I’ve been trying to avoid thinking about this, because the future does not look rosy at all. But it’s gotta be done.
- LB is 17.5 years old.
- He can stay in his sixth form until he’s 19.
- There is a possibility he can attend a local college for a one year, two day a week, course.
- After that, nothing.
- What is this funny, hugely bright in some very specific ways (but not in any ways that are recognised in the workplace), young man going to do with his life?
- Whose is responsible for his care when he’s an adult?
I dread to think what LB is going to do. His current social worker (soon to be replaced by a transition social worker) said that the best we can hope for, is to make personal contact with a local small business/enterprise and organise paid carers to support him in some activity with them. Wow. The provision of support and services for learning disabled people is clearly cracking in the 21st century. I can’t see how this local work activity (if any were available) can be organised without a huge investment of time and goodwill. Whose time and whose goodwill? And with a high level of ongoing management. Alternatively, he may receive enough of a care package so that we can employ someone to do something with him on a daily basis. Something? What? And where?
Caring for someone in this country is, to be blunt, a pile of crapshite. The use of the word ‘care’ muddies things and allows a persistent level of exploitation that is completely unacceptable. Carers are paid £58.45 per week on the basis of a 35 hour week. How we can possibly distil the work carers’ do, often 7 days a week, on call for 24 hours a day, into a ‘working week’ is plainly wrong. If you earn over £100 a week, you don’t qualify for carer’s allowance. It’s an all or nothing jobby. And as for carer’s assessments (introduced circa 1995) to enable carers’ to say what would make caring easier for them?? I’m still waiting to have one.
Ironically, LB will probably (possibly? who knows with the current cuts in welfare) be given a care package involving direct payments that, in principle, allows him (that is, us) to buy care from external people. These people are currently paid between £7 (daytime) and £10 (evening) per hour. Unlike informal carers, there is a recognition that working in the evenings should involve a higher hourly rate. The rule is that direct payment cannot be paid to anyone living in the same house as the person they work for. Mmmm. Well we wouldn’t want to acknowledge the work informal carers do, would we? Direct payments also involve a lot of bureaucracy, recruiting staff, form filling in, tax, national insurance, and so on. Employing people involves time, interaction and a blurring of public and private boundaries in the home.
As I work full time, I don’t get carer’s allowance. There is no acknowledgement of the work I/we do, and will continue to do, looking after LB. There is no recognition that, unlike most parents of 17 year old children, one of us still has to be at home every day, ready to let LB in or collect him from after school club. This will continue for the next two years until he leaves school. And then what? He will, if lucky, be occupied two days a week at college for a year. No doubt starting around 9.30am, finished by 3pm with extensive holidays thrown in. He can’t be left home alone, so there are serious implications for maintaining full time employment.
I’m not overly optimistic about the paid carer situation. LB’s recent 12 week stint with a ‘peer buddy’, organised by a local care agency, was filled by a 50 year old man. At this point in time, I refuse to even think about a day centre. Years ago, LB used to say that he’d been to day care with Mr Galpin. It turned out that the social services transport he had at the time (the ill bus), collected a very elderly man after LB and they took him to the day centre before taking LB on to school. The thought of a 19/20 year old young man hanging out in that environment is a beyond dread kind of thought. It ain’t gonna happen.
So what are we left with? Fuck all really. Patchy bits of uncertainty and an unacknowledged expectation that parents will do a hell of a lot of work to make do and mend, on a daily basis. As for what LB will do with his life? That clearly is not an important feature of policy or practice.