I am the father of a young autistic man, who falls under the provisions of our local adult social care services. I’ll save “care” for another day – another article. The focus of this piece is on “services”.
Nailing my colours to the mast from the off, I have to say that I’m not exactly sure whether “services” are actually provided by the Local Authority anymore. The LA provide funds (is that a service?) with which to purchase a service – in our case, direct payments to hire support workers to support Steven when he is out and about on his day to day activities. And that’s the end of the LA involvement – their services. Unless you count the annual FACS (Fairer access to care services) assessment. Does a FACS count as a service? If they do, I’d rather not avail myself of this service, as they invariably lead to a reduction in funding, which means we have less money to purchase the services we require.
My all time favourite social care quote is:
“The proposed changes enable service users to have more Choice and Independence through offering care and support tailored to their needs”.
The presentation leads one to think that new doors are opening; horizons are being expanded. The reality is far from it. The quote is actually part of an announcement that the borough was closing all its day centres.
Although day centres receive a lot of criticism and are considered terribly old fashioned, they are easily understandable as a “service” – there’s a building, staff who co-ordinate and supervise, and a range of activities for the person to chose from. For me, that ticks several “services” boxes.
In place of the day centres are “non building based drop in services”. That is clearly a heavily coded statement and doesn’t hold up to too close a scrutiny. The reality is the social care department are offering – “the service users meet up in Costa and access the community from that base”.
When you understand what is actually being offered, your perception of a “service” may be challenged. I can go to Costa any time I like. My son can go to Costa any time he likes. He doesn’t need a “service” to “enable service users to enhance their independence and practical skills”. Bottom line – my son can go to Costa without the council providing that “service” for him.
I’ve seen the operational structure of my LA’s adult social care department. These are the days of: “Service User Participation Managers” and “Services Transformation Champions”. I can’t even begin to guess what they actually do but I’d love to sit in a room with them and ask them how their role relates to services for my son.
The fate that befalls most service users, is that at some point, under the “fairer charging policy”, they will be charged for the “service” they are receiving. I can’t think of any other arena where I might be charged for something that I’m not really sure I’m receiving. My barber charges me for his services but I have a lovely haircut to show at the end of it. Will my son suddenly find himself being charged for accessing an outreach service at a non building Costa? Probably.
This are the Emperor’s new clothes. A non service dressed up as a vehicle for choice and liberation. Forget Costa. They might as well offer the service of “yak herding in Slovakia”. Slightly further to travel perhaps but I can organise it myself. I don’t need a champion, if that’s what champions actually do.
We hear a lot about families who financially rip off their incapacitated relatives. Would it be unfair to suggest that authorities who charge their vulnerable clients for non services are being as equally abusive? It might even be a safeguarding issue.
You can find Mark Neary’s blog here.