Thursday, 15 May 2014

Story Sixty Four - Curly Arms

I'm returning to a previous story because I'm still going through the court records and found some fascinating email exchanges. This is about the "incident" that took place at the doctor's surgery where Steven was alleged to have kicked a woman in the surgery, who happened to be a council employee. This was the day Eva from the Unit had sent two new support workers out on very long trips with Steven, so he could learn about "task completion". The guys went in the wrong direction and an hour later went back to the Unit, only for Eva to send them out again, despite Steven being in full scale meltdown by this time.

I've found an email exchange between the social worker and the manager of the support agency the day after the incident. The two guys had been suspended by this point for "not following risk management plans". (Needless to say, Eva, who also didn't follow a risk management plan by sending Steven out on a busy bus whilst he was having a meltdown, remained in post and got in with the task of buying Steven very small clothes). The social worker poses a series of questions and I include the support workers' manager's responses in italics.

1. Why was the incident not reported to staff at the Unit as per guidelines?
     "The workers felt that it was a "near incident" and did not need to be recorded"

2. Have you spoken to both workers individually?
     "Yes. I attach their statements"

3. Were both workers with Steven at all times?
     "Yes, except for five minutes when one was speaking to the receptionist for the prescription"

4. Why was F called (He was Steven's main support worker at the time on his day off). They should know they have to phone the Unit if they have any concerns?
     "They were calling to get directions, not to raise concerns at this point"

5. Is Mr Neary aware of this? If not, please keep this confidential.
    "He is. I spoke to him last night".

The manager then goes on to say:

"It is for reasons of our good relationship that I have decided that it will be prudent and precautionary to recall the workers around whom an investigation is ongoing."

I never found out what the outcome of the investigation was. Steven was blamed and the whole incident used against him in the court reports. The two workers were eventually sacked (one of them died a few weeks later of a heart attack). And Eva got promoted.

To finish on a light note. There is a marvellous typo/brain loss moment at the end of the report written by one of the support workers. He had been asked to give a description of the woman in the surgery. He says:

"The woman was in her mid 30s. She was wearing a black jumper and black trousers, with her hair up to her arms, which were curly".

As he was sacked, I never got to see him again to hear more about the woman with the curly arms.


  1. Crikey Mark, reading this latest case sounds so familiar to what you're describing in this blog:

    The phrase that keeps running through my mind, when I read your stories and others like it, is "treating people as projects". There's something about people who - instead of working from a rights-based approach which is about discerning who somebody is, what they want out of life, and how to make that happen - decides that the person is a problem to be fixed, through 'management', 'positive behaviour support', or whatever. It just feels so wrong, it brings to mind what Goffman said about 'total institutions':

    'These establishments are the forcing houses for changing persons in our society. Each is a natural experiment, typically harsh, on what can be done to the self'

    These cases are making me so angry (and the steady trickle of petitions about people sent hundreds of miles away to hospitals), that I may have to return to twitter...

    1. Hi Lucy. Where have you been - time travelling through distant galaxies? It's astonishingly and scarily similar isn't it. Where is the thought in the judgement given to ML's human rights? Does he have Article 8? I was suprised when I got to the end of the judgement - the way it was going, I didn't expect that outcome. Makes me sad - thats the end of ML's family life now. He'll be another of those people who will be at the place he's being sent to you for years.

    2. Hi Mark, I found it very sad and depressing, and I was surprised by the outcome. The sheer audacity of it, ripping somebody out of their home and relationships and routines, to detain them for an estimated two years, so that they can reach their 'potential', whatever that means. Imagine doing that to somebody 'with capacity' who you felt wasn't reaching their potential! It just leaves you speechless. Yet somehow if you 'lack capacity' you slip into a parallel moral and legal universe. It's also striking how 'independent living' is being constructed in these cases as a set of life skills and a particular service model, when you contrast with how it's defined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities as having 'the opportunity to choose their place of residence and where and with whom they live on an equal basis with others and are not obliged to live in a particular living arrangement'.