Kissing bare feet…

Flew to Helsinki this evening. On a flight with free wifi (Norwegian Air) and a lot of kids. Three little kids just in front. Two younger boys with a slightly older sister who kind of policed them. With a good dose of pummelling, cuddling and arguing. Carefully watched over by their mum across the aisle. Tablets, snacks, learning the Koran (via headphones) and cheeky computer games as the flight went on.

A little girl on the right across the aisle with her mum. And a super cute babe with his mum and dad next to me. Seats 8A, B and C.

A three hour flight. The three kids in front were pretty self sufficient other than the odd headphone war. The little girl to the right slept for most of the flight. She woke when her mum went to toilet, howled briefly, was pacified by her mum who lost her place in the loo queue. Beaten by a man who disappeared for a record amount of time only matched by the smells that emerged with him.

The couple I sat next to operated a pretty much three hour work station between them. Food, cuddles, big white soft toy, love, food, singing, blanket, books, big white soft toy, food, dummy, love, more food. He chuckled, played with the seat table, looked out of the window with excitement, studied the menu, looked at a London guidebook, had a whine, chucked his dummy on the floor, batted the books away, cried, chucked his dummy away again, rocked with frustration, howled and fell asleep.


His mum kissed his bare feet.

I thought about the kids when they were tots. About that constant space of love, devotion, work, despair, public service, frustration, absorption, protection and completeness.  In between, I read a book about experiences of social change over time (stories from disabled people born in the 1940s, 1960s and 1980s).


I wondered (again) how the hell we got into a situation in which we took, and left, LB in that hell hole.

8 thoughts on “Kissing bare feet…

  1. I visited LD hospitals soon after my son was born with Downs in mid 1960.

    I did a placement in Normansfield LD Hospital – as part of SW training in mid 1980’s. I found it a brutal feudal place… then – no one was willing to expose the true regime. And when exposure and criticism came it was only as part of a Social Policy to land grab the valuable sites. I was reprimanded by my supervisor – for writing down what I saw and how I felt at the time.

    The ‘we don’t give a toss ….for it is not our responsibility ‘ – football – tossed every day between NHS and LA’s is filling the waiting room to ATU’s. .

    If this conduit to the cash cow ATU is to be torn out.. we must start with challenging the nil accountability and unrestrained power and actions of both care commissioners AND the SW education providers – who accept their shilling.

    The former can have no conscience at all…it has been culled by ‘loads ‘a status’ and stuffed with huge salaries . The latter – shame on you for accepting the narrow instructions of the professional body….and for sending shiny new students post qualification – into roles – that impose fear and dread in families….and… that ignores the reality of our sons and daughters miserable and shortened lives in ……….the community –

    These newly qualified people – who may have come into your University or College – to build a better society are deafened and blinded to the suffering of the most vulnerable and benign people in society – and can become eager even – to throw our beloved sons and daughters off a cliff – into an ATU…

    • Interesting that you talk about your experiences of training in the 80s and the conspiracy of silence. I heard similar tales of students training in mental health in north Wales in the 80s and they too were horrified and found no scope for raising concerns – if they found an escape route they got out of the system. Those that were complicit with the abuse remained in the region and some have reached senior levels in the system and are still there now, concealing the abuse today. If someone’s going to whisteblow it’s often students, because they are idealistic and don’t yet have a job to lose. But they still find it very difficult even today when patient neglect and abuse has a high profile in the media – as students in north Wales have found out. Students placed in the very troubled Hergest acute mental health unit in Bangor were appalled by what they were witnessing and were often being bullied themselves by abusive staff there. But they didn’t find it easy to whistleblow, they too found pressure being applied to them to remain silent. One student on placement in north Wales simply decided that she didn’t want to be a nurse anymore if this is what it involved – after telling her tutor she was withdrawing from the course, her tutor had one comment: ‘do remember to tell everyone how supportive I’ve been to you’. What the student didn’t realise was that this nurse-tutor was married to a consultant psychiatrist in the Hergest Unit. As deaths continued at the Hergest Unit and the service began to visibly implode, this psychiatrist and his wife emigrated to New Zealand, presumably where no-one at all knows what they were concealing for years in north Wales. Despite the Health Board in north Wales now supporting a ‘speak out’ campaign I still don’t see much evidence of staff raising concens – anyone who does will still be ruthlessly bullied and they all know that people in senior positions across the region have been complicit with serious wrongdoing and will never support them in trying to achieve improvement. The remedy for staff and students who are not prepared to be complicit with neglect and abuse is the same today as it was in the 80s – they get out. In some cases they get out of the entire NHS – there was an excellent clinical psychologist working in the Hergest Unit in the 1990s as well as a genuinely radical psychiatrist who, unlike their colleagues, didn’t seem to hate their patients. Both left the Hergest Unit and then the entire NHS – the psychologist took up a completely different lifestyle in England and the radical psychiatrist also moved to England but moved into academia with no clinical work.

  2. From Jonna: That these hell holes still exist in the sixth wealthiest country on Earth is a damnation on successive Governments who have not done anything to wipe them from the face of the Earth. The fat cat CEO’s at the top and the management structure who are indifferent to human suffering. My brother died because Bedlam still exists.

  3. Sara Weary mother all of you -we know, we know this exists. I have every proof that it exists for Martin, and have had for since 2000. As long as Martin is the pawn in the power game I can’t change it. The House of Lords committee was quite clear that it was the government’s responsibility – but we cant touch them. I live with this every day – Damnation on successive Governments is an understatement. If I make one move that upsets “them” the Court of Protection will put an injunction on me to stop contact with Martin. God help us

    • Shirley you are in the same position, as every parent of every ‘disabled’ child, even if not a mental disorder, which in any event can be found easily, on a perfunctory , symptom basis, any hired gun can find one- autism, anxiety disorder, ADHD, and then invoke either MHA or MCA or both, as under the latest MHA, all, even learning disability, is now a MENTAL disorder.

      We have been well stitched up by USA Diagnostic Manual, and our own successive Parliaments via our own charitable representatives, who only, as with all, act in their own interests, not in ours, or our childrens.

      How can we help our children ? If, as you so rightly say, we will be prevented from even seeing them, as parents already have been.

      This is a government, training modus, and all are trained in to give effect to max profit use to fuel economy disability community service care, and expense of public money and deficit.

      Psychiatrists, will in the future on NHS Mental privatisation, be employed by the huge disability industry.

      They will and are being in private services made subject to strict codes of conduct, reviews, feedback and regular appraisals. See jobs adverts for work in the ‘community living ‘ that replaced Winterbournes Castlebeck . They are controlled by their management for profit. There can be no whistleblowing not even disagreement. Professional ethics, their independence are not allowed.

      ‘Community Living’ is what has now been put in place, for the future of all adult disabled and these places, under MCA, and at any time MHA, can be invoked as necessary to their ‘specialist hospitals’. They are the same as ATUs- what is the difference except the inmates might be taken out in a bus or to the park and worse they are for life without the mechanisms for any effective reviews. Services in any event will be largely standardised.

      They are and will be, all drugged, encaged cash cows, and we have no control over services, nor do the vulnerable, they have been deemed under MCA to be the perfect commodity for profit, insentient yet worth £4,000 + for a week, the use of this money need not be accounted for.

      • Glad you mentioned the US diagnostics manual Finola. It has certainly done great damage. I don’t know what the favoured/prevalent diagnoses for learning disabled people are, but I’ve taken a lot of interest in the notion of ‘borderline personality disorder’ (there is of course much academic work exploring and critiquing many of the diagnoses from DSM, indeed critiquing the whole idea of ‘mental illness’, but it doesn’t seem to be seeping into the practice of many psychiatrists). Time and again I saw this ‘diagnosis’ used in the troubled north Wales service, by the same few psychiatrists, who were undoubtedly using it to discredit/dismiss patients who were making complaint. They also used it in the face of patients who remained distressed over a long period of time – yet a former member of staff commented to me that the reason so many of those patients were not ‘recovering’ was because of the paucity of care being given. This was not an explanation that had ever occurred to the practitioners who so enthusiastically bandied this diagnosis about. And of course the beauty of ‘borderline personality disorder’ is that its many ‘symptoms’ are indicative of just about anyone experiencing severe distress.

        • And add emotionally unstable disorder I just read radicalism is to be a mental illness.Mental health has been completely discredited but its power is absolute it is creating a multimillion pound industry based on little except I say so and now increasingly as I listen to the news picking up signs ie of Alzheimers early by your walk, ie treating for disorders that do not exist or even if they do have a pathology a person might never get. Thank you for your comment. Mental assessment is control and prevents any opposition or discussion as you as a person are discredited and are whatever the assessor want you to be.
          best wishes Finola

  4. Sara – have just read your latest tweets re the recirculating of failed managrs from Sloven. As I’m not on twitter, may I comment here? This has been going on in north Wales (I’ve detailed some of it in my blog) for years – managers who have publicly failed and who have been running failing services have been moved aroud Wales, presumably in the hope that people will simply forget about their previous failures. (Not that this works in Wales – everyone knows everyone else, so it is possible to track these people quite clearly and watch them being moved on from one failure to the next.) Critics always attributed this to nepotism within Wales. Hoever we now have a new phenomenon within the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board in north Wales – people who have disgraced themselves in England are arriving here. There was much publicity when one Bernie Cuthel was appointed to the Betsi Board a few months ago – she had left a previous CEO job in the north west of England under a very big cloud indeed, with allegations of serious bullying, critical inspection reports and questions in Parliament. She now plays a senior role in ‘leading’ our failing mental health services. We also have a Lyn Meadows – who like Bernie ended up in hot water whilst serving on a Board previously in the north west of England. Lyn Meadows was named on Frank Field MPs blog as being one of the Board members who was complicit with a fraud being operated by some clinicians – the information also found its way into Hansard so it was hardly a secret. And the new CEO of the Betsi comes from the same organisation that Lyn Meadows was involved with – so presumably he knew all about this too. What next? Will disgraced members from Sloven turn up in north Wales too seeking shelter? Maybe not – from your twitter feed it looks as though they have their eyes on much bigger prizes. I seem to remember post Mid Staffs reading suggestions in the English media that NHS executives/managers who had failed or been involved in unethical conduct should be ‘struck off’ (not that this system has actually removed many unfit doctors yet) – is this debate still happening?

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