Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Guest Blog - A response to Mike Freer MP regarding One Barnet - by Linda Edwards MBE

By Linda Edwards,
"I think most people agree that it’s what is delivered, not who delivers it, which matters." Mike Freer MP for Finchley and Golders Green. (Hendon and Finchley Times 20th August 2013).

Linda Edwards MBE offers an open plea on behalf of people with learning disabilities and family carers in response to the recently published statement from Mike Freer MP.  

I would welcome dialogue from Mike Freer MP, all Barnet Councillors, regardless of their political party and the community.  Unless we have dialogue with integrity and true intention to understand how to best serve vulnerable people and their family carers, we will continue to be thought of as if a refuse service is being delivered!   
“If rubbish blows into my street from takeaways, I want the street sweepers to clear it up as quickly as possible. If I call the council because someone has fly-tipped, I want it taken away within 24 hours” Mike Freer MP

Mr Freer MP, whilst you explain your priorities:
“Due to my current job and my previous job, I pay a lot of attention to what happens at North London Business Park. Importantly, however, what happens at council headquarters affects me as well."  It might serve you well to pay more heed to the needs of residents, including disabled and elderly people and their family carers and people who work in LBB in Barnet?  They have much knowledge and experience to share that would highlight the hierarchical views that pay attention only to what happens at ‘North London Business Park and council headquarters’.   Learning some things of value that might be taken back to Kate Kennally, Director of Social Care and Health, another architect of One Barnet Programme (OBP) could serve us all. 

Mr Freer MP, I will try to explain how misguided is your view that “….most people agree that it’s what is delivered, not who delivers it, which matters."  Mike Freer MP

Most people can deliver a ‘service’, including a private company.  I am sure that I could become a post person, a bus driver or a refuse collector whether working for the Council or a private company.  Providing a robustly caring, respectful and valuing service to vulnerable people takes far more than merely “commissioning a service that will be delivered by any Tom, Dick or Harriet” (John Sullivan, family carer).

"No local authority should be run in the interests of the staff unions. The council is there to deliver the best services possible." Mr Freer MP I absolutely agree with this. No one was more critical than me when the outcry against OBP begun after staff redundancies rather than during the shoddy service it was becoming. I had become extremely concerned to learn that disabled people were being bussed to shopping centres over an hour away, walking aimlessly around in inclement weather under the guise of “Being in the Community”.  I heard many stories from family carers that their disabled child had become unwell because of being outside all day in snow, rain and cold weather.  The outcry happened too late for me!   Whilst mentioning unions I declare that I am not a member of a union, although had been ‘encouraged’ to join the NUT in the ‘80’s and until 2010 believed unions were a group of lazy, selfish, and ‘jobs worth’ people.  Like many people in LB Barnet’s three political parties, the union people I have met are passionate, committed and caring individuals who want a better Barnet and better society for all. 

Recently, I have taken over the management of my father’s 24/7 care.  This was because the Agency who had been delivering the service with the appropriate carer, decided without any consultation to remove the carer and insert another carer who could not relate to my father.  He had formed a relationship of trust, mutual respect and ‘friendship’ with the original carer and became distressed when this sudden change was made without any preparation or involvement with the family.  My father would have been greatly reassured had I been able to spend time with him explaining a new carer was coming to be with him but, in their arrogance, the Agency did not think it necessary to work in partnership with the family. It has now become my responsibility to ensure that my father’s carers are qualified and experienced in working with people with dementia, knowledgeable in my father’s needs and that they deliver his service with respect and dignity, valuing that he is a human being in his ‘winter’ years who no longer has mental capacity and cannot make decisions or look after his own personal care.  Oh! If only this were not the situation and my father could be the independent family, business and community minded man he once was.  But in order to ensure my father has the best quality of life in his last years, I have to ensure that his service is not only “delivered” but provided by people who have the skills, commitment and respect and who will honour my father for the person he was and the person he has now become.  The way in which they listen, speak, hear and when providing personal care, touch my father, is of paramount importance to me.  Their relationship together is so crucial to my father’s well being. This is all so much more than merely delivering the service.

Our learning disabled children have very little to give them value and quality in their lives.  Probably the most important, essential and crucial thing in their lives is the relationships they have with their family and staff. My integrity would be challenged if I pretended most people with learning disabilities have friends; they don’t!  Can you imagine not having a friend to share your hobbies, outings, thoughts, problems, joys with?  I cannot!  I challenge you to acknowledge how empty and alone you might feel without having the connection and intimacy of friendship!

There is the ‘politically correct’ debate that staff are not friends but let’s leave this aside as I am only concerned with the effects that friendship and being human gives us.

Kate Kennally, Director of LBB Social Care and Health is continually asking for "experts by experience" and now, once again by establishing The Peoples Bank in LB Barnet.  This is not a genuine and sincere desire to seek the experience of family carers as her practice is to exclude anyone who confronts her many contradictions of not putting into practice what is spoken and written.  Involving "experts by experience" is a Government recommendation but gets so diluted at the point of LBB Adult Social Care and Health delivery when those “experts by experience” dare to challenge and confront the current dogma. Let me share the contrast of real quality of service and how it affects disabled people. Hopefully this will outline why the misguided opinion …..”It’s what is delivered, not who delivers it, which matters." Mike Freer MP please replace this with the following:

“In Social Care and Health, the quality of service delivered is determined by WHO delivers the service; the quality of the relationship they develop with the people receiving the service, their values and HOW the service is delivered, including How staff are supported and encouraged by their management.”

“Spiritual relationship is far more precious than physical.  Physical relationship divorced from spiritual is body without soul.”  Mahatma Gandhi

For many years I battled with LBB Adult Social Care and Health to remove the ‘cowboy’ service provider they had commissioned for my learning disabled daughter Rachel.  Kate Kennally refused to remove them and instead delayed the complaints process at every stage, forcing me to instruct solicitors to represent my daughter on many occasions.  Because of Kate Kennally’s obfuscation and determination to continue her vindictive battle against my disabled daughter and me, we were forced to go the Ombudsman, costing London Borough of Barnet thousands of pounds in ‘independent’ inspectors, officers and solicitors time.  Well done Kate Kennally!  Now here is some of the evidence to demonstrate how wrong you were: 

When my daughter was in her flat with the ‘cowboys’ commissioned by Kate Kennally’s team, including the In House Supported Living Service (February 2007 – September 2012, whilst Mike Freer MP was Leader of Barnet Council, most of my daughter’s staff ignored her for long periods of time; sat in her flat chatting to their friends and family with their mobile and watching her television which resulted in my daughter often going to bed very early because she was bored.  She did not learn to cook for herself or clean her flat and as a result of her being hungry and unable to prepare anything, many of her main ‘meals’ were a jam sandwich.  Some ‘cowboy’ staff did their family shopping with my daughter trailing behind and they often arrived late causing her great anxiety and distress.  Arriving late is absolutely the worst thing you can do to someone on the autistic spectrum! My daughter’s bed sheets were not changed for 10 months and only one support person spoke to her as a human being.    In between this kind person, she was plagued by staff who made it quite obvious they didn’t want to be with her.  My daughter was put at risk on many occasions and the staff always lied when I reported the incidents to LBB Adult Social Care and the complaints department.  My daughter lived in fear and unhappiness in her own home and her only pleasure was to see me at the weekends.  The service delivery had made my daughter depressed, withdrawn and compliant! 

In September 2012 (thanks to her very caring LBB social worker who was then made redundant in April 2013, and her Advocate and Solicitor) we managed to get a new service provider commissioned.  In only 11 months my daughter is almost unrecognisable to how most people knew her previously.  Her new staff listen, hear, involve, respect, value, chat, consult with her in decisions, explain consequences, encourage her to solve problems, appropriately share their personal life events and so much more. She has become the unofficial office ‘assistant’ to the manager of the supported living service who leads her team by taking her lead from Rachel herself.  As a result of HOW she is being treated by her new service provider, with the focus on the How? the service is being delivered and Who? is delivering the service, Rachel has become feisty, assertive, determined and appropriately outspoken.  She is so much more confident and problem solving for herself and for others.  What more can I ask for so that I can withdraw from being fully responsible for her daily life as I watch my daughter soar to heights most believed impossible. Rachel is safely encouraged to take risks and has a quality of life never experienced previously.  Rachel’s new Service Provider is still delivering the service they had been commissioned to deliver, but it is being delivered by people who are encouraged and supported to work with integrity, warmth and humanity and a far cry from the same skills needed to deliver the service of emptying bins! 

Life really has begun for Rachel at 40 years of age!  Having spent most of my adult life as a family carer, this is the first time that I have been able to enjoy hobbies and activities for myself.  Adult life really has begun for me as a pensioner!

People with learning disabilities usually have low expectations of themselves. In educational terms this is the 'self-fulfilling prophecy' from years of life experiences of society having low expectations of their ability and for their potential; they in turn learn to live by others low expectations of themselves and achieve much less than they are capable of. If London Borough of Barnet commission services for vulnerable people without considering WHO is delivering the service or HOW services are being delivered, vulnerable people will continue to be thought of in the same way as a refuse removal service.

Some words of warning…………..
When people are feeling threatened and insecure by redundancy, having their already low salaries reduced and wondering if they will have employment to be able to feed their children next week, the quality of relationships they previously had with our disabled children becomes so difficult to maintain, even for the most committed and dedicated people. Staff will still arrive for work and go through the motions of delivering the service as per Mr Freer's ‘rubbish and fly-tipping being removed within 24 hours’, but the staff would need to be super human to disregard ***Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs and connect with humanity on anything but a survival state when they are still striving to feel safe in their jobs and daily lives.   If basic needs of food, warmth security and safety are disregarded, staff will not have reserves and not be able to be motivated to give our vulnerable children the quality of service they need to have a life that increases their friendships, self-esteem, confidence and achievement and develops the quality of their relationships.   It is so simple.  If staff do not fee valued, they will not be able to value the vulnerable people they are supporting.

We should be united in our aims that disabled people be given the same opportunity to soar to the same heights that my daughter is now experiencing. This has been achieved because of the quality of the people (WHO?), their motivation in the way they deliver the service, their own sense of value and self-worth, their positive communication, partnership, affection towards each other, their encouragement for personal growth and fulfilment and the support they are given by their management (HOW?).

People with learning disabilities are not an industry, they are our beloved children who are disadvantaged throughout their lives and sadly, now even more so by people in power believing that services for vulnerable disabled people can be delivered in the same way as delivering a refuse service. 

***”Hierarchy of Needs - A Theory of Human Motivation” 1954
Abraham Maslow  
Abraham Maslow (USA) developed the Hierarchy of Needs model in 1940-50s, and the Hierarchy of Needs theory remains valid today for understanding human motivation, management training, and personal development. Maslow's ideas surrounding the Hierarchy of Needs concerning the responsibility of employers to provide a workplace environment that encourages and enables employees to fulfil their own unique potential (self-actualization) are today more relevant than ever.

Linda Edwards MBE
August 2013
Linda Edwards MBE is a parent/carer and CEO of a charity involved with care for people with learning disabilities. Linda was recently awarded an MBE for her charity work. Guest blogs are always welcome. 

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