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Eyes and Ears

October 11, 2016

Today’s Seven Days of Action featured two dudes, Eden and Jack. Two quite different guys whose commonality is they’ve both been let down by the services that exist to support them.

Eden’s story prompted the same furious, despairing response from many of the people who read it – “How the hell can it be justified that he’s been detained in an ATU for 8 years?” 8 years. One more time. 8 years. And no release date in sight. Eden hasn’t committed any crime.

Jack was released from an ATU in June and after three failed placements in as many weeks and the provider pulling out of the contract with less than 24 hours notice, Jack has been living back at home for 10 weeks with absolutely no support at all. Since the blog was written, the ex provider have decided to press for criminal charges against Jack for an incident whilst he was in their (non) care. And no sign of a new support provider anywhere.

Throughout the day, I’ve been getting riled by the odd professional comment and the trotting out of tired, patronising phrases. “Complex needs”. ” Challenging Behaviour”. Bullshit. Eden doesn’t have complex needs. His two big wishes are to have a cup of tea with his mum and to take his dog for a walk in the park. Jack doesn’t have challenging behaviour. But if the support team enable him to buy eight cans of cider (he doesn’t drink) and get pissed, then he might just kick one of the support worker’s car.

My nagging thought all day is how much the professionals who work with Eden and Jack must detatch themselves from any kind of human relatedness. I’m not talking sentimental. I’m talking about placing Eden and Jack in a box that has no recognition of their humanity. No recognition that the professional and Eden share the same human space. Nobody can possibly justify locking an innocent man up for 8 years.

I have two questions for the professional readers of this blog. Here is Jack:


1. As you read his story, what do you hear?

2. As you look at his face, what do you see?

I’d love to know.




From → Social Care

  1. Hi Mark,

    If I may cheekily adapt question 1 to ‘what do I THINK as I read the story’ I would respond: I think Eden and Jack and others in similar situations DO have complex needs because (and here’s the scoop) WE ALL DO! We’re humans – we all have complex emotional, social, psychological needs. It’s just that the rest of us are (by sheer chance) equipped to play the game on the terms set whereas people with disabilities are forced to rely on others in order that their complex i.e. perfectly normal human needs are met. And for that we expect a great deal back in return. We place unacceptable burdens on our disabled citizens – the burden to prove they can fit in with ‘abled’ society, to prove they can make their own decisions, to reassure us they won’t be too much bother to the rest of us – you know this better than me. Why do professionals do this to the people whom they purport to serve? Because it justifies our own existence, our overbearing presence in theirs and their families’ lives. Because it supports the huge and highly lucrative industry of welfare (learning disabled people generate huge amounts of revenue for the likes *cough* Mencap). It pays the mortgage and the repayments on the SUV. I’m one of those people. My goal? To make myself redundant.

    Answer to question 2: I see a guy about to have breakfast.

  2. Eve smith permalink

    Perhaps redundancy isnt a bad idea! and yes he loved his breakfast before returning to the hell hole, they call an ATU…have you visited one lately?

  3. Hi Eve,

    No, I haven’t visited an ATU lately, but I have spent a lot of time in residential care homes, psychiatric units and supported living setups where people are deprived of their liberty and who routinely have their will and preferences over-ridden by often well-meaning professionals. Professionals who rarely, if ever, recognise that their livelihoods rely on the incarceration and treatment of vulnerable people. I think things would be different if they did. At least one of the bases of the relationship would expressed more honestly.

    I realise I may have appeared facetious when I said my goal was to make myself redundant. Not my intention, but on review it does read as somewhat glib. Mark asked for professionals to answer the two questions he posed. Maybe he was being rhetorical, but I don’t think so. I decided to respond because I think a lot of professionals would like to, but are maybe fearful of expressing their true feelings, whatever they may be. To be clear, I truly believe, as a social worker, my overarching goal should be to contribute to bringing about a fair and just world in which there is no need for social workers, ATUs, the MCA or any form of deprivation of liberty safeguard for non-criminal people with disabilities. I’m not so green to believe that a) everyone buys that, professional or not, and b) this will ever happen in my lifetime, but in holding that as an ideal I hope I’m at least better placed within The System to limit some of the damage resulting from its worst excesses. Surely that has value?

    I don’t have the authority to apologise on behalf of the profession of social work for whatever part it has played in denying Jack his rights, and any attempt to do so would certainly almost certainly appear shallow and insincere, but I can say, from one human being to another, Jack, I’m sorry you can’t have breakfast at home every day. These are the mundane and everyday freedoms – which may seem small to those of us who take them for granted – that I hope I am going someway to fighting for in my work.

  4. Just to correct myself on an important point, I realise Jack is now back home so would modify the above to say, Jack, I’m sorry there were days when you could not have breakfast in your home. I hope these are behind you and the current problems with your support are sorted soon.

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