Fieldwork, ferries and feedback


Today involved five trains, two buses, two ferries and two taxis to get to the Isle of Wight and back for fieldwork. Pretty epic and a little bit unplanned (in terms of timings). But other than one wrong train, one wrong platform, a left tripod and couple of necessary sprints, it went like clockwork. We met some fab people. Learnt a chunk of stuff. And somehow were back in Oxford before 6pm.

Meanwhile, Verita were holding their ‘stakeholder’ event to feedback emerging findings from their broader review into LB’s death. In Oxford. The obvious suspects present (or their emissaries) plus some families.

Let’s just say that trundling along a pier, in almost sunshine, on an old London Underground train, was probably a good place to be in the circumstances. One that LB would have loved.


So wrong

Tonight I heard the saddest news. It took me back to a train journey. From Canterbury to Oxford over three years now. When I heard that LB’s classmate had been sectioned and taken out of county to a unit miles away. Aged 16. I had a right old blub on that train. It seemed so brutal. So wrong. My heart broke for the cute tot who had legendary status in our family folklore. And his family. How could these kids be failed so badly? Despite the gargantuan efforts of parents?

And then LB went into a unit. With an unimaginable outcome.

LB died 17 months ago now. And there is still no effective support. Services/professionals miss the point, don’t have the knowledge, skills or ability to read the writing on the wall, or respond to it.

Time to call it as it is. Surely?

Timidity and the Yellow Brick Road

Been chewing over stuff this week, given the pre-inquest review (howl), launch of the Bubb report, accompanying media coverage and commentary. (See Chris Hatton, Matthew Smith and Rob Greig and ace coverage by Saba Salman on her blog and in the Guardian.) It was also the CQC 3 Lives* follow up meeting.

Relentlessly unchallenged crap practice and helplessness consistently crop up. We know that ATUs/some supported living settings are spaces that leave human rights on the doorstep. Containing people for years in hideous ways the public only find out about when something goes wrong. Those in the know know, of course. The frontline staff delivering nosh, medication and often little else, clinicians signing forms, local authorities/commissioners/NHS England shelling out small fortunes, and tribunal members. They all know. We all know really. But only give it some thought when the next catastrophic event crops up.

And then what happens? Talk, as always. Lengthy, wordy, jargon filled reports and meetings with the same old suspects, many of whom have screaming conflicts of interest. 

I had a quick shufty at a couple of charity accounts this morning. Again, a whole PhD to be had exposing the pomp and self congratulation around commitment and involvement to the Winterbourne Concordat by various organisation in the past coupla years. Quick to grab their moment in the brief sunshine of planet Concordat.  I wonder how many charities will record in the 2014 accounts that it was an almighty failure. And their commitment amounted to, er, nothing.

In among my rambling, exhausted thoughts, timidity kept cropping up. And that bloody lion in The Wizard of Oz. Tom was in a school performance of this a couple of years ago. LB, generally a big fan of any type of production and extravaganza, took offence to the constant repetition of the chorus.

“Not that fucking yellow brick road AGAIN!!!” he roared. Before Rich took him home in the interval.

Timidity is a kind way of characterising all I see, hear and read around learning disability provision these days. Timidity underpinned variously by:

    • a lack of understanding of how to make change/what to do
    • a lack of interest/commitment
    • incompetence
    • conflicts of interest
    • concerns about self preservation/future career paths

Well timidity, for whatever reason, is going to change fuck all. And until people with some influence and power grow some, we might as well all give up, creep back to our respective holes and get on with the lives we are lucky enough (or otherwise) to have.

I’ve always thought LB was saying exactly what most people in that packed, hot hall thought that evening. He was just fearless enough to say it.

*Lisa is now shopping weekly at Tescos and been to Matalan.