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Measurable Outcomes & Brookside

November 1, 2017

One thing that all families with a learning disabled member learns very early on is that when you ask for services you have to enter the professionals’ world. They don’t enter yours. Your life becomes framed and narrated in a way that you have never done before. It is expected that you learn the language and the processes. If you don’t, you’re in completely alien territory even though that territory is your life.

You are led to think in terms of tasks, of measurable outcomes, of action plans. It’s a business speak that is very hard to fit with the way you live your life.

I remember a story from the time Steven was in the Unit. I had to attend an update review meeting about two months after Steven was detained. One thing I brought up was Steven’s clothes. All the ones he went away with had either been lost, damaged or shrunk beyond wearing. It was tense because the professionals went on the defensive. We had a long discussion about replacements and I offered to order a new wardrobe that evening & Steven would have the new clothes by the weekend. A few days later I was sent an “action plan” resulting from the meeting. One paragraph was:

“Task – To buy new clothes for SN”.

“Tasked to – MN”

“Completion Date – 26.2.10”

“Outcome – To improve SN’s choice of clothing”.

A normal everyday job that didn’t even merit recording was turned into corporate cobblers.

For years after Steven transitioned into adult services (I can speak the lingo) I was asked when I saw the time when Steven would be living independently. A major life development had to be reduced to a “task, completion and outcome” box. I could never answer the question in a way that I was expected to. I’d mumble something like, “Well, I’m sure it will happen when it happens. When Steven is ready”. I knew it was the wrong answer although it was the only right answer I could envisage. I knew I was right because Steven’s whole life had progressed like that. He learns things when he’s ready to learn them.

Today is a perfect, albeit minor example of this. Earlier I told Steven about an episode of Morse that I thought he might be interested in that was being repeated on ITV3 this afternoon. To coin a phrase, “They’re all in it”. Lots of actors that Steven would recognise from other shows. He likes that when familiar faces turn up in other shows. I gave him some clues:

“The man from One Foot In The Grave & Mr Bean’s dentist”.

(Easy peasy) ” Richard Wilson? And?”

“That naughty man from Brookside”.

“Robert Pugh”.

Good grief! He didn’t say John Clarke. Clarke was the character in Brookside who held the nurses hostage back in 1984, finally shooting Kate and then himself. Steven has watched the video many times and can quote many of the lines.

But he knew the actor’s name and that he was playing a part. It’s the first time he’s differentiated between an actor and the part he plays.

It’s taken 27 1/2 years. Perhaps, he’s known that for years and hasn’t been able to articulate it before. Who knows? Whatever, he’s done it in his own time without any recourse to an action plan.

That’s how we live our lives.


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  1. Frannie permalink

    So recognise all this as for ‘The wrong clothes’ it says so much, drove me bonkers when our son was unwell not able to process things,we would arrive to find him in I’ll fitting clothes that obviously were not his, must have belonged to someone a foot smaller and all his clothes were labelled and in his wardrobe

  2. weary mother permalink

    Take 200 paid people, give them 200 pounds and a day off….

    to go to a conference, Hire 10 paid people to talk to them …

    and the measurable outcome is…….?

    • Yep! That is the sad reality, quite ok to spend that way but an entirely different story to get funding for anyone’s actual ‘wellbeing’! ☹️

    • LizzieD permalink

      Yes – what is needed is more expensive training sessions in how to apply nonsense.

      My daughter’s Care Plan is hilarious – though it does state that most outcomes are to be achieved by “mother”.

  3. kate permalink

    in the 90s, one of the common mantras from the authorities was “can you imagine or do you remember how it used to be in the past, institutions always lost patients clothes or sent items to the laundry and they came back damaged or swapped with someone else’s clothes?….well these things will never happen again” Really? Task – MN to pick up the pieces, then please don’t trouble us again until we need you to repair our damage again. Outcome – all looks like MN’s fault.

    Now all I can see is Pat Hancock (David Easter?) with his big hair complaining on Brookside. What pictures have you put in my head?

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