Yesterday Steven and I did our Sunday compilation tape. At the moment, we’re working through the alphabet and are now up to artists beginning with “S”. One of the tracks was The Style Council’s “Walls Come Tumbling Down”. For years this song has intrigued and slightly frightened Steven – what could possibly make your walls suddenly start tumbling down? His enquiry was both architectural and philosophical. To add to his angst, he knows the video to Jamaroquai’s “Virtual Insanity” where the floor is moving, which when combined with tumbling walls, gave Steven a terrible sense of existential unsafety. It took a visit to a demolition site a few years back for him to understand that sometimes, a whole house can be knocked down. But hopefully, not whilst people are in it. “Dad – the floor’s gone too”.
The floor’s gone in social care too. I was pondering the lack of a floor last night whilst reading another article about the lack of money in the system. Of course, you can’t argue against money being tight but it is always found to cover the costs of ATUs. LAs willingly pay agency fees whilst paying direct payments would be a lot cheaper. Money is scarce but the infrastructure is all but gone.
For years, our council have had a contract with a local disability charity to provide support for all things direct payments. I think the charity have been marvellous. Back in 2004, they helped us find our first direct payment worker. In 2013, they came to see me and spent hours holding my hand as I became a Personal Budget employer. And every April since, they have helped me by checking the tax and national insurance figures I’ve calculated are correct.
A few month’s back, the council decided that its service users needed more “choice” in who provides the direct payment support. They’ve now cancelled the contract with the charity and from now on, we’ll have a sum included in our Personal Budget to go off and find our own support. The charity can’t afford to exist without this regular income, so they are excluded as a potential provider and all PB recipients have got to find a new provider. I guess the council are relying on most people are feeling the same way as me – that the search for a new provider is too much of a pain in the arse and we’ll try and manage without. A floor is removed to save a few coppers.
Last week I got the increase in the Personal Budget that we’ve been waiting for since March. For the last five months, I’ve been having to pay the shortfall myself – about £105 per week. Thankfully when the payment came through, it included a chunk of arrears, so I’ve managed to claw back some of the money I’ve paid out. They make running a personal budget so relentlessly hard, whilst if it had suitable walls and floors in place, a personal budget should be a boon to everyone concerned.
I wonder what it must be like to be an old school social worker and to work in an environment that no longer has walls or floors. Credit where it’s due, we’ve had two examples of social workers operating with humanity from within that void. When my wife died in 2014, the social worker phoned me to see if I needed any extra support whilst I arranged the funeral. And within three days, a sum to pay the support workers extra hours was in the account. The same thing happened last year with Steven’s house move. The social worker knew that I’d be tied up with all the arrangements and paid four weeks additional support hours. The great thing about those two moments were that they were offered. I wouldn’t have dreamed of asking but the social workers saw a need and went beyond themselves to help out.
Perhaps it needs more people to follow Paul Weller’s lead and not take this crap and actually try changing things…..