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State Of (Non) Independence

February 28, 2017

Yesterday, the judgment in Davey vs Oxfordshire CC was handed down. Lucy Series has written a superb but alarming analysis of the case: –

https://thesmallplaces.wordpress.com/2017/02/28/davey-v-oxfordshire-cc-the-tactics-of-austerity/

I can’t possibly improve on Lucy’s analysis but I wanted to look at what this judgment holds for the future of a disabled person’s independence. In this case, Mr Davey was receiving a personal budget of £1651. Following a reassessment of his needs, the council reduced the budget to £950. Mr Davey had employed the same support team for 18 years and was satisfied that this support enabled him to live an independent life. The judgment rested on Oxfordshire CC’s decision to reframe Mr Davey’s care plan as having “an eligible need to enhance his independence by spending more time alone”. The LA’s brazen argument that independence meant spending time without support. Judging by a reduction to the personal budget by £701, they clearly believe Mr Davey needs a huge amount of time alone if he is to meet their concept of independence.

As depressing as this latest judgment is, this isn’t new. Back in 2011, London Borough of Kensington and Chelsea removed Ms McDonald’s nighttime support on the basis that wearing incontinence pads instead would increase her independence. In my own area, the council’s independent living accommodation is structured so the residents are in their nightwear by 6pm and are shut in their flats until 7am the next morning. The residents’ personal budgets are pooled so that they can “independently” go window shopping in groups with fewer support staff.

The Davey judgment terrifies me as I speculate on what will happen if an assessor decides Steven has a similar eligible need. What would happen if he is left on his own in his flat for hours at a time? Steven wants, likes and flourishes from time spent on his own but either me or a support worker is in one of the other rooms for safety reasons. Our presence doesn’t compromise Steven’s independence. I fear what would happen if next door’s dog started barking for an hour, as she tends to do. A dog’s incessant barking causes a sensory overload for Steven and in his distress, he is likely to put himself at risk. After time alone, a support worker could return and find something fatal had happened. This is just one example of how Steven needs people around if he is to be truly independent.

The real problem is that like many other good ideas, the social care power players abuse those ideas. The word “independence” has become corrupted. Nobody reading the Davey judgment can be in any doubt that Oxfordshire couldn’t give a toss about Mr Davey’s independence. They have manipulated a man’s dreams and ambitions in a shameful cost cutting exercise.

We need a new word. Independence is dead. Would “autonomy” fit the bill? I’m not sure it does but it might work until such time when it becomes corrupted like all the words that came before it. A positive idea lasts only as long until the finance committee gets their hands on it.

Lucy sums up perfectly what the lasting message of this judgment might be. “Care here is not constructed as a relationship between individuals but a fungibleDavey commodity that can be replaced with no real impact on the service user”.

My guess is that Mr Davey will be impacted hugely by this decision.

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20 Comments
  1. rebatchsoapbase permalink

    Hi Mark

    Just a quick question

    Do you think this judgement will be appealed

    Thanks

    Wendy

    ________________________________

  2. convinced that live-in agency support @ £650 is all LAs intend to fund , nothing to cover the carer breaks. Time alone housebound or pushing people to approach local voluntary services for ‘ sitters ‘ for those hours. Brutal for Mr Davey but maybe quite familiar practice to many people from first contact going back a decade/more.

  3. LizzzieD permalink

    Haven;t got to grips with the detail yet – but, like you, find it terrifying. It HAS to be appealed. We do all know that “independence” is code for “cheap” at best, and horrifying neglect at worse. The judge may have consideered the fine detail of the law, but local authorities may take it as carte blanche to insist that being left without care and supervision is good for you!

    My daughter hates the word independence, having correctly figured out when subjected to “independence training” that it did NOT improve her well-being. Of recent years, thanks to personal budgets, she HAS learned the pleasures of some time when she is not chivvied and supervised, CAN make choices and have some control of her life, but also knows that she has the support she needs when she needs it. She IS more independent now – though doesn’t call it that. She might even, in some respects now be less vulnerable and therefore cheaper, if careful adjustments were made. Using it as a cynical reason for reducing proper care can not be allowed to happen.

    • simone aspis permalink

      Luzzy that is interesting – where was your daughter subjected to independent living and why did she hate it – was it at

      • LizzzieD permalink

        It was well-meaning but badly handled sessions in her last years at school.

        My daughter has a complicated set of disabilities, and a will of iron. It took years to undo her negative response – and she STILL bristles at the word.

        It is a delight to see how well she takes to the idea that she DOES have some control. Real independence has always seemed precious to me – but not the fake version that pushes someone else’s agenda. Like this young man, trust in carers she has CHOSEN, trusts and can relate to has made a big difference as well.

  4. simone aspis permalink

    Autonomy could easily be curropted by the LA – self-governing, governing without external influence could always include the notion “independently” from another human being. Whether we like it or not whatever term is used will be curropted – supported living should have at least acknowledged that people needed support – the fact support becomes before living meant that it is clear SUPPORT is part of LIVING. Problem with independence is that there are so many different diffinitions around that includes and precludes support….Supported decision making???

  5. LizzzieD permalink

    In this case it looks like the social worker has made the decisions and he will be “supported” into doing it their way. Calling Hobson’s Choice independence is enough to make you weep.

  6. Pauline Thomas permalink

    There is another word Mark that has come corrupted in the LA’s little rule book of social care. That word is ‘honesty’

  7. LizzzieD permalink

    What is scary here is that the judge has given great weight to the social workers views. Maybe on very pragmatic “public funds” grounds – but in the present climate that is not good news for any of us.

    • The judgement gives further encouragement to LAs to deny people support and advocacy. The tactic of denying someone independent advocacy ‘ in the first instance ‘ is used to encourage ‘the ultimate goal of self-advocacy ‘. Dirty work from mock assessments.

  8. weary mother permalink

    And from the imposed ‘Hobsons’ of the ‘independent’ advocate hired by LA from the organisation on lucrative multi function contracts to same LA.

    And, ask the reasonable question – eg – Er, ‘how independent’ and or ‘how qualified or experienced is the advocate’ – and mum/dad’s card marked as the awkward/obstructive squad, ‘not letting go ‘ – or as ..just plain obstructive…

    etc……

    Another ruse…in….. the no win – one sided…care and support ‘game’.

  9. simone aspis permalink

    sure we will get a blog from Mark about tonight’s C 4’s Despatches – absolutely shocking – one of the most distressful programmes I have watched or listened to for years. How can we say we live in a civilised society when we allow complete dehumanisation and systematic abuse to continue day in and day out. If 4 people died in St Andrews – it should have been closed down immediately – and did I hear correctly the CEO is paid twice as much as Simon Stevens of NHS – If there is a time that everyone must unite with the speaking up movement – its right now! I know how I am going to use my turn at the mike at People 1st AGM today!

  10. weary mother permalink

    Watched programme on C4 last night, in tears of anger..and was left with so many questions:

    Just how many ..beloved people have died from – from apparent appalling neglect in this institution, and no justice ever – for them or for their for ever grieving mum and dad ?

    How can children…and adults. who have committed no crime …be incarcerated in this huge terrifying place for years? Put there by Public servants paid to care and protect them, but now dependent for freedom on people whose lucrative job depends on keeping the place full.

    What I saw..

    Frightened children and adults…the most fragile and vulnerable people in society experience institutionally reconstituted ‘independence’ – the opportunity to be drugged to the eye balls, restrained face down..forbidden to see their family for months . shut in terrifying brain numbing .. seclusion for months and more…. for only….. £3000 plus..a week

    Bargain…?

    Shame on shame on a society that funds all this for fat profits. For ‘charity’….and .a loads a money salary to the boss of twice that of the top boss in NHS…

    95 percent of all this ‘care’ paid by me and you – us….. the taxpayer…

    And all those hundreds of rooms… and an open cash till …is waiting to be filled…by our sons and daughters.

    .

  11. weary mother permalink

    £12500 !!!! Twelve thousand five hundred – real pounds…a week !!!

    I wonder who – is – holding shares – in this bonanza

    ????

    • Absolutely scandalous! The stories of Mathew & Farzia prove that all they needed were thier needs to be met i.e the right care and support. The only reason they and their families suffered was because the LAs refused to meet their needs in a timely way leaving them to reach a crisis point. They were then off loaded onto the NHS budget as serious threats to public safety! This must stop. There needs to be a serious investigation why this EXPENSIVE cruelty is allowed to happen in the name of CARE!!

  12. simone aspis permalink

    Mark how do you know that £12,500 per week?

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