Friday, January 25, 2013

For Winterbourne View read Munroe House

Winterbourne View, the home exposed by Panorama last year, was owned by Castlebeck.  The individuals abusing the residents were found guilty and went to prison.  So that's all right then, isn't it?  Well no it isn't.  Their main defence put up by the individual's  lawyers was "the Castlebeck way" of doing things - the organizations culture.  But Castlebeck has been sold to a set of banks (and we really trust them don't we?) and entrepreneurs, who've put in a 'turnaround specialist'.  So that should be all right shouldn't it?  Well no, not if the latest allegations are true.

Castlebeck also own a 'hospital' called Munroe House in Dundee, where 5 staff have just been suspended, the police are investigating complaints and the local MPs are starting to ask for a full inquiry.  Does it remind you of anything?

How many chances should a set up like Castlebeck get to do the right thing?  CQC (and it's Scottish equivalent) have let it carry on because closing it would generate too big a 'gap' in the 'market'.  What about the residents?  For me the solution should be to shut Castlebeck down, put in a different, emergency management at public expense and start finding better living solutions for the people warehoused in these so called hospitals.

I know it would be disruptive to the establishment (at Munroe House, at Castlebeck and at the NHS/Social Services/CQC).  I know it would be expensive at a time of cuts.  And I really don't care about those things.  The only important thing now is the quality of life of the people involved - and that's been ignored for too long.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Cuts and rumours of cuts

So what is the future for people with a learning disability.  Despite all the trips and failures on the way, I thought we'd come a long way from the old large institutions from before the days of Care in the Community.  We're into the era of independent living and personalized budgets - aren't we?  These days the aim is for people to live their own individual lives out in the community with whatever support is necessary to make this possible.

But then came the cuts.  There aren't any big institutions to close down any more to make the big savings.  So what is our Social Services Department doing.  Well, it seems to be doing two things.

In the short term, it's not closing facilities (there aren't many of them left) but it is trying to cut the number of people it is obliged to support (by making people with 'moderate needs' no longer eligible) and by shaving chunks off everyone else's care and support packages (there's a target of 15% reductions to care packages which are being reviewed - it's only a target, not everyone will be cut - but it's out there in big red letters for social workers to aim for when they do individual reviews.)

And it's actually started planning for the long term.  It's set up a unit specifically to look at what housing and support services it should be commissioning longer term - and it's coming up with a 'model.'  And the 'model' has suspicious similarities to some of the old institutions.  Something like an elderly persons sheltered housing scheme - individual flatlets in a block, with central support (remind you of anything?)  Could be quite small - OK, maybe 100, but could be as small as 40 units!  This would certainly keep costs down - but I seem to remember emptying a lot of things like this a few decades ago.  But surely, this is just scaremongering - no one would actually propose something like this - would they?  A next door authority has recently, and quietly, built a new unit just like this - our authority is just slower off the mark.

So what's wrong with this?  I won't put up a reasoned arguement - just throw out a few phrases.  Winterbourne View.  Learning disability ghetto.  Institutionalization.

It's not the workhouse, but it is on the same street.
It's not a big, isolated mental hospital, but the architecture has real similarities.
It's not a locked ward, but it's a long way from independent living in the community.
And it's coming soon to a place near you - if we don't get these plans out into the open and stop them.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Making me feel bad about doing good

I'm in a bit of a quandry.  As a real person, outside this blog, I've helped a new organization set itself up to directly help people with a learning disability to make their own views known rather than be told what they need.  That's fine, and we have some money to help them get to, and be supported to prepare for and present, at various meetings where critical decisions about them are being made.  What annoys me is that this support used to be provided by Social Services as part of their general support.  Now, without our support, they aren't getting to these meetings because they no longer qualify for support.  So we - funded outside government - are effectively having to spend our money to replace public funding.

This is yet another cut by the back door quality reduction method.  And by helping the people get to these meetings we're effectively accepting this.  In practice, I feel we have to do this, but I also feel that we shouldn't really be letting local and central government off the hook by doing so.  In the end, we can't not do this, because it's the people that matter, not government policy.

I know this is happening in many other contexts where cuts to essential - and more critical services than this are taking place.  But I still feel bad about it.  And I blame the government for making me feel bad about doing something good.  Not looking for an answer - it just feels better to get it off my chest.

If you don't do the care, don't criticize the carers

I'm glad at least someone recognizes that carers are being forced to do more while the government (central and local) withdraws further from its responsibilities to the most disabled and vulnerable.  Thank you Sarah Ditum.  She's absolutely right that there are more carers (evidence shown) and they are doing more each (also evidenced) as services are withdrawn.  She's absolutely right that this government should be saying some sort of thank you rather than berating us for not doing even more.  I suspect Norman Lamb isn't himself a carer - and if he isn't, he has no right to criticize anyone else - whether they are carers or not.