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August 24, 2016

Yesterday, a good Facebook friend started a petition. I’m normally a bit cynical about petitions. But this one needs to be noticed and shared and acted on.

The petition is calling for an inquiry into the intimidation and threats to carers and the people they support by the State.

The petition is available for signing and sharing here:

In my eyes, this is a very big issue. It is so endemic that half the time we don’t even realise it is happening.

Earlier this morning I tweeted that we are halfway through the third year of receiving a Personal Budget and the LA are still insisting on doing a monthly audit of how I manage the budget. Sod what the Care Act says about “burdens”. The only reason for this micro management is distrust and the need to hang on to power. But every month, there is a threat – get it wrong or submit it late and the budget will be removed.

I have the same worry with the housing issue. If I turn down the unsuitable property tomorrow, will this be used against Steven? Will I be forced to accept something inappropriate by succumbing to the intimidation? I don’t think the LA will see themselves as intimidating – they will just think they are rigidly applying their “considered” and “fair” policies. That’s how much of a blind spot the whole issue of bullying can be.

My two examples there are pretty minor. Working on the 7 Days of Action campaign has brought home the full force of State intimidation. For any family who has ever experienced a loved one being detained in an ATU, the threat of readmission is always hanging like a nauseating smell. We know that at least one of the dudes who featured in the April campaign has suffered dire consequences of being involved in the campaign – his release date is now completely off the agenda. Lots of families have approached us wanting their stories told but insist that it can only be done anonymously for fear of repercussions. Being a carer undoubtedly adds to one’s paranoid state but it is not without foundation. Even Baroness Jane Campbell knows this and her often quoted remark that she is one bureaucratic decision away from having her life turned upside down, illustrates that no matter who you are, everyone is fair game when it comes to State intimidation.

There are many forms that the intimidation happens. Dip into any day of the transcript of the LB Inquest and see how much threat Dr Sara Ryan came under from the witnesses from the State. Disgusting suggestions that the family didn’t want Connor to come home. Even worse, the implication that in some way by not being open about Connor’s epilepsy, Sara was partly responsible for his death. These are the big weapons.

Silence is another one. The phone calls that are never returned. The emails that go unanswered. Families don’t contact the State for a laugh. They are often at their wits end. They have legitimate questions. But so often, you disappear, into a silent void. All completely deliberate.

I could go on. There are so many examples of this epidemic. I’m sure if you thought for a moment, you could up with a very long list of the methods you have encountered over the years. I’ll stop because the point of this post was to plug the petition.

Please support it. It is such an important issue.


From → Social Care

  1. As if it’s not hard enough to be successfully recruiting and managing Stephen’s support, the worry given how you’ve been treated before of whether authorities might pounce and disrupt things again is dreadful. And who is perfect? Mistakes must happen sometimes. I know pigs don’t fly and I’m sure it’s not helped by our litigious society, but wouldn’t it be good to find authorities honestly admitting where they’ve been mistaken and even more so saying what a great job you’re doing. I was struck by your post about Stephen’s weight reducing with the reductions in medication – not only illustrating how Stephen’s life has improved not to need it but also what the medication has been doing to him BUT that you were being blamed for his weight!! What happened to the authorities who effectively killed 25yr old Stephanie Bincliff who gained 10 stone in 7 years in a private ATU and died at 25 stone from morbid obesity-related health problems, placed there and assumedly left there with no intervention by the authorities… and so it goes on. How can we feel our folks are safe in their hands? Why also do authorities not learn from what does work and if people are stuck away without relatives to monitor and speak out despite the difficulties, it should be mandatory that someone independent visits regularly nearby and advocates. Do see our open article on Islington’s funding of Elfrida on such a good scheme on people placed out of borough in residential care We should be fighting for this to be mandatory for ATUs as well ofcourse for the right support locally to prevent people’s situations breaking down and casting them out into the prisons an deserts of ATUs.

  2. Julie Owen permalink

    Sadly the State never moved on from the Mental Deficiency Act.

  3. I’ve been aware for some time of the ‘parent blame’ game that the State plays with families/carers and its been interesting reading of the experiences of you and Sara Ryan. I presume that its particularly easy to trash families/parents, as all sorts of discredited and half-baked theories regarding family dynamics can be wheeled out and of course there can always be the implication that the family/parents were uncaring/neglectful/abusive rather than the State, a distressing allegation alone that’s enough to shut a lot of people up. I suspect that the real problem that the State has with families/parents is that they are first hand witnesses to what the State has done in the cases of State abuse/failure. I battled for many years against serious malpractice dished out by a number of psychiatrists in north Wales – every time I raised a concern I was absolutely trashed (well I was a mental health patient, psychiatrists are past masters at trashing psychiatric patients). Things then started getting embarrassing because as the misconduct continued – and in many ways became even worse – I was able to produce witnesses as to what was going on. None of the witnesses were members of my family or other patients – two were actually employees at the hospital concerned in Bangor who were brave enough to make statements about what they had seen – and other witnesses were academics and professional people in the area. And guess what? They were utterly trashed too – they were ‘naive’, I was ‘manipulative’ and ‘plausible’ and had clearly duped the lot of them. I am waiting to hear what the GMC now have to say for themselves regarding their lack of action in relation to a number of very dishonest psychiatrists who trashed these witnesses – the Health Board in north Wales is now in special measures because of ‘institutional abuse’ in the mental health services. So I presume that the patients, relatives, whistleblowers and witnesses who raised concerns about the mental health services in north Wales for so long were not a bunch of lying scumbags after all. It seems to me that anyone at all who dares speak out about abuses being inflicted by State health and/or social care services will be subjected to an all out character assassination – and its usually family members and carers who are in the firing line because they’re the key witnesses.

  4. …Because attending a training course poorly adapted from some academic theoristing gives you so much much more insight than caring 24/7 for years! What do parents know?

    And heaven help you if you try to say that one-size-fits-all theories might not always apply…

    The bullying over food you got when you were right and they were wrong is just awful.

  5. Mr Trebus permalink

    Local authorities are in crisis due to budgetary cuts and this results in huge caseloads for locality social care teams. The one size fits all approach to risk management of pbs is due to fear of financial mismanagement but in my experience this is rare. If Sw staff were allowed the time to get to know families well, they would be able to advocate for more proportionate oversight. Sadly, our time is engulfed by emergency crisis work and negotiating for this sort of stuff falls off the end of a cliff.

    • proportionate oversight of publically funded budgets is all that is required . There is no obligation for LAs to be overly intrusive in auditing them and no one need wait around for their social worker to ‘ negotiate ‘ the issue of over zealous scrutiny of private lives , it is not up for negotiation it is a requirement. An equal measure of rigor from LAs directed towards assessments of need/ timely interventions would deplete your emergency crisis work. Independent advocacy ? is that also ‘ that sort of stuff ‘ any need to negotiate on anyone’s behalf for that or are you telling people it is the law in a quiet moment between crises.

  6. weary mother permalink

    Even if a case load is huge – people can always find space to treat people as ….people…surely ?
    Even SW’s. Even in a crises.

    Parents…………… I have met:
    fit in jobs – some even fit in part time study – raise their unique and at times very demanding family – deliver consistent and unconditional loving and caring for one or more disabled son or daughter and same for equally unique siblings ..while dealing with repeated crises – money worries – various in-laws at Christmas etc….and continue to communicate politely with elusive SW’s – in spite of the language barrier.

    …………………………and ……………………still retain and apply full capacity for compassion and humanity.

  7. Weary Mother goes straight to core point, as always. Seriously, how much time would it take for accounts staff – NOT the SWs, who are not money-admin people – to take a quick shufti at the monthly PB returns and make the decision to step down the surveillance? An accountant relative says that for annual audit purposes, it’s enough to take a sample of records and check them; the odd error or misfiled receipt is neither here nor there if the overall trend is satisfactory. As auditor, says the relative, one has to balance paperwork perfection against the demands of keeping a viable enterprise operating, and make a professional judgement about where the tipping-point lies. Certainly one would take further action if the samples showed consistent or significant errors or omissions, but pouncing on each occasional minor mistake is a waste of everyone’s resources..

    • weary mother permalink

      Yes…common sense.

      Have never been reluctant to give a point just another wollop ….

      When a parent meets all I describe above – on the same day..a month after the promised appointment with SW …whose pile of ‘sorry for delay’ is in email box…… same ‘mum’ (the woman with no name) is in middle of bathing/changing disabled son daughter – elusive SW will turn up.

      Records ‘mum’ not coping.

      Stressed SW …..returns to office…relates her stressful day ..goes a bit noisy and very 4 letter sweary ….gets a team hug and cup of instant and a biscuit.

      SW goes home and watches tele etc.

      ‘Mum’ gets a letter inviting her to urgent review …and brochures for ATU.

  8. Shirley Buckley permalink

    We all know that as soon as the LA are involved in any case, in any way whatsoever, our sons and daughters become pawns, incapacitated, legal rights destroyed, and all contact with family controlled by the MCA. Read Finola. Sally – you were fighting for yourself, and you lost – thats bad enough, we are fighting for our vulnerable sons and daughters. And we have lost them to the state.

  9. I know Shirley, it is dreadful. I am now learning about what the state does to learning disabled people and their families via blogs like this/twitter feeds etc – and what an education it is. I had previously assumed that learning disabled people who were unfortunate enough to end up in the dreaded ATUs were there because their carers could no longer look after them and that most learning disabled people were well protected by their families – then I started to read the publicity around cases like the Neary’s and then things like Finola’s blog etc. As ever there are consistent themes in the stories no matter which authority/region of the country that the scandal is taking place in – as discussed on this blog one such theme is parent blaming. Make some nasty, hurtful, deeply personal allegations about the parents, ensure that such allegations come from a mental health professional who claims ‘expertise’ in such matters and most parents will feel so shamed that they’ll shut up and stop fighting less the allegations become public. I saw exactly the same process in the mental health system when complaining patients were labelled ‘dangerous’ or ‘personality disordered’ – it takes a lot of fight to continue once this becomes the established narrative and who wants to advertise that they have been deemed ‘dangerous’? I came out of the closet when other patients and relatives saw what was happening to me and quietly approached me to say that it had happened to them too. It transpired that there were an awful lot of ‘dangerous’ ‘personality disordered’ patients living in rural north Wales – obviously something in the air…Exchanging stories on a local basis revealed that it was the same psychiatrists doing the labelling and such ‘diagnoses’ were only brought out of the hat when patients had made serious complaint against the service. And then I started talking to people on a UK-wide level and found that on the rare occasions when there had been an investigation a very similar process took place – the same few ‘experts’ were being wheeled out and the same techniques were used by the same ‘experts’ to draw remarkably similar conclusions about why the patients couldn’t be believed and why there was nothing too much to worry about in the service under investigation. (No comment was ever offered on why so many patients were dying in rural north Wales that it was showing up as an outlier in national statistics.)
    Keep publicising what’s going on Shirley – it may feel like you are losing the battle, but every time a new reader clicks on one of these blogs and realises that they are not the only one who’s been labelled a crap parent and who has lost their child to an ATU it helps.

    • Shirley Buckley permalink

      Sally I am allowed to publish Mr Justice Charles judgment in the Court of Protection, when among other things, he put a penal notice on me “SB be forbidden from criticising to MB the staff, facilities, care and/or treatment at the Wincroke Unit” etc. Martin was declared, by the same judge, to lack capacity in health, welfare, and contact with his mother.

      • There are some very odd thing happening in Courts and of course with the Court of Protection there is often a gagging order too, so people have no idea of what’s happening. Some very strange things happened to me in various Courts – I’ve blogged a bit about one of the cases but there is much more to come – when I was facing some very serious allegations from the mental health services that I dared to complain about. The cases against me collapsed – but interestingly no-one asked why such serious allegations had been made about me without a shred of evidence. Had I gone into police stations making lurid allegations that I couldn’t support I’d have been charged with wasting police time and if I’d carried on with those allegations in Court I’d have been done for perjury. But hey, all those mental health professionals in north Wales just walked back out of the Court door, no questions asked at all. And this charade happened several times in several different courts. I also know of a case in which a Welsh speaking man with learning difficulties and mental health problems was being placed – against the wishes of his family – in a private unit in Norfolk. He didn’t know where Norfolk was and hardly spoke English – I knew the lawyer that his family employed to try to stop this move happening. I also knew the very callous psychiatrist who was arranging this ‘placement’ and how many people had raised concerns about her (mis)treatment of patients. The lawyer was absolutely savaged in Court by the judge – I don’t know who the judge was, but the hearing was taking place in London – portrayed as an unscrupulous ambulance chaser, whilst the judge praised the psychiatrist involved and stated that he had every confidence that this caring doctor was acting in her patient’s best interests…But then before I was acquitted of serious charges I too was subjected to the ranting of a judge – who I later discovered had undeclared connections to people in the mental health services – who told the court that he was quite sure that the staff of the mental health unit in question were doing an excellent job. Presumably he’d missed all the media reports of patient deaths, staff suicides and litigation.
        One is usually tempted to presume that judges have simply got hold of the wrong end of the stick in such cases because presuming that there’s corruption in the judicial system is far more worrying. But after watching two of the judges in action in my case and in the light of info that I got hold of subsequently, I don’t think that they’d got hold of the wrong end of the stick at all. I now realise that I am fortunate that I wasn’t involved with the Court of Protection – I can tell who I want about what happened to me.

  10. Pauline Thomas permalink

    Mark, is the reason your LA is insisting on monthly audits is because they are using the same yardstick for you as they use for themselves?

    Are they worried that you might be doing what comes naturally to them?

    Are they worried that you might be using dirty tricks too? Decency , respect and compassion are not on their radar so do not recognise it when they see it. Mark keep loving Steven. That is what really scares them.

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