Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Politicians doing what they promised

Politicians doing what they promised is rare - and not always good.

In Lancashire, last year, the County Council decided to cut services drastically over the next x3 years. They did last year (year 1) and now say they will carry on exactly as promised this year (year 2) to make even more and deeper cuts - but it's what they agreed last year, so no need for discussion.

This despite their having made, by their own publicity, more 'savings' than expected and having had a £50m windfall payback from the Landsbanki debacle. They justified their cuts last year by saying they were not set in stone and would keep them under review - there is no evidence of any review process, though we know of many actual cuts causing real distress. If major sources of unexpected income don't warrant any review, I'm not sure what would.

This council wants to cut services. It sees vulnerable people only as a drain on its resources, not an opportunity to be humane. Some people up here think councils should be a service, not a business. We are not customers, we're people.

The council is obviously Conservative, but I see little evidence of Labour objecting in any strong terms - their strategy seems to be 'let them do the nasty cuts and we'll be able to blame them when it all gets so bad we get back in power'. We are not voters, we're people.

I hate having my personality 'bacon sliced' into being a voter, a customer, a service user, a carer etc. etc. I'm a person and I'm bigger than any of these things. And sometimes I'm vulnerable and need help.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The shape of things to come...

After the abuse of people with learning disabilities in an institution - Winterbourne View, as seen on Panorama, you'd think that institutional abuse would get more publicity. But the financial overcharging of 16 people with learning disabilities by Wirral Borough Council - for which the courts have insisted the council repay £250,000 for overcharging since 2000 (with more to come from earlier), barely gets a mention.

There is a small article tucked away on the BBC website but little mention elsewhere and practically no 'pick up' by organizations such as Mencap - yet. Yet the implications are potentially enormous. The bullying of, and attempted 'payoff' of the whistleblower (which he turned down) are indicative of one problem which I suggest is as prevalent in many NHS and probably many Social Services Depts.. What is also an issue is that Wirral has been 'found out' whilst similar practices may well be going on in many other authorities.

I'm not suggesting this was a malicious or mendacious abuse, (though the people who were given access to these people's bank accounts indicates desperately poor practice). Rather that it flags up what can happen when the priority is to get as much income in and pay out as little as possible by an authority with control over vulnerable peoples finances - and finance has a higher priority than service quality or vulnerable people's rights.

The current climate of cost cutting is a ripe environment for more of this sort of abuse to happen when the finance is more important than service. If Wirral is the only Borough doing this, I will be very surprised.

Monday, January 16, 2012

And still it goes on ...

We had hoped for a little measure of closure as our son's specialist equipment was taken away following his death - but that would be too easy.

Our booked collection visit from the local Community Loan Store happened this morning, and now the adrenalin is running yet again. We'd carefully checked the various seating equipment, toilet chairs, hoists and slings against the list we'd been given and collected it all downstairs ready for collection. The men with the van arrived, took one look from the doorway and said 'not ours, not taking it'. There followed a tense 20 minutes of asking what they had come for (no answer) and who's it was if it wasn't theirs (and who we could return it to - no answer). In the end one of them (obviously some sort of manager) phoned in and was authorized to take it all. They seemed to want to blame us for having made his equipment last and it not being new stuff, and appeared to have no real idea of what they were supposed to be collecting - despite this visit being the result of a number of detailed phone calls and e-mailed lists. They were obviously stunned when told he'd had some of this stuff for over 10-20 years.

They did reluctantly, and with bad grace, take the stuff away. But left us angry and stressed. I really shouldn't have to get this assertive at this sort of time. For god's sake, I'm not stealing the stuff, I'm trying to give it back to be re-used (though I strongly suspect it will all be in a skip by this afternoon, despite being worth £'000). I suspect we'll now be contacted by someone with a different list wanting the stuff again because the paperwork is a mess. There is more stuff still to go.

The humanity in the NHS these days is being gradually paperworked and procedured out. We'll grieve properly when the clipboards and lists have gone away.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Time after

We buried my son last week. It was a good day - all about him, lots of friends, family and people who cared about him (some paid, some not - all cared). It rained hard, but he liked the rain - we'd take him for walks in it because he enjoyed it as long as he was well wrapped up and warm. So he had the last laugh at us being drenched - it would have amused him. And afterwards everyone went to the hall to see his photos and talk. And it wasn't miserable or depressing, even if we did cry.

We've cried more since - because we miss him, but he's resting now. No more reflux, no more fits, no more pain. And there were lots of good times. One mother said he'd packed more into his few years than her own son the same age, and even more than she had. It's never been about the quantity of life - it's the quality that mattered for him.

So we try to get back to 'normal' life. But that isn't happening yet. We've sorted his bank accounts out (what little there was), paid the bills, cancelled the benefits, notified the treasury, sent back his wheelchairs and a lot of other practicals - and this will go on for some time. There's another van load of equipment to go back next week, a track hoist to be removed, a mountain of clothes to be given away (some specialist for wheelchairs - many barely worn).

Some stuff can go to International Aid and the Women's Refuge but we'd hate to see his things just thrown away when they're in good condition. So we're finding homes for as much of the good stuff as we can.

I know it's early days yet and we will get things together eventually. Still in the 'busy' phase, see what happens later.