written about many times before – you’ve got to be seen as human in order to have human rights.

This week has been another shocking week for Jack Smith, the dude from Day Two of 7 Days of Action. You may recall that just under a month ago, Jack was discharged from the ATU. He wasn’t allowed to go back to his family home and instead was “placed” in a mish mash of a supported living/group home arrangement. It has been a total balls up from day one. This week, the police have been called to the unit twice and Jack’s mother found Jack repeatedly pissed (He has never drunk before this admission). Despite needing 2:1 support when he goes out, his mum discovered that Jack has been spending most of his money on booze and has been getting through several cans a day. Things came to a head yesterday and Jack was moved to another placement, a former respite home that was lying empty.

It’s difficult to know where to start in listing all the many things that have gone wrong in Jack’s care. But one thing is for sure, none of the decision makers can possibly see Jack as human. They can’t or they wouldn’t put him through such terror. They can’t or they might recognise his deep distress. They can’t or they might recognise their total abandonment of Jack’s Article 8 Human Rights.

I felt really low last night. We had been promised news about Steven’s housing by the end of the day but the end of the day came and we’re still none the wiser. No phone call; no email. When I get into that low place, I get bogged down with our human rights and how all the major decisions in mine and Steven’s life are either made or influenced by the State. For example:

  1. Where we live.
  2. What support we get.
  3. Whether I can work or not.
  4. Whether Steven is allowed his liberty.
  5. Whether he is allowed contact with family and friends.
  6. What money he is allowed to have for himself.

These are all pretty major life decisions. The stuff of life. The things that give us a foundation stone to our lives. Without these, or with these things at risk of being taken away, we have no base. We have no rights.

The only time, I get nervous of Steven not being seen as human is when we have contact with Services. Everywhere else, whether it be in Ranjit’s sweet shop, the cab drivers who take Steven from A to B, the people at the water aerobics groups, everyone everywhere see Steven as a human being. Services don’t.

He is a service user. He is in a placement. He accesses the community. He is case number 24991.


From → Social Care

  1. In our experience the LA and their team of SW’s have ignored the human rights of our Autistic son and us for nearly 4 years! The only way to get redress is to force them to follow the law which has been an exhausting mind and body draining experience. We now move forward with enlightenment. We know their agenda and ‘it is to avoid meeting needs’ and here is the proof
    So no faith in the system whatsoever!

    • yes all faith gone from me now, without enlightenment what hope for those without family or informal supporters. Just alerted by a physically disabled person with mild learning difficulties and mental illness to their desperate need of wheelchair service referral . OT failed to make the referral almost a year ago and the SW offers up they were not aware an OT could. Leaving their ‘case’ after assessment immobile with deteriorating physical and mental health . Community mental health team involvement ( at the insistence of GP) now long gone .No Human Rights in life and none in death and dying either without the Mother of all battles every time. Those passionate souls must all be academics.

  2. weary mother permalink


    It controls – it does not preserve.

    • weary mother permalink

      I admit to being in some confusion around this question ? For what has this profession in 2016 got to do with human rights ?

      The total imbalance of power in the equation ensures that this is impossible at the outset.

      This professional role has been even further empowered by morphing it into that of care manager – a role that can hold an entire families security and happiness in ransom.

      This profession can – no matter how badly or incompetent it performs – enforce months of waiting just for a conversation on fears of ongoing harm – this imbalance of power determines ‘truth’ without any dialogue at all. It holds MASSIVE power.

      And it even when evidence has been provided it will allocate a time constrained place determined by them – very reluctantly agreed conversation too often similar to one of squire to serf.

      I read the other day ‘that no one properly understand the emotional and physical cost to the parent who complains..’ So true. So totally accurate.

      Any one who has tried to enter a simple appeal to this profession far less pursue a complaint of very real harm done – will recognise this.

      No – this profession even in so called ‘good’ times was always been about an insurmountable imbalance of POWER; role has always been of foot soldiers of Social Policy. And at no time has there been such dishonesty around what they say they are for – and the reality of what they do – than at present. The best recognise this and fight it – lose/become ill – and choose to just go along with it or leave.

      The dangerous dishonest jargon that the profession uses so freely – one of ‘choice’ and
      ‘re- ablement – ”empowerment’ etc – is useful only in reinforcing a shared delusion – that it is a profession for good when it in fact in reality does so much damage and causes so much pain.

      • Pauline Thomas permalink

        Well said and so true Weary Mother

  3. Pauline Thomas permalink

    Unfortunately the State and much of our citizens view people with a learning disability as a drain on our economy. Services given to our loved ones should be gratefully, ever so gratefully be received. The LA’s/NHS hold the purse strings so you will be given the services they deem you need. Take it or leave it. Do not ask for choices just be grateful we are funding you. Recognise this scenario?

    Aging parents and also parents who have loved ones who are challenging (I hate that word), are in a catch two situation. Too tired to cope on their own and need some respite and yet knowing that the offered care is not meeting their son/daughter’s needs. No blame given to most of the staff supporting our loved ones. It is the local authority chiefs and NHS CEO’s who are blatantly choosing to close their eyes to the awful situation that carers/parents find themselves in.

    • It is not that they are a drain on services, they are the new cash cows for the venture capital backed, monopoly privatised residential for life services.

      This is a multibillion pound industry, and will increase, to include as many as possible and the young autistic/LD are the most sort as most lucrative,

      They can earn on average £4,000 per week, without pharma kickbacks, for encagement and zero hour minimum wage care.

      The means to get these ‘clients’, into such cages, is to remove all services at home, to crush parents etc, and to show the only best interests is supported institution care for life.

      This has been planned for years, and can and is being enforced under MCA.

      And the disabled nor their family have any rights.

    • The drain on the services comes often from services who our adult children keep in jobs.

      Social Care don’t often do capability assessments on many service employees, but just hand over money, for example, in a way you would never get in special schools – to this extent anyway.
      Would we buy goods in shops without guarantees?

      Are only the bankers to blame for economic problems, or is it care managers and bad commissioning?
      Citizens who might view people with LDs as draining, are probably not interested in any vulnerable people, unless it’s on the news, and themselves will probably need elderly care.
      We’ll many of us lose capacity, including those managing the services, so the question is are people in services making money for their time of need?

  4. Pauline Thomas permalink

    FF2016 and Finola, I make you both right.

    However it was not always like this in adult services. I am old enough to remember when the borough we lived in provided lots of opportunities for people with LD within the three day centres they provided, Each day centre providing the kind of support that kept most of the attendees fulfilled (well for most of them anyway). Our local Mencap was there too providing services to get the more able into employment. (they still do!). People with complex needs, i.e. wheelchair users, were not excluded from accessing the community (bowling, swimming and shopping). They accessed them with help from the day centre staff.

    Unfortunately our land hungry council have scrapped two of the day centres, and there are now houses on one site. The councillors in our borough have closed their eyes and ears to the opposition they had from the people who did not want these closures. The harm it caused to many day centre attendees has been swept under the carpet. I suspect the last day centre will soon be axed and then the council can flog the land it sits on to the highest bidder.

  5. Yes, Pauline, we did have lots of day centres, absolutely.
    I visit people who still attend day centres and those whose day centres have been axed. The difference is that those who still attend look more alive, and are excited when the transport arrives. Imagine that just ending, so they sit in a home and look at each others faces all day instead.
    Whereas people in power have fun all day.

    All the attention on the European Union deflected attention from what was happening at home.
    And the EU Social Fund was supporting many projects which now will get no support.
    Among the population there are people suited to care work – if people do an MBTI test, they can work out if they would be any good at it. Where then have the staff from day centres gone?

    And also why do charities such as Mencap charge so expensively for activity sessions which they still do.
    We all know that people with disability can have a total disposable income of at least £25 a week which is nothing – and yet some 1 hour therapy or recreation sessions often cost £25 (just an hour) not subsidised by charities – charities who are still providing, but very expensively.

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