Sunday, 9 September 2007

Call to Arms

Who's Afear'd ~ not Me !

This is the coat of arms of Dorset County Council, granted to them in 1950 by the College of Arms. They got the motto from the Society of Dorset Men (not exclusive to men), to whom it was suggested by Thomas Hardy in 1905.

I am not afraid of the Dragons at the County Council. Maybe its the ongoing investigation by the Local Government Ombudsman that currently enables me to feel this; maybe it is a growing confidence that they (the corporate body) are, in my experience, blinkered public servants who are incapable of seeing beyond the edge of their (corporate) desks into the Kafka-esque abyss they are creating for the users of social services.

Certainly I know that the latest systemic steroid injection fires my brain up, clears the cognitive brain fog, boosts up the stamina and even cools down the heavy molten lead carried around my whole body, just under the surface, by the systemic erythematosus that is the inflammation of Lupus. (Be warned, a systemic steroid injection doesn't suit everybody and does not help every condition of fatigue and brain fog; certainly not CFS/ME in people I know of.)

I feel like sending a rocket up the County Council's (corporate) arse. My paternal great grandfather could have been of practical help in this, for as lifeboat coxswain, he may have had a few to spare after this ...

The nitty-gritty of the new situation I now find myself battling with Social Services, is dull to all except those directly affected, but I put it here in case there are, out there in the blogosphere, any other service users of Direct Payments.

So this is a Call to Arms to other disabled people who are users of their Local Authorities' social services department's Direct Payments scheme. Disabled people who employ their own staff for the home care and day care they are assessed by social services as needing for their health, safety and wellbeing (to use the correct wording), including assistance to attend medical appointments or in other health care settings .

We should get together, virtually, and compare experiences of problems, and their resolutions (not revolutions, yet !), and perhaps have a rocket practice so that, all over the country, local authorities get the proverbial rocket up their (corporate) arses.

The County Council are short of money for their social services budget. To (allegedly) disguise just how enormous are the budget cuts for social services, they have (allegedly) combined budgets from social services departments, libraries, adult education, community safety (sic) and health improvement (very sick), and re-named the whole damned conglomeration ' Adult Services', which now has a whacking great budget, made up of all those previously separate budgets, each having its individual budget cuts thereby disguised.

Then they (the corporate they) (allegedly) decided to grab as much of the National Health Service budget as they could get their hands on, thanks to central government encouragement to the NHS Primary Care Trusts and Local Authorities with Social Care Responsibilities to work together to deliver services.

Remember that central government has poured lots of money into health care (as it affects voters of all ages and incomes) and not very much into social care, as the not-yet-disabled voters don't think it will happen to them, so its not a vote-loosing strategy. Cynical, moi ?

So, what is new, is that now my social worker informs me that, without notice, without my consent, without consultation, without any thought to the affect of their policy change on service users, AND without adhering to Fair Access to Care criteria, Dorset social services policy is now that the service user; I, will have to get the money to pay my PA to assist me at hospital appointments, not from Dorset County Council Adult Services with whom I have entered into a contract for Direct Payments to purchase the care I need; but from the hospital I go to.

Bizarre. Not on. No way. Have they not heard of the law of contract ?!

Obviously not, so I have told them. That the County Council cannot change the terms of my contract with them without my consent, without notice, without consultation with service users, without thought that the contracts of employment that I have entered into with my employees, is founded on the Contract for Direct Payments with Dorset County Council, which guarantees the regular amounts into my DP bank account from which their salaries are paid. So that I am not liable for the money to pay my employees from my benefit income - nor from my occupational pension from Dorset County Council !

And all sorts of other contractual reasons why not, which took four typed pages to explain it to them. All the reasons the council lawyers, service managers, team leaders, social workers and jobs-worths do not appear to have considered. Telling them what they should consider. Telling them how to do their job of supporting me as a service user, to met their duty of care for my health, safety and well being.

Posted yesterdday. I feel as though I have done their job for them. Without pay.

I could be wrong. How am I to know for sure, without professional legal advice on the law of contract and employment law ? Access to which professional advice on Direct Payments should be provided to service users by the County Council. Well, I don't consider the one-man DP advisory service that I refused to use any more over three years ago, meets that remit. I refuse to have that smelly (allegedly), (in my experience), bully (in my experience), (allegedly) in my house. Yeah, that's another axe to grind another day.

All I can do is shout loudly over four typed pages how this change in Direct Payments policy will impact negatively on this service user. And refuse to accept it.

They can earn their salary now and sort it out. This has been churning away in my mind and guts for almost two weeks now, and my laptop has taken a helluva battering. Now my laptop and I need some space and peace and quiet.

Always the Jungian, this image returns to me time after time. The dragon I hold on the chain is being defeated by my positive animus; my knight in shining armour, representative of a woman's ability to deal with the world. The lady in this painting is not Afear'd.

Paulo Uccelo ~ St George and the Dragon c 1456

Even so, I need to calm down my indignant racing heart so I don't need to take any more beta-blockers to deal with the physical effects. This would be a good way to calm down ...

Odilon Redon - The Mystic Boat
COMMENTS ARE WELCOME ON MY BLOG - please click on 'comments' below to read what others have said, and leave your own comments. I have elected to moderate comments, so your comment will not appear immediately. That is how I delete the comments that are offers from companies all over the globe to recruit PAs for me.

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Blogger cusp said...

This is typical of the way people are being treated now. I can tell you that many of the people you see --- such as the Social Workers etc. etc are not happy either.

Yesterday I went to a party where I met many old friends; most of whom work/have worked within Social Services or the Vol. Sector for many years. All of them are sick of the way things are going and the way their training, experience and natural way of being and caring are being subverted by the system. My own partner left a County job after 20+ years to get away from the horrendous way the staff were treated like morons in a business empire and expected to tow the 'party line' and spew out the required clap trap to 'customers'.

It's the same everywhere now. Everything is down to money and budgets. I left my job too (before I became ill) because I was sick of running round filling in forms, meeting financial targets when my job was supposed to be about helping, supporting and encouraging people to be independent, creative and pro-active.

I'm glad you've got spirit and vigour [well, when the steroids are working ;-)]. You show 'em

* Thank you for posting not one but two of my favourite paintings

Sunday, 9 September 2007 at 18:28:00 BST  
Blogger Sally said...

Thanks Cusp: I have a friendly Mole in another county, somewhere 'up north', and she says the same.

But in discussion with her my argument, as a service user, as someone who NEEDS the vital services, which I have made to her and to other worthwhile staff I have come across in my own area; is don't leave: do something.

That is what unions are for. But then my father was a union convener in the Yorkshire coalfields, so that seems the obvious route to me. Often unionisation is seen negatively, as something for the workers, not for the qualified professional front line staff, the managers and team leaders; or seen as a last resort equivalent to taking legal action. Unison for example, an amalgamation of health sector unions and local government unions, is powerful in its support for low paid workers, but needs to move away from its traditional 'old labour', 'up-the workers - down with the capitalists' focus, to support the professionals in health and social care, so that their experience is used to bring local authority and health care provision into the 21st century - a caring 21st century.

I do know, and acknowledge, that in my position it is easier to speak out - and although my energies are compromised by complex service rules and dinosaur service managers, my job isn't on the line, and central government insist on the service providers, both in health and social (community) care, consulting with the service users.

As a service user, I also despaire of fellow service users, who do not get involved, speak up, read the legislation, know their rights, who do not complain if they eligible needs are not met. I know many service users are too tired, too ill, to do so. Many people do not have the education or confidence to do so. Many disabled people who start out campaigning for their rights, and the rights of others, suffer 'burn out' and have to look to their own needs.

But there is no historial process of people being aware of or educated on their rights to services - we are hovering on the cusp (!) of change from being looked after by a system we had no say in, and were expected to be grateful for, to being the purchaser in a profit led sector. We, the service users, could be the winners, if we are given the information and the budgets to purchase the services, or to appoint brokers (social workers, OTs) to do it for us.

For more background to this see the website of the Council for Social Care Inspection, particularly this paper: and sign up for the weekly emailed update from

For now I can do it, and I hope blogging about it resonates with other users and providers of social services - those silent, lurking, anonymous people who read my blog and appear on my site meter. I know I am read, but I don't know what you silent lurkers think about what you have read. That is meant to be encouragement to comment!

Thanks Cusp for expanding this.

Monday, 10 September 2007 at 19:27:00 BST  
Blogger Lily said...

Wow, that's a bold 'n' golden final paragraph girl! Fortunately I haven't felt seriously afear'd for a while now, the passage of time eventually reduces the likelihood but I was reminded only last week of how it used to be when I went to a mental health awareness training day, when it got to anxiety states and panic attacks. I said nowt but I was thinking YES! THAT'S EXACTLY HOW IT WAS! We are so fragile, we forget as days pass peacefully how near we stand to the edge of the bottomless pit. That was the royal we, in case anyone reading this is of sounder mind than I!

Tuesday, 11 September 2007 at 21:25:00 BST  
Blogger Ol Nobby said...

Well I really ama naughty person at times arent I?

Wednesday, 12 September 2007 at 04:53:00 BST  
Blogger Ol Nobby said...

Pete said, regarding my last comment, I later deleted the post as being really not that interesting

Wednesday, 12 September 2007 at 12:46:00 BST  
Blogger Sally said...

Lily, nice to see you.

Time and again over the last five years of negotiation with Dorset social services, I have said to them: I can't keep doing this. I have reported to social services and my GP that it was the trauma of an employment tribunal (the local authority settled out of court) that triggered my ill health and Lupus. I put off contacting the LGO because I was afraid of becoming more ill - and did suffer the panic and anxiety. I could not make a Formal complaint with the County Council because I risked entering an acute anxiety state again. BUT I HAVE NO CHOICE BUT TO STICK WITH IT. There is nowhere else for me to go, and I have to not only sort it out for myself, but sort out the system in my neck of the woods, so that in 5/10/15 years time when I am past it and too ill to protect myself, the system works better as it should and these threats to my coping with my life are no more. Its all there in the legislation coming out of central government, but not the money (or the management expertise) in local government to see it through.

We are all in it - as service users or service providers - and are all affected; the disabled now; the not-yet-disabled when their time comes, the tax payers (who will become pensioners) and the state disability benefit dependents, like me, who suffer a poor standard of living and constant worry on how to manage, throughout most of their adult lives.

Wednesday, 12 September 2007 at 14:30:00 BST  
Blogger Sally said...

Pete - I am happy to publish any comment that is relevant to mine.

Wednesday, 12 September 2007 at 14:32:00 BST  
Blogger cusp said...

Many of the people I know within Social Services et al. have stayed within their depts. because they care about the people they work with but they often suffer themselves. My partner left after 20+ years and had thought about leaving for at least 5 of those 20. If my partner hadn't left the result would have been a physical or mental break down. Some colleagues did the same and some stayed. May are on long-term sick leave

If you seen it from the inside or as the partner of someone on the inside, you realise that those employees are treated in a dreadful way now with almost no autnomy and like drones (at least in Suffolk). The whole thing is depersonalised and budget driven and the staff feel flattened and demoralised because they cannot do what they are good at or were trained to do. They are always constrained. The powers that be have no truck with the just all adds to the stress. Indeed I know of several local charities where it is frowned a upon to join a Union. when I started work at my olast place, my joining a Union was seen as a real black mark. It didn't bother me but many others were too swayed by the general atmosphere and risk of being cold-shouldered.

I agree that service-users have a responsibilty to themselves and each other to educate themselves about how the systems work but, as you say, many are not sufficiently adept at deciphering jargon (and God knows there's enough of that nowadays) and many are just not well enough to plough through it all.

At the moment I am in a similar sort of battle with my Insurance Company and strain is already beginning to show. I know I will come to a point where I have to decide if the strain and possibility of a relapse is worth the feeling of not being beaten down and having my claim met.

Wednesday, 12 September 2007 at 17:16:00 BST  

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