By Linda Edwards,
Sadly, once again, London Borough of Barnet Adult Social Care and Health have been exposed for their bad practice and pretence.
On Thursday 22nd March 2012 I attended a Conference organised by the National Development Team for inclusion (NDTi) “Is Supported Living Really Working?”
Well respected and knowledgeable guest speakers and participants, including family carers, managers, commissioners and staff from all over UK attended.
After key note speakers, questions were invited. Four out of the five questions came from family carers. This is very different to when I first attended learning disability conferences 20 years ago when I was usually the lone family carer amongst paid workers.
My question to the panel was “What can other family carers do if treated in the same way by Adult Social Care and Health as my daughter and I were treated by London Borough of Barnet?”
I gave an outline of my experience as follows:
1. In February 2007 LBB Adult Social Care and Health placed my daughter who has a learning disability and is on the autistic spectrum in Supported Living with their in-house service.
2. She became depressed and unable to function daily because they continually ignored the National Autistic Society Assessment Recommendations.
3. They disregarded any advice I offered about my daughter; treating me with disdain and contempt.
4. In October 2007, through a ‘pantomime’ recruitment process, LBB Adult Social Care and Health commissioned another service provider.
5. The recruitment process had been a ‘pantomime’, because very little had been done to publicise the contract and so the only ‘choice’ was either the same LBB’s in house service that had made my daughter emotionally unwell or another organisation they telephoned that “have not previously delivered supported living but are keen to begin in Barnet.” In spite of some excellent services in Barnet, none attended the interview.
6. Immediately they were given the contract they demonstrated that they had no intention of working with me as the family carer.
7. It soon became clear that they had little understanding or experience of delivering a supported living service and very little of what they had promised at the interview was delivered.
8. In March 2008 I made a formal complaint to the Director of LBB Adult Social Care and Health about their incompetence, lack of monitoring and evaluation, condoning the fact that the service provider had no goals or outcomes for my daughter and allowing the service provider to exclude me as the family carer.
9. I requested that they remove the contract from this service provider.
10. Quoting LBB Adult Social Care and Health senior manager’s lies about my character, with both managers accusing me of being the problem, the director's response was to refuse to remove this inappropriate and bullying service provider.
11. Then, demonstrating contempt for family carers, she suspended the complaint!
12. I met with my daughter's MP, Andrew Dismore who advised me to instruct the services of a specialist solicitor and who wrote to the LBB Director of Adult Social Care and Health.
13. I then instructed the services of a specialist solicitor who after many months of Adult Social Care and Health unlawful prevarication, eventually ensured the complaint was reinstated.
14. When I asked LBB CEO to intervene in order to bring the complaint to a swift end, he replied while turning his head away from me - “I don’t do complaints!”
15. Even though she knew the service provider had put my daughter at risk, the Director of Adult Social Services & Health continued to resist my complaint, which by then had cost the council thousands of pounds in fees to independent inspectors, solicitors and reports even prior to the ombudsman's stage.
16. What did LBB Adult Social Care and Health learn?
a. Only to shorten their complaints procedure so as to allow only one stage of it, and
b. To exclude me from the Learning Disability Partnership Board as a punishment for my persistence in protecting my daughter.
[At this point in my question the audience burst out in a laugh!] I continued:
13. What did I learn?
I learnt the word ‘obfuscation’. Again, a laugh from the audience!
“What can other family carers do if treated in the same way by Adult Social Care and Health as my daughter and I were treated by London Borough of Barnet?”, I asked again
The panels’ response:
· All behaviours you have described are the opposite of what should be happening in good practice.
· Sometimes Supported Living can be more institutionalised than Residential Care and very lonely.
· Some local authorities are so quick to report the changes required of them, they forget the people for whom they are making the changes!
· Local Authorities must engage with ALL stakeholders and not hand-pick and choose who they want to engage with.
· What you were being sold as 'Supported Living' was not Supported Living.
· It is important to establish carers-led organisations to gather other family carers, so that together carers can be completely independent of the local authority.
· Bombard your politicians. Let them know what is happening.
A family carer in a different local authority spoke about her daughter’s excellent service and attributed this excellence to “local good practice in partnership between ALL stakeholders; service user; local authority; service provider; care staff and family.”
Throughout the day, people approached me, wanting to know specific examples of the obfuscation, contempt, incompetence, lies, intimidation and risk that I had referred to when I had asked the panel what other family carers should do in my position.
Many were shocked that given the evidence, the LBB director refused to remove this service provider that had deskilled and demotivated my daughter. She and senior managers knew that I was continually trying to minimise the damage the service provider was causing to my daughter and then having to put in writing yet another complaint, which over four years, made me unwell and often unable to work.
My complaints made no difference to the quality of service for my daughter but they created a lot of administration and meetings, thus spending valuable financial resources paid for by council-tax payers!
Many expressed their surprise that the complaints process had been shortened to only one stage before the ombudsman stage, but all were in disbelief that I had been excluded from the Learning Disability Partnership Board. This was described by one person as “shades of a dictatorship regime”.
I told them about the Campaign Against the Destruction of Disability Support Services (CADDSS) that was created by two family carers in Barnet because of how LBB Adult Social Care and Health had behaved so dismissively towards their family member and themselves, and it had become evident to them that this bad practice and disregard to carers and service users was widespread in Adult Social Care and Health in Barnet.
I mentioned that LBB Adult Social Care and Health Carers Strategy Partnership Board had established an ‘Independent’ Carers Group and at the first public meeting I was told in front of the two guest councillors present that my question was not appropriate and did not qualify a response. One of the participants at the conference responded “It cannot be independent if it is set up by the local authority and funded by the local authority, as was evident by the fact that a family carer was not allowed to express their concerns because two councillors were present. This is a cute way of controlling carers, getting them to believe they are valued and paying lip service to what should be good practice!”
Later, the National Development Team for inclusion (NDTi) shared with the conference participants that they had learnt from the morning session that in future they should have a family carer on the panel…….. Take note LBB Adult Social Care and Health - you too need the family carers who are not afraid to speak up and speak out, those who do not give in to your attempts of intimidation and victimisation and who are willing to take a risk for the benefit of the many.
If LBB councillors continue to collude with and allow such unprofessional and nasty practice, I hope that as they continue to climb their professional ladder, when these senior managers apply for future employment with their well-constructed application forms, future employers will learn about the damage they have caused. They may have many skills, but unless they have integrity, humanity, civility and honesty, they are not who we should want to manage our Social Care and Health Service for vulnerable people.
What else did I learn?
I learned that when vulnerable people come up against such a vindictive, oppressive and vile regime, they have no choice but to challenge it. As these senior managers have all had some kind of promotion since my complaint was made and they appear not to be accountable for their behaviour, sadly, it must now be exposed to a wider audience than the London Borough of Barnet.
I will continue to campaign with other family carers, with people with learning disabilities and autism, with good practising managers and other people who want a fairer society for all. London Borough of Barnet Adult Social Care and Health have to include all family carers, not just the family carers who may be satisfied with a service, or those who become compliant and pretend they are satisfied out of fear of victimisation of their loved ones or themselves.
Two people attending the conference, who work for my daughter’s new service provider, agreed that there will always be challenges to face but so long as we are prepared to tackle them together in partnership, and so long as their staff are as caring as they are today and they don’t act as if I am the problem, there is every hope that I can die in peace knowing that my daughter will continue to be encouraged to fulfil her dreams and aspirations and have a full and worthwhile life.
“You cannot look at cost effectiveness without looking at effectiveness” Martin Knapp
Linda Edwards (family carer)------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Linda Edwards is a parent carer in the London Borough of Barnet. Guest blogs are always welcome at the Barnet Eye