Category Archives: social work

Social workers are revolting

Social workers are distraught about the portrayal of social work in Eastenders.  The storyline concerns young Lola, and her baby Lexi, who was removed from her mother’s care by a social worker.

1. Social workers outraged by EastEnders storyline about baby Lexi – more here
“The British Association of Social Workers (BASW) is engaged in a battle with the BBC over a storyline in EastEnders.

Last Friday, the TV soap featured a social worker removing a baby from a teenage mother, Lola, apparently without sufficient grounds to do so.

The BASW immediately condemned the plot. It accused BBC producers of being “too lazy and arrogant” to get their portrayal of the child protection process right.’

2. Fury over Eastenders’ ‘misleading’ social work storyline  – more here

‘An Eastenders plot line has sparked outrage among social workers who have criticised the BBC for misrepresenting their work and putting children at risk.’

I’m not quite sure how 5 minutes (approx)  in total of a fictional TV soap can be seen to be ‘putting children at risk’ but I’ll no doubt get the message eventually.

3. ‘Eastenders’ portrayal of social work left me in tears’  – more here
‘I am sure I am not the only one to feel aggrieved by last Friday’s Eastenders social work story line, not least because accurate procedures were not followed [when a character’s baby was taken away]. Was it police protection, section 20? Where was the immediate risk to the baby? As a social worker, I was in tears, as was a colleague of mine, watching how our profession was portrayed on television.

As a result, I sent a complaint to the BBC ….’

Stick with me – it gets worse.

4. The British Association of Social Workers: – more here
Eastenders demonising social workers – BASW leads fight back
‘BASW has sprung to the defence of the social work profession after being inundated by complaints from members about an EastEnders storyline involving care leaver Lola Pearce having her baby removed by an oppressive social worker Trish Barnes, played by Tessa Churchard.’
‘Commenting on the portrayal Bridget Robb, acting chief executive British Association of Social Workers said: “It is disgraceful to see a publicly funded broadcaster deliberately spreading misinformation about the child protection process because it is too lazy and arrogant to get it right. We regularly give advice to programmes about social work storylines; we would like to know who advised EastEnders so badly.” ‘

Having just watched the episode in question, I wish the social workers in my life had been as harmless as the Eastenders’ social worker character, but more importantly as ‘kind and caring’ as the BASW seems to think they all are in real life.

Eastenders is a soap. It is fiction! Remember,  nobody is suggesting that social workers are all ‘lazy and arrogant’ on occasion/sometimes/frequently/often, are they?  Yet, the BBC scriptwriters are lazy and arrogant, according to BASW.

The reaction from social workers and from the BASW has done more damage to their cause than did the Eastenders episodes.

“Eastenders’ shabby portrayal of an entire profession has made a tough job even tougher”, writes BASW acting Chief Executive.  Talk about over-egging the pudding.  This is a portrayal of one single fictional social worker – not an entire profession – in a TV soap.  It’s not a documentary.

“BASW is also urging all social workers to vote against Eastenders in the National TV Awards, unless the programme’s producers can demonstrate a proper understanding of why the portrayal has invited such concern among social workers.”  Is that a mature response to a problem, or is it a childish foot-stamping reaction?

BASW quotes a whole load of abusive Tweets about the Eastenders episode in question – without providing any evidence of the reasons for those tweets, or the background of ‘who’ tweeted ‘what’ – but if it’s in the best interests of BASW, that makes it OK, does it?  Not in my view.

Perhaps BASW doesn’t need evidence.

Perhaps BASW and social workers really are lazy and arrogant.

Perhaps BASW and social workers have memory problems – they seem to spout the same ‘excuses’ when it comes to criticism of their profession, even when that criticism comes from Judges.

As here  just a couple of years ago.   ‘Courts distrust evidence from social workers.  Judges delay decisions in urgent cases affecting vulnerable children to hear from other experts, says report.  Courts are refusing applications to take children into care because some members of the judiciary hold social workers in such low esteem that they do not trust their evidence, it will be claimed this week in a major study.’

If social workers and the BASW want a realistic portrayal of a social worker on TV, they might be more than horrified.  Their shiny self- image might be seriously tarnished.  I’d even volunteer to write an episode or three!

To all those social workers who have been reduced to tears by about 5 minutes in total (so far) of a fictional portrayal of social work, my message to you is that I would like you all to be reduced to tears as often as I’ve been by the real-life actions of social services.    

Arrogant and lazy in the extreme were the social workers in my life.  Manipulating and re-writing their ‘paperwork’, and doing so on the instructions of their Team Leader who instructed them to make sure it was ‘watertight’.   He accidentally sent me a copy of his internal email – and also of the massive legal advice he’d had to seek to allow him to validate (not!)  his despicable actions.  Making decisions about a mature person, vulnerable because of her dementia – decisions made totally against the Mental Capacity Act 2005, hence the need for the paperwork to be re-written and waterproofed, on the instruction of their Boss.

Making decisions in a ward round that had long-lasting and devastating consequences for my relative – even though they had been warned by me about the possible consequences of the abuse of their powers of social services.

I used the words “if you do that, she will die”.  I was right.  They were wrong.

It took me years to get an explanation and a half-hearted apology from the Team Leader who was no ‘new kid on the block’’  He’d been around the block many times by the time his destructive power entered my life.

Apology?  I use that word loosely, but it went along the lines of the fact that the Mental Capacity Act is enormously difficult to understand, even for (so-called) professionals.  It included words like ‘new to this’, and ‘challenged’ but ignoring important matters like failing to do the decent thing, failing to consult properly with family, making decisions and fabricating paperwork to match his despicable directives.

It’s taken me more than 5 years to deal with the consequences of those decisions too – and my ‘dealing’ with it all is still serious, still ongoing and yes, I’ve shed more than a few tears over those 5 years.

The social workers in my life, and in the life of my relative, all colluded and contributed to the serious decline and unkind death of one gentle harmless kind individual.  Such was their arrogance; so great was their intransigence; so incompetent were they all.

That’s what I call shabby, irresponsible, despicable social work.

I won’t be shedding a single tear over the fictional portrayal of one fictional  social worker in Eastenders.

The BASW and its many social workers shouldn’t be shedding tears either.  They should all grow up and act responsibly and honestly, rather than hide behind their tears.

Bet you all that one single droplet of my tears is far more genuine than your accumulated and congealed tears.

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Filed under abuse, dementia, Local Authority, social work

Intermittent connections in the world of dementia and care

There is what is known as a ‘major Service Outage’ in my part of the UK, and many of us are struggling with creepingly slow broadband connections – all are up the creek without a paddle for the foreseeable future, and no amount of troubleshooting has so far been able to sort us all out.  I’m told I have an intermittent connection, but no boffin has so far been able to create the constant connection that I need.  And as those strangely disconnected moments turned into hours, then days and now weeks, we have all been driven to distraction.  So, many micro filters have been changed, routers powered down and powered up, settings have all been checked, lines tested … and so on.  The systems have all had a thorough MOT.

But the brain behind the broadband can’t send the right signals to the right place at the right time for a meaningful, reliable and constant connection to be established.

Just like dementia.

When the brain’s working properly all those little electrical impulses work their way along the nerves to and from parts of your body and parts of your brain.  The neurotransmitters help those signals to jump across the gaps between the nerve cells.  And language, movement, problem solving and memory all work according to plan, according to the blueprint.  The connections remain constant.

But, with Alzheimer’s disease, the brain shrinks as the number of nerve cells in the brain reduces.  You can’t grow new nerve cells, so as more and more cells die away, the problems of dementia increase.  The neurotransmitters are reduced too so they can’t send the same signals.  The intermittent connections begin to surface.

The brain needs a good supply of blood – via blood vessels – for it to function, but if the vascular system in the brain becomes damaged, because of diabetes, high blood pressure or heart problems perhaps, or a stroke, the blood can’t reach the brain cells, so they eventually die.  And then along comes Vascular Dementia to wreak havoc.  More intermittent connections surface.

It’s 100 years since Alois Alzheimer first described Alzheimer’s.  Very little of Alzheimer’s teachings had to be revised and, though 100 years older today, they have not been corrected or amended but only confirmed.  Alois Alzheimer was apparently an optimist.

Dementia is the word we use to describe the symptoms that occur when the brain is damaged by disease, the most common being Alzheimer’s Disease.  Vascular Dementia is the second most common form of dementia.

Dementia is degenerative, and the speed of decline varies. A person will become repetitive both in speech and movement, will look in a mirror and fail to recognise their own image, will also fail to recognise their own family and friends, will lose the ability to carry out everyday tasks (the so-called activities of daily living or ADLs), will often become verbally and/or physically aggressive, will become agitated, may suffer hallucinations and delusions, will gradually suffer severe memory loss, will often lose their speech entirely and in the latter stages they will lose the ability to swallow, the ability to move, the ability to breathe.

Dementia leads to death.  There is no cure.

For some unexplained reason, Dementia is  seen at present as a problem requiring social care rather than health care.  And that is where the intermittent connections in the world of dementia and care really begin to show themselves.

Paul Burstow, Care Services Minister and Liberal Democrat MP, had a crack at local authorities for jumping the gun and making cuts in care support ahead of next month’s public spending review.  He also told Community Care that “Every local authority has a responsibility to do its best to make efficiencies and protect the frontline – there are better ways they can do this than salami-slicing and slash and burn.”    I can only agree with him when it comes to salami-slicing – if only because I can think of a few salamis that I’d like to slice, all currently involved in the care industry and in the dementia care industry.

Mr Burstow is also upset by the low uptake of personal budgets.

The Princess Royal Trust for Carers published the results of its survey of 800 carers, who care unpaid for a sick and disabled family member, and found that over half (53%) of all carers who work earn less than £10,000 a year, with three-fifths (60%) having to spend all of their savings to support the person they care for. 89% say that they are financially worse off as a result of caring and, consequently, almost two-fifths (39%) fear they will lose their home.  Broke and broken: Carers battle poverty and depression.

Read these Quotes from Carers – the intermittent connections in the world of care are clear to see.

Today, Stephen Dorrell – the new Chairman of the House of Commons health committee – has urged politicians to face up to the way in which vulnerable elderly people are being forced to pay for medical care, health care, all because of the redrawing of the boundaries between health care and social care, without proper debate or scrutiny.

The debate surrounding NHS Continuing Healthcare – which is healthcare fully funded by the NHS, in any ‘setting’ so in hospital, in a care home, in one’s own home, in a caravan or even on a double-decker bus (privately owned, of course!) – is something that most people never need to come into close contact with, unless and until they or their relatives are old, and/or with health needs.  And especially, unless and until they develop dementia.  Then, for some strange reason, the connections of the professionals suddenly resemble our broadband problems: fully funded, but fully intermittent.

Many people are denied the human right to return from hospital to their home, by healthcare professionals and by social services.  They’re told they need ‘nursing care’ 24/7 in a care home.  They are then offered by the NHS £100 towards the cost of that nursing care, the Nursing Care Contribution.  But they are then also forced to pay £3500 per month or more for residential care, often shabby and sordid residential care.

All because they have health needs that are such that they can no longer live an independent life.  Residential care is the choice of last resort for so many people, because they can no longer be cared for at home.  And that applies especially to those with dementia.

They are often forced to sell their own homes – or rather their family is forced to sell the home, because by this time, the person needing 24/7 care is in no position to do so themselves – to pay the extraordinary costs of residential care.  Extraordinary costs, because nobody is ever given a breakdown of that cost, but it’s not normally a fair charge.  The quality of care provided is rubbish in many care homes, with enormously inflated charges, enormously inflated pre-admission promises of care, enormously low-paid workers, mostly immigrant workers, enormously low standards of training, especially dementia training.  But enormous profits for the care home industry.  (see the CQC announcement today today about some of the sordid care homes and agencies it has forced to close.  Many  other sordid care homes and agencies have survived the CQC axe – but only just, and only thanks to some very closely woven and constant connections.  There’s little chance of their connections becoming intermittent.)

The hoops and hurdles that have to be faced by those who challenge the decision-making process (also known as the National Framework for NHS Continuing Healthcare) are so complex and complicated that the so-called professionals can’t even work their way through them all.  And then the family members who find the inner strength to challenge it all are forced to spend years, and years and years being humiliated by the Primary Care Trust (PCT) and Social Services (SS).  It comes to resemble a game without rules, like Snakes & Ladders with venom-filled snakes hissing and spitting at the poor souls who try to climb the rungless ladders.

Except that there are rules.  There are legally binding rules that should not be broken.  But they are being wilfully broken, by the NHS, the PCTs, and the SS.  Aided and abetted by governments, one after the other.  They are all in it together, to paraphrase David Cameron.

“We are clear about what we must do … in a way that protects the poorest and the most vulnerable in our society, in a way that unites our country rather than divides it, and in a way that demonstrates that we are all in this together. Prime Minister David Cameron’s speech on the economy, Milton Keynes, 7 June 2010,

Dementia is an extraordinary disorder of the brain, a disease of the brain, a most devastating illness, for which there is no cure.  People die of and with dementia.  But dementia is not being acknowledged as a disease, an illness, a destructive force, removing from a previously capable and competent human being each and every single quality that defines a human being.

We as a civilised country ought by now to have found a way to create the constant, reliable connection between needs and service provision.  Dementia care still suffers from a ‘major service outage’ of a kind that paralyses those with dementia and their family members caring for and about them.

I am sick and tired of reading, hearing and watching our government, our ministers, our politicians, our healthcare professionals, our social care professionals and so on, all cry out in shock horror about the problems of caring for the elderly that we are facing, but they continue to do nothing to correct the ills of their ill-defined system.  Actions speak louder than words.  If we really are all in this together, then we should not be so lily-livered about sharing the responsibility for it together, via taxation.   All that is required is for the connection to be made, between health needs and care.  Between dementia and care.

After all, tomorrow it could be any one of us – even you – with dementia and needing care.

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Trading Standards care about goldfish – who cares about the elderly?

Common sense ruled, and Joan Higgins, aged 66,  no longer has to wear a tag like a criminal.  Her son, Mark, no longer has to carry out community service.  Partners in the crime of selling a goldfish – valued at £1.50 –  to a child aged under 16.  Mrs Higgins was entrapped by trading standards officers who staged an undercover sting at her pet shop. They were also accused of causing unnecessary suffering to a cockatiel at the shop by failing to provide appropriate care and treatment.

Charged under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, they both pleaded guilty. Mrs Higgins  was required to observe a curfew from 7pm to 6am, hence the electronic tag.   Her son was ordered to carry out 120 hours’ community service.

Following an outcry, they returned to court where Judge Smith quashed the curfew on Mrs Higgins, as well as the community service order on her son because of his poor health. Instead he imposed a 12-month conditional discharge on both, describing the punishment as ‘inappropriate’ for ‘a respectable lady with no previous convictions’.

So-called professional care workers in a careless Care UK care home neglect a very respectable, gentle 80-year old lady to such an extent that she died as a result of their sub-standard care.   She was a solidly reliable, law-abiding citizen and never harmed a goldfish or a cockatiel in her life.   Her value far exceeded any number of goldfish or cockatiels.   The local authority carries out an investigation.  Irresponsible staff are ‘allowed to resign’.  The ‘dust-collectors’ are despatched en masse to the care home to suck up every single speck of dirt they can possibly find.  All behind closed doors – in secret, concealed and filed away.

A Trading Standards Department for Elderly Care would have resulted in a few people being charged with causing ‘unnecessary suffering‘ to an elderly person ‘by failing to provide appropriate care and treatment‘.  We have the Human Rights Act, but where’s the Human Welfare Act when you need it?  Where are the rights of a dead person’s family to be given the full information they need to evaluate all the circumstances of the neglect their relative suffered?  How low can a local authority sink?  Self-preservation at all costs seems to be their motto.  The same could be said for one of the biggest care providers in England.

All will be revealed.  In the public interest, and in the name of caring care for the elderly.

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Filed under care, care homes, Care UK, dementia, dementia care, growing older, law, liability, Local Authority, neglect, nursing, personal responsibility, responsibility, social work, suffering

Sharon Shoesmith

I’ve been sitting on my hands (or mouth!) since hearing that Sharon Shoesmith, the former Head of Children’s Services at Haringey Council  has lost her claim that her dismissal was  unlawful.  It wasn’t.  Her dismissal is now declared to be lawful.

The case of Baby Peter saddened and distressed most people with a caring heart, even though we may not have been connected directly to Baby Peter and/or his family circumstances.  It sure did hit me with a thump.  Not because I have had anything to do with Children’s Services, but I have the equivalent of Baby P in my own life.  She could be called Grannie E, or Grannie K, or even Auntie D, or Auntie W.  Or it could even have been Grandpa B,  Uncle H, or Uncle B.    So I’ll plump for …. Auntie W, as the equivalent in my own life.

I read that Sharon Shoesmith is suffering ‘post traumatic stress disorder’.  And now I read that she is perhaps in line for £1.5m compensation because she ‘may not have had a fair chance to put her case’ forward.

I wonder whether anyone has ever considered the post-traumatic stress disorder that many of us are also suffering as a direct result of neglect in care.  Neglect of our own relatives in care.  Our relatives are more likely to have been far older than Baby Peter, and they were all placed into the hands of the caring care services, charged with caring.

Where do we all go to put our case forward, fairly and honestly and decently?  Not to achieve anything like a £1.5m payout, but just so as to achieve recognition and justice for those we cared about, who were neglected by the caring care services.  If only so as to ensure that it never happens to another Auntie W,

Where does my Auntie W feature in this caring world of ours?  Auntie W was also once a smiling, cheeky, chirpy little baby.  She grew and grew and grew.  She provided for herself and for others, doing all that was required of her. She was solidly reliable.  Which is more than could be said for the care service that came her way, and that eventually led to her death.

I’ll return another day to the story of Auntie W.

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