Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Story Thirty Eight - Happy Easter

The social worker had a very busy day on the day before good Friday 2010. She phoned me just before she left work for the long weekend to deliver the news. There were four things that I "needed" to be told.

I didn't realise that it was National Screw Your Clients Over Day.

1. She had informed both the DWP and Benefits Agency that Steven was now resident in the Unit. He would lose the care part of his DLA and his ESA would be reduced to just the "pocket money" rate.

2. She would be sending me out an invoice for charges for the Unit. Because Steven had now been there for three months, he was classified as "resident" and that entitled the council to charge Steven for the priviledge of being there.

3. She was cancelling our direct payments immediately. As above, Hillingdon's policy is that direct payments cease after three months of someone being in residential accomodation, regardless if there is still a need. So, she expected our trusty direct payment who had worked with Steven for over five years and whom Steven is very fond of, to leave without notice.

4. She was reducing the hours of the agency staff. She wanted to get the staff at the Unit more involved in Steven's activities. The reduction in their hours would start immediately and we'd review the situation after eight weeks.

It was horrendous but still brought out the good side in people. I knew we couldn't lose the direct payment worker. I had been having some extensive dental treatment at the time, so cancelled the treatment and paid him out of the money I'd saved up for the dental work. (I've never been able to afford to restart the treatment, so my mouth is still in the half finished state it was in back in April 2010). After I ran out of money, he worked voluntarily until my appeal was heard and the direct payments were reinstated. I remember the social worker's fury when she discovered the guy was willing to work for nothing. It was harder for the agency staff because the Unit wouldn't allow them to arrive early and that started a whole new chapter of "unknown antecedents" about bathing. Steven didn't like the female members of staff doing his bath but was powerless to do anything about it.

The appeal against the reduction to the DLA & ESA was eventually heard in August 2011 - after the court judgement. Although the tribunal accepted that Steven shouldn't have been in the Unit, they maintained that as he was there, they were entitled to reduce his benefits. He never got them back.

The invoices for the "residential charge" are still sitting in a drawer somewhere. Hillingdon continued to send them long after Steven eventually came home. The last one was for £5875. I still expect the bailiffs to turn up one day.

I can see that it was all part of the big plan - make it impossible for Steven to return home and in the meantime, create more of the double binds that Steven found so difficult. They would instigate a change to his routine that he would find hard to deal with. And then they would use his reaction as justification that he needed to be in the Unit.

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