People make assumptions about why I ‘put’ C in a residential home – it’s so hard you poor thing you couldn’t cope or so I could have a life or because I just don’t care as those places are so dreadful. But all these couldn’t be further from the truth. Maybe that’s a blog post for another day.
People also make assumptions about residential homes which have been reinforced by the recent Panorama undercover care programme that all homes are like this - it’s the tip of the ice burg.
As a parent respect, dignity and value are not only vitally important for C but for his staff as well. They are C’s backbone and a reflection of how C is doing. My way of supporting and building relationships was to set up a parent forum who meets regularly, this helps with communication, transparency and trust. Working together.
C’s service provider has just sent out a response about the programme to all the family carers to reassure us about their commitment. And a senior manager has sent me a more personal account to share;
It’s the evening of Tuesday 31st May just after 9pm, I’m listening to the radio and working my way through a big pile of ironing. I get a text from a journalist friend “R U watching this care thing on Panorama, its horrible”. I suddenly remember a colleague last week telling me about an exposé on a care home and I’d forgotten, so dash to switch on and suddenly I am gripped to the TV, the longer I watch a tightness spreads over my stomach and I’m overcome with a helpless anger. Over and over in my head then out loud at the TV screen “why the bloody hell are you just standing there?” I shout at the care staff on the TV. I’m angry at the journalist, I’m angry at the staff, my mind races as the mobile texts start flooding in, one then another then another....
I work in social care for an organisation which has more than 10 care homes and a supported living agency serving people with challenging behaviour and learning difficulties. I work with many people who didn’t understand that night why they were watching the staff in a modern day care home abusing vulnerable human life in a way they wouldn’t treat a rabid dog.
I start to read the text which range from Care Home Managers, Deputy Managers and Care Staff and external colleagues, my friends too all astonished at the ghastly images they are viewing. I get text from these sweet people telling me of their tears and sadness, all of them asking ‘why?’
The programme ends and I get a text from a Male Manager whom I respect for his outstanding commitment to the human rights of the people he serves, his text reads “well that makes us all look shit”. My response is to comfort the staff and tell them they should be proud of what they deliver and that they are always transparent. I am so thankful I chose to work for this organisation and that our systems are so hot on safeguarding.
I get ready for bed feeling saddened that despite all the lessons that should have been learned, abuse of that magnitude is still taking place. It goes round and around in my head whilst I can’t sleep; all those people in that room witnessing; what is wrong with people? If I were being kicked in the street would they all walk past?
Next day I arrive at work, my office colleagues begin a day-long dialogue with every visitor and colleague that comes through the door. This continues all day with staff just reaching out for comfort; all the management reassure them; we feel for them as they are scrutinising their practice and scurrying through risk assessments to check they are not depriving people’s liberty, they are all edgy and where they walk with pride in the community on an average day, feel like the world is judging them today.
People I work with are recruited because they share the company ethos, we are one of the hardest companies to get a job with and have little turnover, this documentary has made our beautiful fulfilling roles into something tainted and dirty. Yes, it has served a purpose, but day 1 for that journalist should have been enough, that poor person suffered at the hands of people with a need to control because of his greed to further his career. So many people have something to answer to following that programme. I go onto BBC i-player, grab the link and email it to all the managers, just in case anyone missed it, most didn’t and those who did later responded the same.
As the day progresses I get a couple of emails from families, they are of support for all we do, so my eyes begin to fill and I share the news and others are delighted for this desperate confirmation that not all the world sees social care as a negative.
A few days on and many conversations later our industry is still in shock and still responding. We all pray that senior management of all large organisations have their finger on the pulse because the image of that beautiful and vulnerable life on the TV being tortured and abused will never leave my mind.
Each one of us could be in a residential home one day. It is up to all of us.