I promised you something interesting for this blog. Sorry about that….!

by Pseud O'Nym

When I was discharged from the hospital, my council had thoughtfully setup a care programme that would meet all my domestic needs. Domestic in this instance means cooking and very light cleaning. To begin with this was a blessing – as my lack of fine motor skills means that cooking puts me at a very real danger to myself – but all too quickly it became a curse. To give you but one example; as very soon it became apparent that my carers could not cook, I took matters into my own hands. Every night for what seemed like months on end, I had tortellini every night. Because I deemed them only capable of boiling a kettle of water, adding the water and the tortellini together in a saucepan. And another example of their culinary competence; once when a carer asked me what I wanted for lunch I replied I wanted an omelette, to which she rather seriously replied ‘Do you want egg in that omelette?’ They would do the bare minimum, as slowly as possible, and not to a standard anyone with an I.Q. greater than their age would deem acceptable.

So it was with some delight I eagerly agreed to give personalization a try. This is a process by which the money for your care is given for you to spend as you see fit and totally bypasses any local council input. It’s like having bespoke suits made for you, after years of off the peg rubbish. Since then I’ve changed care provider, one that fully embraces the potential of risk inherent in any rehabilitive brain injury work, engaged a speech therapist, benefited from a neurological physiotherapist, and a undertaken incomparable amount more activities since control of how I spend my care money was passed to me. The fact they’re my councils preferred bidder is in no way related to the fact they’re also the cheapest. In setting this up I was fortunate enough to have a trainee social worker, one whose lofty idealism had not been eroded into jaded cynicism. Personalization is a fine theory but like most theories it’s application in the real world fails to live up to the idea’s behind it’s inception. One of it’s main failings is that there are no guidelines as to what one is and is not permitted to spend the money on. Councils have discretionary power over what they deem a reasonable expense and this can vary greatly from council to council. One of course has to keep receipts of every single expenditure and in theory is meant to forward these on to the council every single month.

Since setting up personalization, I’ve only had two meetings from anyone from social services. The first was in 2012 when it was explained to me that they would now be operating hub system. What this means is that whoever happens to answer the phone when you call is responsible for your case that day. There’s no social worker assigned to your case. It’s rather like “Tag! You’re it! ” social work. With the result I’ve never called them, and only a cynic would dare opine that was precisely the result they were hoping for, in announcing the change, a reduction in non urgent calls. Following on from this meeting I sent in up-to-date expenses, but fortunately I took the precaution of photocopying them. A friend dropped them off by hand with a request that they phone her to collect them. To date I have not had them back.

So imagine my delight a couple of months ago when it was announced that my annual review was due. I must have missed the one in 2013, but be that as it may, this review begat the arrival of a flurry of activity on my part. By the time of the meeting there were supporting statements from my carers’ as to how the continued funding benefitted my rehabilitation, from my consultant stressing the importance of maintaining the funding, from a housemate who eloquently advocated both my physical and psychological improvement that the change in care providers facilitated and a revised personal statement from me – my preferred version, the very short and very to the point ‘Give me the f*cking money’ sadly wasn’t it – all of which were collated in a plastic folder. In the same way all of my expenses had been prepared month by month in an orderly fashion and were laid out in an easy to digest way. So imagine my horror when the person that came to do the review took notes on the back of a sheet of A4 balanced on her knee. She took notes as if she herself was being charged by the word and it was only because there was so much material for her to take away with her that she would have had anything to make her assessment upon. One can hardly imagine my unbridled joy when a call came through from the council to my support worker who has put my receipts in order.

The computer on which I’m typing this is an Apple. The council wanted to know was it really necessary to submit a claim for nearly £2000 for a computer when cheaper models were available? Fortunately my support worker is not as blunt as I would haven, and explained how my lack of fine motor skills – the ones that control and coordinate the muscles so that one could thread a needle – meant that a PC trackpad was no use. A Mac was by some margin the easiest for me to use on so many levels, not least the fact I made the switch from polyester to wool in 2000. (Anyone that’s done the PC to Mac switch will understand that simile!) The whole idea of personalization was to avoid any interference from local authority jobs’ worth inquiring as to whether a purchase was really necessary. But the absence, despite my unanswered requests for them to send me guidelines out to what is, or isn’t permissible expense renders her question “Did you check it first with a social worker?” worthless. What do they have to check it against?

Next time…Not so much Nigel Farage but Nigels’ Farrago….