Monday, 26 May 2014

Story Seventy Five - Disguised Compliance

As 2010 wore on, extra fears started to emerge for me. Going back to February and the social worker's "there's always something or other with Mr Neary" email, I learned that it was absolutely futile to raise any concerns I had. Worse than me being dismissed and being written off as someone who "always wants to find fault with the care others give Steven", there often seemed to be a terrible consequence for Steven when I challenged the professional view. I pissed them off and Steven got punished. I guess it's the shadow side of the profession coming out. Not only was there the total certainty in their rightness to contend with, but worse, the tendency when feeling under attack, to attack back at the most vulnerable. It's like the obvious power gets abused & the professional safeguarders are the people you need most safeguarding from. I wish I had been their reflective practice supervisor. Many a time in my counselling supervision, my supervisor has challenged me as to when my shadow might be at play. It is useful, essential work.

But anyways - off my soapbox. In order not to rock the boat, I took to keeping schtum in meetings and smiling sweetly. The Unit manager said to me once, "You're very quiet in meetings Mark. And we know we're going to receive an email the day after, containing all your thoughts". That was true for several reasons. All the meetings were tremendously intimidating - I was always outnumbered - usually by about 6 to 1. He also didn't realise that most of my energy during a meeting was taken up either trying to sit on my rage or stop myself bursting into tears at the way they were treating my son. It seemed the best approach, albeit incongruent, to present my more considered thoughts after the event. Only once did I lose my temper - the day they came to tell me they had cancelled the holiday. We sat in silence for ages and then I told them to fuck off out of my house. I'll always remember the social worker's smile as she left the flat.

Late in 2010, I saw an advert for a social care conference that was being held. It was called: "Working with highly resistant parents" and had the sub-title: "Practical strategies to tackle obstructive behaviour and disguised compliance". It even had a section about the tactics that parents and carers use when "grooming the professionals". This disguised compliance stuff bothered me - you didn't agree with the professional opinion but pretended you did. I started to feel quite paranoid about this, but then thought - "hang on, this isn't my paranoia - this is their's". You've got to be scraping the bottom of your tactical barrel if you're going to accuse someone fighting to get his son home of "grooming the professionals with disguised compliance". That seems to me rather a paranoid approach to take for the professionals when dealing with parents and carers.

Even after the threat of disguised compliance - even now 4 years later, I still freeze in meetings. Our barrister expressed her shock after seeing me in one such meeting. She was used to me being fairly confident and articulate and called me a "tiny mouse". She was right. But I don't want our world turned upside down again.

1 comment:


    "NEW THIS YEAR: Practical sessions focusing on collaborative working with families who display disguised compliance."

    If it's displayed, it's hardly disguised, is it? "Working with families whom you suspect of disguised non-compliance" would be nearer the point, and would also be more honest about the fact that the professionals can't know for certain, so ought to be scrutinising themselves and their own motives as well as the family.