Thursday, 27 December 2007

Revolution: nearly, soon, truly, yes; I think so.

Being selfish today, in that I have spent precious capability to withstand laptop on lap and attendant pain- and fatigue- inducing activity, on reading a blogging poet FSJL. Often when reading FSJL on his Stanmore Hill blog page, I have found, pulled out from my unconscious, something felt but un-described until found in his poetry. A remarkable poet; daily his thoughts pour into perfectly formed poems.

In these short winter days when grey clouds add to the gloom as early as 3 pm, and the Christmas tree is blocking my access to the filing cabinet, printer and the 'to do' tray, I can prolong the holiday and continue to feed the senses. Food, drink, friends, old films; all are now a surfeit. So this today is Alone Time; now my Bump is back in her own neck of the woods, and I turn to music and poetry and prose. However, my brain nudged me to say that the next thing ought to be making sense of the events of the last few months. I have been, am still, afraid of the situation with Dorset County Council social services department. That fear used up my brain capacity, used up physical energy, depleted me.

Over the holiday when I have put aside everything labelled 'work', unbeknown to me, my brain has been working away at understanding my situation; working away much as the hard drive on the laptop does after an upgrade. Leave it with nothing to do for a while, and it sorts stuff, unbeknown, unbidden; just does it. When I next turn it on; the laptop and the brain, its slightly different, and working better. So, when I chose to feed the senses by reading some poetry, in a roundabout way, my reading of FSJL has made sense of my scary connection with Dorset County Council's social services department and my request to the Local Government Ombudsman to investigate what I believe is their maladministration of my need for equipment and adaptations for my physical and cognitive impairments.
Click LINK to Local Government Ombudsman.

In the bigger picture, beyond my own situation, I think I am connected to a revolution, of sorts, which I did not begin but am a part of, and thus may be picking up (through my scapegoat complex) negativity from those at Dorset County Council being jostled by the changes. FSJL, I read from his CV has a personal connection to a political revolution in the Caribbean. Reading his blogpage 'Machievellian Moments ...' (June 8, 2007) led me to thinking:

There are parallels and instruction, here, on the British labour government's (itself founded, if not now a little floundering, on socialism) ideal and aim of self-governing and care-providing for 'disabled' people with FSJL's papers on the fight for independence by people previously governed colonially. Here and now in Dorset, the local tier of government in its social services department staff, are being forced to withdraw, through decreased central government funding, from their hands-on control of 'disabled' peoples' quality of life. Social Services department staff are being forced, by decreasing central government funding, and directives from central government, to hand 'their' budgets over to disabled people, to service users, in order that those (us) service users themselves may buy the services needed to live our own daily lives and enable our own social inclusion. (one of my clunkier sentences).

This revolution is very subtle and many service users may not yet have been touched by it, or not recognise it for what it is. Older, time served, service users are more likely to notice the revolution than younger or recent service users who may see it, correctly, in the light of what they would expect in this day and age.

(NB: if you do not think of yourself as a Service User; think again. Is it because you don't think you qualify for services; or social services department have told you you don't qualify for services? Think again, and get advocacy to challenge it. If you are not managing your day to day life (year to year ?!) or are isolated or excluded, or unhappy with the circumstances of your dis-abled life in any way, you are entitled to funding to get the equipment, services, and aids to social inclusion that you do need, Yes You Do. There is more to service provision that unpaid family and friends !)

Hints of the coming revolution are to be found in the Assessment of Need carried out by social services. Yes, 'carried out' by social services. Still the direction from central government seems to be worded to suggest that local government social services departments still have the power. But be encouraged: social services departments have to consult and discuss with the service user as an equal stakeholder on this Assessment. Stake your claim to this all you Holders of Stakes out there. The Assessment of Need is now NOT determined by social services staff, but as a temporary stage in this revolution, the subject, sorry, the service user has an equal say in the determination of the need. Finally, service users of social services will themselves wholly and independently with advocacy as needed, state their own assessment of their own needs. We will, in this revolution, I hope have as much clout and power in our voices and votes, as others in our communities have in the local politics of education provision, roads and highways, waste collection, police and ambulance and other essential services.

Stay with me here please; I am not a scholar and what threads and similarities are seen here by me, between FSJL's political analysis and my experience of changes in Dorset County Council's social services department, and social care throughout the country; may not be apparent in this blogged comparison.

But I am attempting to explain that I am encouraged that what seems a potential for entire revolution in social care provision, has its parallels in other fights for independence and self-governance in other spheres.

One of FSJL's points is that colonial rule led to education which enabled the populace to gain knowledge to understand their situation and fight, in words and action, to end the colonial governing of their lives and therefore to determine their own future and way of life. (Deep apologies to FSJL if this explanation detracts from his sophisticated writing on his subject.)

What we 'dis-abled' people lack is knowledge; of our rights, of legislation that provides for our rights. How often have established bloggers in the world of crip bloggers, come across a new crip blogger who is starting out on the same road that we have travelled (perhaps in a different time zone) and that new crip blogger is struggling with the same issues, blocks to services, outmoded and disgraceful attitudes from service providers. We welcome them, encourage and hold them in our hearts and minds; we tell them of our experiences, ways we found to get the essential services we needed; what words to write on the mountains of forms applying for basic funds and equipment.

All people ... who become dis-abled from social inclusion by whatever eventuality and currently find themselves dependent on a system left over from a paternalistic, charity-minded, workhouse ethic orientated, bureaucracy ... need education. This system may be changing.

But directives from UK central government to local government social services departments is not enough. Education of services users is needed. Crip Education. So that we know what they should be doing. So that we know when they are doing it wrong. So that we know how to deal with them when they get it wrong wrong wrong, without making ourselves ill, physically or psychologically, in the process. Knowledge is power.

But not every person who is or becomes dis-abled has the capacity; of time, health, energy, or confidence, to gain and use such knowledge. Then there is a place for a caring society to support them. Which is not the same as looking after them paternalisitically with charity and 'we know best' service provision.

So, quietly, without newspaper headlines, and even without very much discernible difference yet in our quality of life, there is change. The Revolution has begun.

Blogging is an essential cog in the wheel of this Revolution. Has it begun yet in the social services department of your area's tier of local government ? You are a stakeholder in this revolution.


Update: Just before the Christmas holiday, the Local Government Ombudsman Investigator emailed me with an apology for the lengthy time it is taking for him to investigate my claim of maladministration by Dorset County Council social services department. I am content that his comments show my claim is being investigated thoroughly and that the LGO investigation is doing what I could not do alone.
POSTSCRIPT: DCC has visited my blog - see 'Comments' below.

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Blogger FSJL said...

My dear lady, I'm deeply touched that you found my piece on Eric Williams and Norman Manley relevant to the concerns of people with disabilities in the West of England.

Thanks for the very kind words.

Thursday, 27 December 2007 at 23:46:00 GMT  
Blogger Sally said...

Thank you FSJL.

Friday, 28 December 2007 at 15:41:00 GMT  
Blogger Sally said...

At 12.09 pm this afternoon, Friday 28 December, this blog page received a visit from someone at Dorset County Council, noted by domain name and ISP.

That is one of the reasons why it has been very difficult for me to blog my life recently.

Site Meters are very useful things.

As is paranoia, when its not.

If the visitor, or any of his/her colleagues, returns; may I respectfully suggest they type 'LGO' or 'Social Services' into the 'Search this blog' box at the top of the page, then all the relevant episodes of this saga will appear for their delectation.

I'm going back to bed now.

Friday, 28 December 2007 at 15:48:00 GMT  
Blogger seahorse said...

Sally there are some extremely valid and well-executed arguments in this really powerful piece of writing. I congratulate you on summoning up what little energy you have and sitting through the pain to write it, plainly not just for your own needs but also for the benefit of others. Your words are appreciated. Try not to get paranoid about Dorset social services visiting your site. Let them read and be enlightened. It is possible that your writing may help workers at the council understand the disabled point of view better. You work so hard to bring about better understanding, so why not see your blog as part of the vehicle for that achievement? Let them read. What is there to fear? Disabled person empowers herself and others through writing about her experiences? Nothing to fear. Take heart. Be strong.

Saturday, 29 December 2007 at 00:48:00 GMT  
Blogger Sally said...

Thanks Seahorse, for encouragement; I don't know how it comes across until I get a comment - it makes sense to me but I am in the middle of it, so encouraged it is worth while.

There is a left over fear that is invading this situation, from exactly ten years ago, when I was waiting for the Southampton Employment Tribunal to rule following a two day Hearing on my claim for unfair dismissal, sexual harassment and disability discrimination, against my employer in a lower tier of local government. Ten years ago, in January, my ex-employer finally settled 'out of court'. I know that is resonating in this situation - and contributing to my fear; then I was alone - now I have the LGO to deal with it on my behalf. So it is safer, but psychologically the ten year anniversary is relevant.

I did feel fear initially when I saw the visitor to the site meter - as if I had been invaded as ten years ago when local councillors tried to find dirt to discredit me: "I was loosing my mind" - that sort of thing. Now I want my current experience to be widely known - as it will be when the LGO publish their decision - so that it changes mind-sets (and budgets !) at County Hall.

Its just so scary in this in-between-stage until the LGO investigation is completed. I have no guarantee that what I feel is maladministration, actually is found to be.

I would never have arrived at the confidence to speak out, again, this time with the LGO support, without the insight and determination I have learned from visits to yours and other blogger's pages, and comments and encouragement on mine.

But, for the moment, it is all exhausting.

Monday, 31 December 2007 at 17:39:00 GMT  
Blogger seahorse said...

It is exhausting indeed so rest and don't post unless you can. I've noticed at a few sites lately that less can be more if tough times are being had. Why witter on if too overwrought or tired (um, like I do) when you can rest and then write a blinding piece like this one?
I understand your resonances from the past, but you have LGO support to protect against any copout or whitewash and you have your own strength to keep you focused, oh and the thought that it will all come good. Rest, rest, rest and gather strength.

Tuesday, 1 January 2008 at 01:00:00 GMT  
Blogger Sally said...

Thank you Seahorse; but I have never know you 'witter on'. All has been good, important, and beautifully illustrated. Ta !

Tuesday, 1 January 2008 at 10:12:00 GMT  
Blogger seahorse said...

Why thank you, although I feel I have succumbed to wittering. I blame the antibiotics.

Thursday, 3 January 2008 at 23:07:00 GMT  
Blogger Sally said...

Blessed is she whose side effect of antibiotics is only wittering !

Seriously, top up your good flora with pots of bio yoghurt or probiotics. You probably know this already.

Friday, 4 January 2008 at 18:45:00 GMT  

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