Yesterday was the first day of the two week inquest into the death of Danny Tozer in 2015 in a Mencap supported living home (although going from the evidence so far it looks like another rebranded care home designed to save on care costs by claiming housing benefit).
I went to bed in a rage and woke up this morning in the same state. There is much to rage about. The inquest was only on the first morning yet Mencap’s barrister started dishing out the parent blame during the evidence of both Rosie and Tim Tozer. It is to be expected but it is harrowing to witness. The afternoon session consisted of the evidence of two social care managers from York council and their apathy left one’s heart in one’s boots.
What has really got to me though is the way the Mencap barrister has made such a big deal about Danny’s “private time”. Like a dog with a bone he has questioned all four witnesses about private time. I still don’t understand his agenda. Are Mencap really using a resident masturbating as a get out clause for their appalling care?
Private time is social care speak for masturbation. Some commentators have said that it’s an embarrassed euphemism. I don’t agree. To me, it’s another thoughtless euphemism that’s designed to dehumanise the person. A language that only applies to “them” because “they” are not like us. It’s from the dictionary of phrases like: placement (home), community activity (swimming), personal care (having a shower). A Twitter friend taught me a new one today – self travelled. It means going by bus.
Sex is very problematic for social care practitioners. It’s likely to be filed under the heading “challenging behaviour”. Or worse, and I have seen this often, “inappropriate behaviour”. Having a wank needs to be managed. It needs to be discussed at the multi disciplinary meeting. It needs risk management plans drawn up. Even when someone is living in their own home. On paper, Danny was living in his own home but the needs of other residents had to be factored into his private time plan.
It felt uncomfortable discussing this on social media. But I had to keep reminding myself that it’s not Danny’s sex life being discussed. It’s the complete failure of social care to recognise wanking as a normal activity. It’s also about the shameful tactics of the “voice of learning disability’s” barrister to weaponise this normal act to attack the family and to paint a picture of Danny as problematic.
One is left with the feeling that the State (and I include Mencap in that) has no idea in how people live their normal lives. Learning disabled people are there to be patronised (“Ah. Bless”). To give the State it’s sense of importance and to give the impression that it is offering something of value, the dehumanising of learning disabled people becomes collateral damage. And in case I’m accused of over reacting, language like “private time” is the drip drip drip of the dehumanising process.
I’ve tried to imagine what Steven would make of the concept of private time. Rather in the direct way he dealt with the social worker’s enquiry into whether he’d been out on his community programme, I imagine the conversation going like this:
“Hello Steven. Have you been engaged in private time today?”
“No. I’ve been wadgering. Now I’m going to have a Whispa”.