Choice and autonomy my arse

At the moment our lives are becoming increasingly [hahahaha] complicated as LB has become very anxious and distressed. We’re in a big old hot pot, dealing with support and services underpinned [big fanfare] by the gov’s personalisation agenda. Key principles; Choice and autonomy.

Well this sounds like the baby. Choice and autonomy.. lovely, lovely, lovely. Let’s have a little looky at how this is shaping up eight weeks on;

Social Services. After a complete meltdown that resulted in LB out of school for a couple of weeks, the Care Manager acted instantly to organise a wedge of emergency direct payments for us to buy care. Good. We can choose what type of emergency support we want. Unfortunately, the kind of people who may be willing and able to hang out with a 6ft tall, young man who may, or may not become aggressive, are not that much in supply (and hugely in demand). So in practice, not so goodThe alternative is the Respite Centre with the snooker table. Complete fail. CM also offered to organise a round table meeting. Good. And, after a particularly alarming incident (Episode A), has given me an emergency number to call. Good. Unfortunately, if we call that number we are opening a window for LB to potentially be sectioned. ‘Mmm. Well I’m sure they will do what’s best for him in that situation‘…I hear you think. Not really. ‘What’s best for him’ relies on what’s best for him being available. Not a mental health unit over a hundred miles away in Norwich where two of his class mates have spent months. There is no in-county support for young learning disabled people. That is a complete fail.

Health. The GP instantly prescribed anti-depressants over the phone without hesistation. Good (in the sense he took our concerns seriously, not that LB is now on more medication). After LB mumbled something about suicide near some professional type person, he was whizzled into a same day appointment with a psychiatrist. Good. (Well a bit weird that the concerns we have are largely ignored but one word gets instant attention). The psychiatrist asking LB if he felt suicidal was a complete fail. Never, ever put ideas into that boy’s head like that. She then, after a telephone appointment 6 weeks later, discharged him. Not so good. ‘Why are you discharging him?????’ I asked, seconds after I’d told her about Episode A. ‘He was referred to me because of the concern about suicide, now that is no longer a concern, the psychologist will help him to manage his anxiety.’ Not so good [and given our experience with psychologists over the years (star charts anyone?) suspect this detour will be a complete fail].

So what are we left with? Money to pay for care. No care to buy. And no one doing anything to help LB become less anxious.

Choice and autonomy? Feels a teeny bit flaky to me. Can we have some action?

Remploy and “loss making”

I’m in favour of inclusive work places. Of course I am. But in terms of inclusive work practices developing in the UK, I’d say we were at a similar stage really (ignoring the unsustainable fluff introduced every now and again) to 30 years ago. Nothing has really changed.  Yes, there has been a shift away from institutionalisation but there is plenty of evidence that despite living ‘in’ the community, learning disabled people remain outside of the community, isolated, often victims of hate crime and not in, or even close to, employment.

And employment, or work, is one of the central features of our lives.  Something this pig ignorant coalition government wilfully misunderstand, misinterpret and use as a political tool for their own purposes.

Today Remploy employees are striking against the proposed closure of 27 “loss making” factories putting 1421 people at risk redundancy.

Remploy provides employment opportunities for learning disabled people (and so much more).  Remploy employees go to work, work and earn money. Ok, it’s an exclusive setting, but, for the time being, the rest of the UK workplaces are exclusive too.  Exclusive to people without learning disabilities. Until these workspaces become inclusive, closing Remploy is going to leave most, if not all, of the current employees unemployed.

Many or most Remploy employees will no longer go to work. Structured everyday life, use of space outside of the  homes, journey to and from work and social experiences gained on a daily basis will be removed.  Many employees will be left with the option of day centres, staying at home or using direct payments to pay someone to take them out somewhere. We all like going out, but as a part of our lives, not as a sole feature.  There are also implications for family members who will have to readjust their own lives accordingly.

Many or most Remploy employees will no longer work. The benefits of working are documented in a ton of evidence gathered over decades. I won’t bother to list them here, but the health consequences of not being able to gain employment are also documented. The lack of structure and activity, and the emotional distress caused by the removal of  working lives, may have serious health implications.

Most or many Remploy employees will no longer ‘earn’ money. Yes, there will be some financial support but it ain’t the same thing. And no doubt there will be some shenannigens about placing Remploy employees in an inappropriate work category, leading to more punitive sanctions in line with current changes to the benefits system.

So what is going on here? Is the government closing these factories because they subscribe to the vision of an inclusive society in which learning disabled people are supported, welcomed and sustained in paid employment?

Bollocks. It’s all about money. The worth and value of learning disabled people is so low, that keeping (financially) unprofitable factories open, even if they offer some people employment and everything that comes with that, is not an option.  But “loss making” in this situation, cannot and should not be measured financially.

The DWP commissioned report into the viability of Remploy opens with the statement;

The views expressed in this report have been based on discussion with Central Management only.

Sums it up really.