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Flawed Floors

January 8, 2018

It seems such common practice in the world of social care that requesting support or meeting needs gets expressed in terms like “fight” or “battle”. The words aren’t accidental. They get used because they describe exactly the situation so many people find themselves in. It cuts across ages: from SEND experiences in early life through to building a support package when you’re transitioned into adult services.

Do you remember that advert where the logo was, “the bank that likes to say yes”? Social care is the bank that likes to say no. It does so with such alarming frequency that it can’t be an accident. It must be intentional. That’s when the battles start. Tribunals, appeals, ombudsmen, court of protection all come into play as arenas for the fights and thousands of pounds are spent (wasted) in justifying the “no” position.

I’ve been so immersed in the social care swamp for over 20 years that I tend to take a battle for granted. Sometimes I ponder whether the sort of battles the learning disabled and their families encounter happen anywhere else. I spent 16 years working for a local authority. Firstly, I dealt with claims in the Housing Benefit department. I remember delays in processing claims but I don’t recall any policies or practices that denied people what they were legally entitled to. I never attended meetings or training where we were instructed how to circumvent the regulations to stop people receiving their benefits. Later I became a training officer and my memory is that if a training need was identified, it was acted upon. Also, I was never asked to manipulate the training that I was delivering to save the council money. I left there in 1999 and wonder how much has changed since.

Steven moved into his Cowley home in October 2016. Almost immediately we realised there was a damp problem: mainly in his bedroom but also in the bathroom and hall. I reported the matter straightaway and realised that another battle might be looming. Typically, the first inspector tried to blame us for the damp. Not opening the window enough. Putting wet clothes on the radiator. Breathing at night. I made that last one up but the initial response from the council focused resolutely on avoiding accountability rather than instigating repairs. This position lasted months and in the meantime the damp worsened. I brought a humidifier. Washing down the walls was added to the support workers’ weekly rota.

Last year, the shower packed up and gave the first evidence that our suspicion that the shower was creating the damp validity. After the workmen took the tiles off the bathroom wall, we found the wall the soaking. But still nothing changed. New shower and new tiles but the damp persisted. The walls have been sprayed several times. I’ve spent hour upon hour on the phone to council repairs. But still the damp spread.

Just before Christmas we had another inspection. The inspector obviously hadn’t been on “the bank that likes to say no” training course. For the first time in 15 months someone took the issue seriously and he was focused on sorting it out. Last week, they took the shower out and replaced it with a bath. This week the walls are being stripped back to the rendering and being replastered. An air vent is being fitted. Last week’s bath fitters showed me the extent of the problem. The floor was sodden. The back wall was sodden. They couldn’t finish their work until the area dried out. Tomorrow, they’re coming back to lay a new floor and fit the bath panel. The plastering should be completed by tomorrow evening too. Hopefully by the weekend we’ll be able to redecorate Steven’s room and he can move back into it. Steven has coped very well with the disruption. He made a new friend in the bath fitter in their mutual liking for Barry White and he is enjoying the adventure of sleeping in my room.

I’m not saying that the 15 month fight to right this problem is because Steven has learning disabilities. For once, that doesn’t come into the equation. This must be widespread. A deliberate policy to avoid accountability through blame followed by patchwork repairs and interminable delay must be commonplace.

As a way of dealing with people, it’s as mouldy as the bedroom wall.



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  1. Pauline Thomas permalink

    Mark when you worked for the Council it was in the days when Councils delivered services. Today they commission out their services to companies that need to make profits. Making profits mean skimping on services. There you have it.

  2. Maureen West permalink

    Hi Mark
    I always enjoy reading your posts.
    They are very easy to read and you explain so well about the flawed system, in a way that we can empathise with because we have all been there, though should never have been.

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