As a young teacher I thought it was about helping kids learn to learn & gain confidence in expressing themselves. As a young Social Worker I believed it was about social healing & enabling. 20 years ago I warned that the professions were becoming disrespected. Now I am dismissed from a service I was embarrassed to work for. As a Therapist & Advocate I am both sad & determined. No State can undermine my ethics. The Professions are dying – All of them, for want of Ethics and adequate positive, enabling support:
I have worked with so many wonderful professionals, people I respected and valued. At the same time I worked within Institutions that have largely disgusted me, although there have been exceptions. In that work I have met people who I profoundly disagree with in principle. Others just had a different slant on things.
Mostly memorably, over the years, I have met young teachers, social workers, psychiatrists and nurses who truly aspired to the very best of their professions. I resisted warning them too harshly of what they were to face. They maintained a critical perspective and a proper focus on the individual’s positive qualities.
I was moved by their passion and compassion, who can hurt that? Who am I to tarnish their aspirations by issuing dire warnings? I gave cheerful warnings and then lived and hoped that they would, like me, have the resolve to survive the compromises and put downs they would have to face.
I survived long enough to see some of those great professionals destroyed, broken and hurt by those who, who pretending to be professional, sough to control and manipulate, to satisfy their own compromised positions and keep their positions ‘low average’. That way they look ‘good enough’ and are not put out.
London Borough of Harrow; UK – Establishing Community Based Learning Disability Services:
I worked for a brilliant manager, “Ray Carter”, who was employed by the London Borough of Harrow, UK. I first met him at an informal disciplinary meeting that had been called to for telling off.
His words to me were “I agree with everything you have said to your colleagues Terry, but will show you better ways of telling them”. He made me a manager and allowed me to develop the Learning Disability policy. From that point on he mentored and encouraged me to take the initiative.
In the 1970’s, too young to know any difference, I and 2 colleagues organised a Local Service User Conference ‘involving’ Learning Disability clients. I was then charged to run an ‘enabling’ service for people with learning disabilities who had lived their entire lives within large institutions, isolated from the world.
Most were enabled to progress with new, supervised life experience, to live in their own individual or shared flats, according to their wishes and natural levels of ability. Some more appropriately elected to live in sheltered housing and only the remaining, highly dependent people remained is residential support.
With good enabling training, the most independent individuals needed little direct support and none, during my whole time there, were injured, other than by life itself. Only one needed to be brought back into a more supported environment and that was because of his already established ‘induced’ mental distress.
These staff teams were young and they were brilliant. Only two out of the 20 or so we employed were a disgrace to the profession. One resigned in embarrassment and the other was painfully removed (an embarrassing mistake on my part; I had assisted in giving him the employment.
Of the others I cannot recall all names and apologies, I value you still but, Carol, Linda, Susan, Minal, David, George you were colleagues I was proud to have worked with, along with others who picked up in those early days of Community Care – we proved it worked for real and the community did care, the way we did it.
London Borough of Ealing – The Evolution of Therapeutic Community Mental Health Services:
After doing some further study, research, some writing and Consultancy work, I then got a job running a Mental Health Rehab Unit, staffed by social workers. This was in the London Borough of Ealing – UK. This is where I met my second ‘hero’ boss; Ms Robin Fleming.
It was again a good experience, with a young and energetic staff team. Some went off for further training and I employed some more young graduates and we felt we could do better. A sister Unit in Ealing was developing a ‘therapeutic style’ and we felt we should go the same direction. We leased with services to other client groups.
We evolved into a Therapeutic Community, using the Convention of Human Rights as our Ground Rules and ‘Ordinary Therapy’ as our core, along with Music, Drama and Art. Not in any pretentious artificial way, directly in an ‘experiential way’ – they worked miracles even on the most profoundly depressive and psychotic, mental health conditions.
Among those who contributed to those miracles were Mary, Geoff, Angie, Richard, Angie2 and the other staff who voluntarily and enthusiastically adjusted to their new roles without any complaints and with complete enthusiasm. We even had student Nurses on secondment to the Therapeutic Unit. It was exceptional for its time.
Even among this miracle there were two incredible experiences of particular note. These resident and visiting members of the Community were people with every kind of mental distress, usually arising from natural trauma and abuse by others at various stages of their lives. Few proved to be ‘organic’.
On one occasion, it the 1980’s there was an industrial action because of the miserable pay and stark conditions of service. We explained to those who were resident that we felt we should support our colleagues in this action. There was to be a day of strike action.
They understood and supported us, arranging for places to stay where appropriate and with the remainder agreeing that they would organise and support themselves. We asked that they compromise and accept a senior department manager being available to them, in case of a crisis and this was agreed.
On the day of action we felt secure they were all well, the building secure and would make us proud of their abilities to support each other. You can imagine then our shock when the whole group, to a man & woman (some 17 of them) turned up at the Town Hall steps where we were protesting for our improved working conditions.
They were armed with placards and banners and sing and shouting at the top of their voices in support of their therapeutic team. For them these were no ordinary Social Workers, they were life savers and friends. They had planned this from the outset, discussing the tactics among themselves and it made quite an impact.
There were so many miraculous experiences at this Therapeutic Community and some sad ones. These are published elsewhere. Only one resident died in that time, a chap knocked down by a car when visiting his family. Ironically the driver was a Doctor, so he was in good hands. We were all sad. But the saddest times were for staff, as the time came for each of them to move on.
I am writing about these experiences elsewhere but one more story is relevant to my current purpose and hopefully your own encouragement and hope.
An Example of Empowering Experience:
A couple of us staff took some of the more adventurous members of the community on a camping holiday. We had a great time and the weather was kind to us.
On the return journey, feeling invigorated, some of the more adventurous women said we were passing Greenham Common, a US Nuclear Base at which Women’s Groups were in resident protest at the time. It was quite a successful protest for its time and often in the news.
After a usual group discussion they convinced me that it would be an appropriate experience of empowered social action and I agreed to detour a little to show the protesters some solidarity. There were about 12 of us in a large Social Services Minibus.
We parked the Minibus in one of the drive access to the missile base, got out the guitar and sang songs like ‘We shall overcome’ and ‘The times they are a Changing”. The women protesters joined in and we sang, gradually moving around the site perimeter fence, trying to get the soldiers to smile as more officious ones clicked their cameras to identify who we were.
We stayed 2 or 3 hours and then made our way home to the reaction that I believed we may get for Town Hall Officials. 🙁
Acceptable Consequences and Balance of Risks:
Within a couple of days I got the half expected call from the Director of Social Services; Jeff Smith of Ealing Social Services. Bypassing my usual, Hero Boss, who normally dealt with things more humorously. The escalation to the top level Boss was a little worrying.
Unknown to me the Ministry of Defence had contacted the Home Office and then the Department of Health and Social Security; concerned why a Social Services Minibus had been used to block traffic to the US Missile Site. I really had not expected that angle on things.
Clearly they did not need my photographs to check me out, the registration of the Minibus was enough to trace back to the Local Authority and lead directly to me, who was the registered driver at the time. There was no denying it.
I was told the usual by Mr Smith that this was a serious matter and that I had possibly brought the Department into disrepute. I could not argue. The use of the minibus was implicated in the action. I said sorry immediately
Although he criticised the involvement of service users, I knew I could defend that. The matter of the use of the minibus to ‘block military traffic’ was not defensible on reflection. I had to think fast on my feet. It was not the intention to ‘block’ but there was an intention to be noticed.
He dealt with the service users involvement first and I simply reminded him of the Departments policy to enable al clients to participate fully in normal social life and assist them in overcoming disablement and to become empowered in their daily lives.
I knew the policy well enough, I had helped draft it and it was he that had finally sanctioned that policy. I waited for his response and I thought that I saw the faint glimmer of a smile, but it disappeared quickly enough.
After a moments silence he nodded and said, OK. Then he drew attention to what he described was the more serious matter and one for which I could be ‘sadly’ be dismissed, as the ‘Elected Council’ may take a seriously critical view on it.
He asked how I might suggest we deal with the matter? I started by saying that the driveway in which we had ‘parked’ the Minivan was one that led to a clearly infrequently used gate, which was chained and padlocked. I said the MOD was being a little dishonest; the Van was parked without obstruction.
I also reflected that such a serious action as dismissal of a Manager would attract strong attention on such a topical issue of the time. It would provide the opportunity to show how advanced our policy and attitudes were towards Service User empowerment.
It would also be of interest because our actions were in support of the highly public campaign against the proliferation of Nuclear Armaments. Our service users were concerned that they, who saw themselves frequently referred to as mad, were protesting against what was then real madness – MAD Mutually Assured Destruction.
That is when his smile returned and he said. that this sounded like a very sound challenge to pursuing any further action beyond a reprimand, where anything further may gain more unwelcome media attention.
At that point he said words to the effect; “Then I must reprimand you for the inappropriate use of the department’s minibus and ask you to reassure me that you will not use any Department property in any way in the future that may embarrass the department. I apologised and assured him that I would not. We parted on good terms.
The Outcomes fro this Therapeutic Community Project:
This was a generally a very rewarding time and we were able to work very openly and without inhibition. We worked in accordance with what Governmental Policy and Human Rights legislation was advocating, with almost no legal restrictions, simply considering ethical considerations.
We also showed that it was possible to substantially and often completely recover from even the most sever of psychotic conditions. We learned from therapeutic interviews that these conditions were more often the result of Social and Toxic trauma of various kinds including multiple loss, whole range of abuses & neglect, cultural shock and from drug induced psychosis.
That new, positive operating environment was clearly changing, with the onset of Reagan -Thatcher Era. The restrictions on Civil Rights and the normal liberty of the individual were under threat and we were fast approaching a crisis of confidence. This was at the time when Thatcher was to make her claim that there was not such thing as Community.
At local government level we were soon to see what her Government meant; as the community resources (such as I was running) were being sold off as commercial operations on a competitive basis. This was not in my or my client’s interests. We had proven very efficient with a good throughput and reducing costs, I was not going to give away this to a commercial operation to compromise.
I decided for this reason and, because I did not want the Therapeutic Community or me to become stale, to get out and try things new. In fact the political circumstances in Local Government were so unstable I decided to work on short term, crisis contracts and try out the therapeutic methods in normal community settings.
My objective was to return to a more ‘Consultative’ role, expand my interests in Information Technology (PC’s), involve myself in the entertainments industry at a local level (promoting live music) and set up Therapeutic Networks within my own local community.
Before this though I had one more amazing social work experience, working for the London Borough of Brent – UK at a time when it was effectively bankrupt and was unable to pay some staff wages on time. This was an experience i just was not expecting but one worth mentioning.
Services In Crisis – London Borough of Brent – UK, Under the Sociopathic Thatcher Rule:
In the London Borough of Brent the management of services were broken down. I was commissioned to work with another group of young social workers running a Mental Health Rehab Unit.
It was again a therapeutic social work team. People were very tired and despondent, staff and residents alike. My arrival as a Team Leader followed the leaving of a previous manager and I was to help rebuild moral, while a permanent replacement was found.
This soon look as if it would take some months and I and my family were moving to Somerset UK in a month or so. Initially things were very strained and my arrival was resented, being an ‘outsider’ and temporary, but I was able to gain their trust and prove myself after some mild conflict.
As the trust grew I introduced them to my ideas of Therapeutic Community Groups and alternative ways of understanding Mental Health and Mental Illness from a more positive perspective. This is taking a perspective from a Social Dynamic, rather than a Clinical / Forensic point of view.
Within a couple of months they could see a positive, more cooperative response from the clients and the general atmosphere for Staff and Clients improved. This happened over the Christmas period, a time of optimism for many, but often sad for many of those with mental health problems.
A couple of clients went into crises as often happens at this time and the two teams worked very well together, with good handovers and sharing of the shifts experiences. They got to understand the importance of Community Meetings and the application of Human Rights principles as their foundation for working.
Each staff member took on a key work ‘Ordinary Therapy’ counselling role and had a ‘backup’ key worker in the opposite team. Clients got to trust staff and real ‘friendships’ and trust were established. The Community Meetings began to do their empowering and therapeutic work.
Clients clearly felt listened to by the staff & mutual trust was established. Without realising the ‘method’ itself the staff were able to enable clients to ‘re-frame’ their various experiences and the mental health consequences, in more positive terms. In this way they were able to find their own way of coming to terms & largely recovering from the original Trauma and the previously traumatic consequences of the ‘breakdown.
For me there were no surprises, but for the Staff teams, who were simply following and increasingly trusting my guidelines, this was quite an exciting shock. I stayed on for longer than was planned, living in London and commuting to Somerset; until the staff teams once more felt confident & secure the new team leader had been decided.
By the time I was to leave even the most resistant team member (a young feminist who had shown an immediate resentment towards me) was warm and expressed sadness at my planned leaving. I was also sad, because what had been such a depressed and broken down Unit (like its clients) had become a very positive and optimistic environment. I was so tempted not to go, but persisted with my intention.
The send off they gave me was precious and I knew that the clients were very safe in their hands. What wonderful, patient people and forgiving professionals they were. I will never forget them although our working together was brief. They gave me a present of a Tee-shirt with the words Super Social Worker brazened across it. I had to leave wearing it.
Family and Career Future:
I had to go; my family had moved and my first young son was drawing me home. It was also important that I took a break from the battles with the institutions. They were becoming far more defensive and compliment with the traditional roles of Institutions, fearing change and everything different. This was the damaging anti-community Thatcher influence.
I went off for a while to sell Computers Services, Develop a Nightclub, a Pub / Hotel and to put on live music entertainment in North Somerset. Out of these efforts I was then able to develop and test my hopes for introducing these therapeutic ‘re-framing’ techniques into the ‘live’ local community, by establishing Therapeutic Networks.
For a while I therefore worked professionally in the Voluntary / Charitable sector with some success and with some enjoyment, but even here the institutionalizing, controlling influences began to bite and funding of all these services was increasing determined by ‘compliance’ with the institutions rigid and non-therapeutic requirements.
I was fortunately mostly self funding out of business and fund raising through the entertainments operations. This was not true of the other Voluntary agency work that I did some work for. That service became antagonistic and more compliment to institutional demands. The referring social services was unlawfully using ‘financial criteria’ for determining the assessed needs of clients.
It was clear Therapeutic Social Work was dying and even Person Centred Social Work of any kind was being compromised. The services were regressing to clinical treatments and drugs (Making Money). It was time to get out again and just keep the local self maintaining Therapeutic Networks operating for as long as each group network needed that support.
The Evolution of Therapeutic Networking Within Small Communities (North Somerset – UK):
The Therapeutic Community Network arrangements were initially for ‘light weight’, non-discriminating Mental Health and Alcohol & Drug support. The idea was to establish loose friendships of local people with similar enough challenges in life to have some common focus and purpose. That is how we started.
The Mental Health members were of every kind from vulnerable & isolate people & those with reactive depression, to those with serious diagnoses of psychosis and obsessional disorders. Soon there were people who joined us who had been abused in some way as kids or more recently as Adults. All were accepted.
Then people with physical and sensory difficulties joined us and even one or two of the more active elderly frail would join, sometimes ordinary members of the public to report worries and seek advice about families & friends or their own concerns. It slowly became very ordinary and indistinguishable from the ordinary life activity.
In the end people would meet up independently in their own small groups and would approach me wherever I was, very naturally and the weekly chat meetings became just that. The real work went on independently and we just came together to update each other or to say someone was in trouble or had fallen out with the others.
The local social services set up a ‘service user’ group on the same lines for those specifically with long term mental health problems and we arranged for a service user committee to effectively run the show, with professions & volunteers shadowing the member official, to help out with the businessyside of things.
A natural leader arose out of the client group and it persisted under his motivation for as long as he lived and sadly, slowly disbanded after he died. It was perhaps time for a rebirth, but I again had to move on by then, but others took over the various roles in the town and people were, perhaps, that little more insightful and understanding.
A friend even took on the role of organising the live music in the town and the broad ethos continued in its own way, with new people and adapted and eventually blended into normality. It may be that this can be usefully done again at some point; to refresh or advance community understanding and help people better understand mental health, addiction and disability, etc.
Whatever, the essence of the reestablishment of community ethos, by the gradual evolution of mutual understanding and confidence; the re-framing of experience in ordinary ways; using the mix & blending of music, art &culture; care, share and the development of greater trust & mutual protection.
This is how Communities evolve and gain new credibility, growing from small seeds, often planted among the disaffected. All it takes is a will and a small group of fearlessly dedicated people to set the scene and establish the foothold that is able to resist the jobsworths and those other ‘experts’ who would have is divided and ruled. ♥
The General Situation with Business & Funding of the Community Projects:
Having been conned by a single business for approximately £100,000 worth if invoices and pending invoices, £80,000 of which I had already paid out on their services, I could see that business generally was going down the pan and that there were increasing numbers of borderline illegalities and banking scams. Thatcher’s dream collapsed with 15% interests for Dennis Thatcher’s Banks – Con of the Century.
I sued the fraudulent company and they eventually went bankrupt, (This was one of the earlier Timeshare cons in which properties not build were being sold). It took too long and too much damage had been done. I became a witness to the Fraud & was treated like a criminal at one stage. It was the last straw.
The Director of the Fraudulent Company went on to be a Hypnotherapist and was accepted into the Professional Association. Quit an irony given that he had knowingly disrupted the income stream of a service that provided free therapeutic services to people in real distress. I had to wind down the Therapeutic Support Service.
I paid up local creditors best I could, shut down the computer services company, sold up the Nightclub, wound up the computer business and focused on a pub-hotel project, with intention to buy on a temporary rent to buy arrangement. I improved the Hotel and trebled the trade but the owner, near to (bankrupt) upped the price. I walked away, the business collapsed and value dropped to 1/3. Silly people.
Basically, at that time there was very little honesty in local business. It was not just sharp business practices. it was dishonest and often illegal business practices. I decided I could not be crooked and left then to cut each others throats. Most businesses that do not provide essential products and direct services and do not have a wide market are often crooked and dishonest. It is now part of the business strategy.
Buyer be ware. Anyway, I had a family and needed work so I got a Job and a Computer Engineer and continued some low level computer programming & web design for a local company. This is when I began to develop websites and prepare for the day when Social Networking was properly established.
I knew enough to get started and picked up the rest on the job and in work training. They were a great bunch to work for and it was a real change to be working with engineers and mostly blokes again lol. It was not the real me though and I kept the Therapeutic Work going in the background.
The business stresses and collapse of the businesses put a strain on my marriage and we divorced. I continue with a mix of employment and running the charity for a while but eventually determined I wanted to get back into Therapeutic work and developed an ambition to return to the Local Authority Service, in the hope that these had improved enough.
In fact, in this time I re-married and started a new family and the relationships with the previous family improved (my ex found someone else). After the first year things started to go wrong in the new family life and I found myself being abused and humiliated by my partner. My ambition to return to Therapeutic Social Work worked out how ever (at least to start with).
This is how the last phase of Social Work Practice began, with worrying insights into Wiltshire Councils employment practices and dubious social care practices in some areas. But that is the next part of the story. First the good bits; working with proactive and very skillful ‘therapeutic’ Social Workers and Community Nurses, a big improvement on what I had experienced in my past life in Social Work. But it was not to last.
Return to Therapeutic Social Work Proper:
Most of the social work environments that I have worked in I have created with the staff teams I worked with, often selecting the staff to fit the projects. In that I had been very fortunate to have been trusted. On occasions I have had to walk into what was there and as a manager, it was my job to repair, rebuild and re-motivate.
In my last approach to ‘formal’ social work I returned to direct Social Work practice, in an environment where the expectation was that I help people re-establish their lives after a breakdown or disablement of some kind. I was expected to work within an existing Team, with established practices and methods. It was a little nerve-wracking.
My new boss was delightful, very clear and confident, bunch like my first Social Work boss. He was a trained Community Nurse. That was a very good start. Then I met the team; a small overworked group of professionals; Community Nurses and Me, a Social Worker. The Permanent Social worker was on Maternity Leave. They were a great team and I was welcomed.
We were based in a small, long established Community Hospital in Marlborough, Wiltshire, UK. We were not only a very positive ‘Therapeutic’ team, there team members and the team leader were truly positive sprits and I had a sense that everybody worked well together and enjoyed their work. The Administration support was the best that I have ever experienced.
I was given every support to work in my chosen way and the results were very satisfying. The recoding system was very intelligent for our purpose. We were the service and we could internally refer to CPN services, Art therapist and any groups being run.
It was very satisfying work with an effective ‘cure’ of one case of Bipolar condition and other very satisfactory solutions of adjustment to serious mental health experiences. There was potential to do more, but the reality of working in a temporary role with more cases than can be fully resolved makes that impractical.
The only real hope was to help establish a Therapeutic Network, but even this was difficult to do. I did not live in the Marlborough locality and was not able to provide the input that was necessary to build the initial group and get the confidence of a significant number of people.
What I did do, with the help of two clients, was to link up with a voluntary organisation in the locality and we were able to facilitate the establishment of a very small network that would have to do for now, while I worked at looking at other potions. Sadly, my time ran out with the contract and the permanent worker returned.
I was sad to be leaving. It was a very positive return to the formal Social Work role and wholly therapeutic in its purpose and effect.
The next Positive Phase – Working with Elderly Mentally Ill & those with Stroke & Dementia
I was fortunate that just at the time the one post finished a vacancy became available in the ‘Older’ Adults’ Mental Health team in Marlborough.
I had never considered this area of work, but the manger of the team met with me and described the work they were doing. I was intrigued. I was about seeking cure, resolutions and enablement and had assumed that when we are old there is one way ticket. Then I realised that is always true. I am still learning.
I decided to try it out and it turned out to be far more interesting and rewarding than I had anticipated. The Marlborough Mental Health Team turned out to be every bit as positive and proactive as the Adult Mental Health Team. It was one of those teams where each of our shortcomings are compensated by others strength and when someone is going through a bad patch the others rally rounds and fill in the gaps. Nothing was too much and each was as frank as they were kindly.
There were no false demarcations, everyone was effectively equal and there were no Aires and Graces; what you saw was what you got. I was not used to loosing my clients, it was an anathema to me. Here I had to learn that it is not so much about the leaving as the dignity and value of the staying till the end. Loosing someone to death was not new to me and I remember how I felt ‘what if’, ‘if only’ I had done something different or said something before the end.
Here it was an ever present likelihood. I had to adjusts to another new perspective on life, One I had been avoiding and sometimes seeking to hard to avoid, making life that little bit more dull and fearful. Here I met people who being so close we showing no fear whatsoever. What sustained them in this? What did they know that I lacked the knowing of. The most powerful was the desire to remain true to themselves to the end and to leave on their terms, not suffering the sentimentality of well meaning family and friends.
With this altered perspective I was not so surprised at the comradory and support that everyone demonstrated towards each other, whatever their role or formal position. The humour was often raw and honest, it had the character of wisdom made bearable, made human. Even our interactions with the Agencies we engaged to provide the direct care, there was a commonality of spirit and love for the mums and dads, the grandparent of others; that often felt so much like our own. The respect for elders may be largely absent from our communities, but it was never absent in this team even in the most challenging of cases.
I have helped build many good teams of caring Social Workers and we have welcomed the positive contributions of our health colleagues that were seconded to join us. The shared knowledge and perspectives he two healthy perspective were invaluable. I was fortunate to know that teams mostly build themselves when you choose, introduce, support people well and treat them with every respect as equals but for the level of responsibility demanded. As they say – the buck has to stop somewhere. Here there was no buck.
Apart from the energetic Community Teams there was a Special Unit for those who needed respite or recovery from the expected poor health of older years. That ‘Ward’ (Oak Ward) was not a ward at all; it was clean and hygienic and as attentive as any hospital ward could be and well organised as one would hope a hospital resource could muster, but it was in every respect made a home from home and a place of love – yes unfashionable as it is to talk about it in professional circles – there is no clinical word to match it.
A place for the elderly and often their families, to be relieved of the burden of being aged for a while, or as a gentle transition to a place of greater peace and reconciliation towards the inevitable; be it a return home with greater support, a residential home, a nursing home or the final sanctuary of life. No one could have wished for a better place to adjust to new circumstances and prepare for another part of the journey.
We tried to give ourselves real breaks at lunch times and would bring each other treats. Even the cleaners and clerical assistants were equal and felt equal to their part in the tasks of the work and providing the respite that we each needed throughout the day. We grumbled and teased each other and put things straight when needed, we were opinionated and divergent at times but everything we did sipped in and slotted in place well enough.
There was good communication between the various teams and the environments that they worked in, but there was something more. It was not just a matter of dutifully working and sharing; it was a real pleasure to walk into the space of others and for then who visited us. We sometimes found ourselves looking for an excuse to do so. If you wanted an example of a seamless service, the Marlborough Mix was that good example, everything there seemed to knit together.
If only that cold have continued but we were not an island. With all the good works and seamless cooperation that existed, there was still the need for some cooperation’s with the big wide world. That is where things seemed to fail and increasingly fail. The politics of Local Government and Health Authority were rubbing up to each other and another battle of wills was storming.
For our various teams to continue to functions competently we needed to be maintained and the movement of our clients through the services provided, to the environments that best suited their new needs, was critical to providing any service of any benefit to anyone. This is where we began to fine the difficulties. The works was demanding as it was. You don’t come into this work to coast (at least you should not) it is a vocation and that still has meaning for a great many people in the professions (but it seems not all).
To cut a long story short (for now) we found that the essential support from outside was seriously diminishing and we were first told it would be temporary, part of a necessary review and reorganisation. I have heard of these many times now and am not fooled by them. The work we were doing was already at the boundaries of what was safe and appropriate in respecting life and dignity. Everyone was already putting in the extra bit.
The temporary new arrangements was the slowing up of funding for people to be supported or placed more safely, with adequate respect for their dignity and even their most basic wishes. Over a period of a year this support from the Wiltshire Council services was so low that the Special Respite and Recovery unit was eventually fully occupied by people who should have moved on to more appropriate environments, having recovered, or become more frail.
This movement was eventually was not happening at all. The previous ‘protective’ Community support services of respite and recovery was gone completely, leaving individuals and families floundering. These rich and valuable, cost effective services were now completely tied up by unwilling prisoners of the Institution that had buried them there, along with the staff, which was diminishing and not being replaced also.
Over the same period, in spite of our managers and my own greatest efforts in to get our respective organisations (Health and Social Services) to appreciate the risks to clients and staff, the staffing levels in the Community teams continued to diminish until there were only 3 of the original 12 and more people. No one who left was replaced, people were off work with stress and we moved over to emergency only, but after a further 3 months ‘all’ cases of that had been put on hold had become emergency.
We had been relying upon the part time efforts of 2 students on secondment to take up some of the slack, but these were going back to college and the situation was now dangerous and we were not longer able to take such risks, when our own energies and health’s were being affected. We had kept the organisations fully informed, in writing, of the increasing dangers and the depletion of services continued.
The situation was not much better on the Respite and recovery Ward which was now told it would be closing the irony was that the closure of this Ward, whose service had effectively ‘disabled’ by Wiltshire Councils ignorance and intransigence was now to close, thrusting the burden of those poor soles back onto Wiltshire, but now without the ‘temporary’ resource that had (until recently) actually reduced the demand on Wiltshire’s funds and own resources.
Moral was destroyed and our manager (who was now split over two teams because of effective staffing reductions) and ourselves agree that we could not continue like this. Arrangements were made for the last 3 of us (a ¼ of the original team) and our caseloads to move out of the local area of East Wiltshire and operate out of Devizes and Chippenham teams, localities more to the west of the County. The team was gone.
It was absolute madness and dangerous last minute emergency arrangement and the other two team members health’s eventually failed during the changes & transfer, leaving the Psychiatrist Dr Manchip, myself and a Part time Social Work student (Karen) to manage the task of discharge of clients from the closing ward and the usual challenges of the local elderly populations within the Community.
It was completely unbelievable and a rush was made to get some of the work allocated to the members of the teams we were moving into. These were also becoming depleted of staffing and support We had thought that the Marlborough Team had been the only real targets for reductions, but apparently not. There were no honest messages getting through and the responses to our expressed concerns were dismissive & inadequate and dangerous. I said so.
The Student Social worker was due to resume full time Social Work practice at the Devizes office and had raised serious concerns about going there. Meanwhile, one of my colleagues whose health was failing, due to unacceptable levels of stress, was said to have raised concerns about bullying in the Devizes team, where she had already moved just recent to this.
I knew of no details and elected that I would swap places with my colleague. There were other good strategic reasons for the swap anyway. I was asked pointedly if I was alright with that change of arrangement and said, yes, of course. That settled I was then the only person left at the original office, along with the Psychiatrist who was also moving and the admin staff. The discharge of Clients fro the hospital Ward was faltering, agreements not being in place to place in the community (as was their need).
NB – More to come and corrections needed