Tim Smart, interim Sloven board chair, met with My Life My Choice (MLMC) champs yesterday. The meeting is described in detail by Kate here [recommend reading this because I muse in a piecemeal way below]. Peculiarly, it was difficult to know what to make of it all.
Smart began by giving a heartfelt apology to our family and said there was no doubt we had been failed completely by Sloven. After nearly three years [howl] of non, fake or mealy mouthed apologies prised out of the Sloven directorate this was the real deal. Deeply moving and very much appreciated. He made it very clear how important it was to him to make sure there were improvements at Sloven. He’d been deeply upset when he saw the tv coverage of the extraordinary board meeting in January and couldn’t imagine if it had been his son who had died.
Sloven have, till now, repeatedly failed to say sorry. They have said sorry for our loss, for the upset we feel. They have let us know they will take the opportunity to apologise to us at a particular meeting (can you imagine?) They have bypassed us altogether and bunged the ‘apology’ on their website. Smart nailed it with openness, honesty and compassion.
Shaun and Jackie then asked a series of questions.
Slade House was a bit of a slippery topic. An assurance that the future of the site would be discussed in public with an acknowledgement that he probably/possibly wouldn’t be chair then. Allowing similar wriggle room to previous chair Petter; if we sell it the money stays in Oxon but if someone else flogs it type stuff.
The final question (“It’s a nasty one I’m afraid Tim”) was about why the CEO is still in post. Smart’s response was around gathering an evidence base to make a judgement around the potential removal of any board members. Fair enough. He then said none of the reports about Sloven laid the blame at Katrina Percy’s door. Bit odd. The Mazars review explicitly identifies board level failings. And failings schmailings are ultimately the responsibility of the chief exec. Mmm…
Shaun asked if Smart could continue to attend these meetings even if he was no longer board chair as he didn’t ‘BS’ them. Smart was visibly moved by this question. He said it was one of the nicest things things that had ever been said to him and he was at the risk of becoming emotional.
“You can be emotional Tim” said Shaun, cheerfully. “Of course you can cry. I’m always crying… ”
Another one of those moments when I’m just in awe of the brilliance of the My Life My Choice team. Keeping it real. Human. With an extraordinary ability to ask tough questions, offer challenge and remain encouraging and supportive.
Then, into this emotional space, and I can’t remember how it came up, Smart said very brusquely he hadn’t read the Mazars review and wouldn’t “because it was wrong”.
Blimey. One of those cartoon screechy brakes moments. A quick photo and Smart and I left for a brief chat. Outside, he said he had read the Mazars review but was dismissive of talk of thousands of deaths in the media [and clearly still dismissive of the review itself]. He told me a story which I didn’t get then went off to get a cab.
So. Where are we at? What does any of this mean? I’ve no idea really.
Vague, half formed, thoughts:
- Tim Smart is genuinely sorry and shocked about what happened to LB and the treatment we have experienced.
- He recognises (some) obvious and sustained failings in Sloven provision.
- He prides himself on his integrity, honesty and straightforwardness while remaining closed to actually listening or engaging with some of the evidence.
I went back to work feeling upset and pretty low.