Wednesday 20 February 2013

Fresh from the interwebs and the funniest thing I have read for weeks,  no idea who wrote it or from whence it originated, but I found it on google+. Apologies to the author for not knowing who you are:


1) Pick cat up and cradle it in the crook of your left arm as if holding a baby. Position right forefinger and thumb on either side of cat's mouth and gently apply pressure to cheeks while holding pill in right hand. As cat opens mouth, pop pill into mouth. Allow cat to close mouth and swallow.

2) Retrieve pill from floor and cat from behind sofa. Cradle cat in
left arm and repeat process.

3) Retrieve cat from bedroom, and throw soggy pill away.

4) Take new pill from foil wrap, cradle cat in left arm, holding rear
paws tightly with left hand. Force jaws open and push pill to back of mouth with right forefinger. Hold mouth shut for a count of ten.

5) Retrieve pill from goldfish bowl and cat from top of wardrobe. Call spouse from garden.

6) Kneel on floor with cat wedged firmly between knees, hold front and rear paws. Ignore low growls emitted by cat. Get spouse to hold head firmly with one hand while forcing wooden ruler into mouth. Drop pill down ruler and rub cat's throat vigorously.

7) Retrieve cat from curtain rail, get another pill from foil wrap.
Make note to buy new ruler and repair curtains. Carefully sweep shattered figurines and vases from hearth and set to one side for gluing later.

8) Wrap cat in large towel and get spouse to lie on cat with head just visible from below armpit. Put pill inside end of drinking straw, force mouth open with pencil and blow down drinking straw.

9) Check label to make sure pill not harmful to humans, drink 1 beer to take taste away. Apply Band-Aid to spouse's forearm and remove blood from carpet with cold water and soap.

10) Retrieve cat from neighbor's shed. Get another pill. Open another beer. Place cat in cupboard, and close door onto neck, to leave head showing. Force mouth open with dessert spoon. Flick pill down throat with elastic band.

11) Fetch screwdriver from garage and put cupboard door back on hinges. Drink beer. Fetch bottle of scotch. Pour shot, drink. apply cold compress to cheek and check records for date of last tetanus shot. Apply whiskey compress to cheek to disinfect. Toss back another shot. Throw Tee shirt away and fetch new one from bedroom.

12) Call fire brigade to retrieve the f------ cat from tree across
the road. Apologize to neighbor who crashed into fence while swerving to avoid cat. Take last pill from foil-wrap.

13) Tie the little b****d's front paws to rear paws with garden twine and bind tightly to leg of dining table, find heavy duty pruning gloves from shed. Push pill into mouth followed by large piece of steak filet. Be rough about it. Hold head vertically and pour 2 pints of water down throat to wash pill down.

14) Consume remainder of Scotch. Get spouse to drive you to the
emergency room, sit quietly while doctor stitches fingers and forearm and remove pill remnants from right eye. Call furniture shop on way home to order new table.

15) Arrange for RSPCA to collect "mutant cat from hell" and call local pet shop to see if they have any hamsters.


1) Wrap it in cheese.

Tuesday 17 July 2012

The Bercow Review.

In the event of twitter not this time being the best medium to reply to a tweet, it seems a short blog in response to a tweet from @PubeckPashmina is in order, so here goes..

Regarding The Bercow Review:   (I lifted this straight out of Wikipedia, more or less.)

In 2008, John Bercow was asked by Labour Cabinet members Ed Balls and Alan Johnson to produce a substantial review of children and families affected by speech, language and communication needs (SLCN).
After the report, the government pledged £52 million to raise the profile of SLCN within the education field.
The review looks at the extreme consequences that communication problems can lead to – from initial frustration at not being able to express oneself, to bullying or being bullied at school, fewer job prospects and even the descent into criminality.
The interim report highlighted a number of core issues: that speech, language and communication are not only essential life skills but fundamental human rights; that early identification of problems and intervention is important to avoid social problems later on; and that the current system of treatment is patchy, i.e. there is a need for services to be continually provided for children and families from an early age.

Doesn't seem all that controversial to me,  in fact seems exactly what is needed, but suspect it has long since sunk without trace.

Regarding the breakfast telly interview yesterday:

I think the Bercows' did a stirling job in the face of a poor and ill-informed interviewer who was obviously dumbing down a potentially difficult interview about a very complex subject.  Mind you, it was a bit early in the morning for that sort of discussion.

Saturday 14 July 2012

email to

Hi Queen,

Appalingly late getting this written I'm afraid, I've had a bit of a troublesome few weeks and I ought to say, anyone who knows me is aware of my opinions concerning the monarchy. So sorry Ma’am, it’s nothing personal and I’m sure you are a lovely and gracious lady. It’s just that whole Citizen or Subject thing that bothers me and I do realise that it is just terribly unfortunate that you remind me of my mother in law, in several ways.

The extra days holiday you granted us for the Jubilee was very much appreciated, unfortunately it resulted in a Sunday service on the buses. We don't have a car which means we weren’t able to get out and about for three days as a Sunday bus service where we live means one bus out at around lunch time and one bus back at tea time but hey, the weather was not up to much anyway.

The street party idea didn’t really take off here either. There was a brave effort just round the corner from us. Four houses festooned themselves with a couple of strings on bunting, a couple of Union flags, a couple of Welsh flags and then fenced themselves off from the rest of the street with orange plastic stuff. I’m sure they all had a wonderful time, there was certainly a lot of screaming and shouting coming from that direction and the local dogs had a fine old time ripping open the resulting black plastic sacks and spreading the contents all over the neighbourhood. Such fun!

Of course, we have followed all the events put on in London to celebrate your 60 years on the throne on our brand new second hand 42” plasma TV. The river pageant was spectacular, your Royal Barge was magnificent. With hindsight, the facilities might have been a little more convenient for some of the more elderly members of your family, but we live and learn. The concert in the road outside Buckingham Palace could not be faulted. From our Welsh perspective, Sir Tom Jones was by far the best turn, with Dame Shirley a close second. I suppose I should say that the Australians put in a good effort too. Spectacular fireworks for the finale, couldn’t have been better. I bet there were dogs cowering under stairs and behind settees all over London. I do hope you made sure the corgis were kept indoors.

Of course this isn’t the first jubilee I’ve experienced, I was even at your coronation, I experienced that as a toddler from the vantage point of my fathers shoulders. June 6th 1953, Hilary and Tensing made it to the top of Everest, I saw you riding in a golden carriage pulled buy six grey horses. One of my earliest memories. To be honest, it was the smell of a damp and excited crowd and my dad buying a Daily Telegraph that was printed in gold that are the strongest memories. I also had a cardboard cut out of the coach and horses which I would push around the kitchen table much to the annoyance of my grandfather who had little time for anybody, least of all a three year old granddaughter with a head full of Kings and Queens and Princes and Princesses. Unfortunately he was unable to give me a convincing answer to my most burning question which was why wasn't there a Prince being crowned as King since you were married to a Prince? I worked it all out for myself in the end, but to a three year old who wouldn't stop asking difficult questions that was very perplexing. The cardboard cut-out is long gone, as is my grandfather. The gold edition of the Daily Telegraph still exists in a draw somewhere in our house. By the time I got to junior school Kings and Queens were pictures on playing cards and Princes and Princesses were characters in fairy tales and tiresome characters at that. No offence mean't ma'am, I am sure your own princes and princesses are all quite charming.

Twenty-five years later, June 7th 1977. Silver Jubilee. On the big day that year I was to be found upstairs from my shop, seated at my bureau in my living room making a stab at my VAT returns which were almost certainly late. My partners youngest brother was staying with us and was in what we liked to call the music room at the top of the house playing God Save the Queen by the Sex Pistols very loudly on the Hi Fi. My partner was in the back yard in the pouring rain trying to explain to our neighbour that her many, many recordings of Richard Strauss’s Viennese Waltzes were seeping into our part of the building several decibels in advance of anything the Sex Pistols could manage. His efforts were being hampered by the cacophony emanating from inside the building and the rain battering down onto the tin roof of the lean-to. The fact that the neighbour was stone deaf and hanging out of a 2nd floor window did not help. The Street Party we were to attend was cancelled due to reasons you may have already gleaned. We went to the cinema. The film was Car Wash. If you need your spirits lifted Ma’am, I can recommend it.

Well, the twenty-five years between the Silver and the Golden jubilee were quite eventful for both of us on the family front weren’t they? Births, deaths, divorces and marriages, not necessarily in that order. On balance, you probably had it worst than me, if only because every family event you have seems to involve vast numbers of military types riding horses up and down and firing guns into the air. Got to hand it to you, I know I wouldn’t be able to cope with that amount of attention at times when all you really need is your family and if they are not up to scratch, a good friend. Sometime during that twenty-five years I got married in a registry office tucked between a gasworks and a mortuary in deepest Gloucestershire, there was no family and the two witnesses doubled as guests. The one thing about the day that is anywhere close to anything you would have experienced was the rain. Divorces are always hell, the law getting caught up with raw emotion, let’s not go there. Deaths are inevitable, let’s not go there either. Births, well, usually a cause for celebration. I guess it makes no difference if kids are born into privilege of poverty, you’re always going to worry about them and they are always going to do something you disapprove of and will doubtless cause embarrassment whether it’s at Asda or Ascot.

I have to admit that your Golden jubilee passed me by. June would have been the month I was busy dealing with the problems of transition from school to college for our eldest daughter. She’s autistic so leaving the school she had been attending since the age of seven was going to be tricky. It wasn’t going to happen for another year but we wanted to start early. Eighteen months of meetings with well intentioned people from social services and frankly naive people from education led to two years of hell for our eldest and meant, I’m ashamed to say, that our youngest was left to her own devises while we concentrated on that. I’m pleased to say no damage was done and youngest went on to be a brilliant student who moved on to do English Lit. at university and now lives and works in London, a totally independant young woman. As I write this letter she will be preparing for her annual trip to Dorset for the Tolpuddle Martyrs Festival with fellow trade unionists. Sorry Ma'am, but she like me, could not exactly be called a royalist, in fact her views on ostentatious inherited wealth are quite radical. I put it down to her love of folk music and living south of the river, parts of SE8 have an interesting history. Eldest is still here with us, she won’t be moving on for a few years yet, especially now that your majesties government seems to be hell bent on making life a little more difficult for the sick and disabled and those who care for them. But I digress, the golden jubilee.. no, sorry but I can’t seem to bring a single event to mind. Excuse me a moment Ma'am, there is someone knocking at the door.

I do wish these door knocking people would find a better way of introducing themselves when the door is opened than by insisting that there is nothing to worry about! They must think I was born yesterday! Of course there is something to worry about, they are going to try and sell me something I've already got! I'm on the internet, I do regular price comparisons. I've got the best deal you could possibly have on phones, mobile and landline, broadband, gas and electricity! I might listen if someone came round with a cheaper water option but that's not likely! Sorry Ma'am, doubtless you have never encountered this sub-species which blights residential areas usually deemed to be low income, scaring people into signing contracts they don't want or need by telling them there is nothing to worry about!

As I was saying Ma'am, can't remember a damned thing about your Golden Jubilee but I'm guessing the nation had a day off, I'm also guessing that it rained that day too since that seems to be a feature of your Jubilees. That must really annoy you, one of the richest women in the world and you have to put up with the weather making a nuisance of itself on important royal occasions. On the up side, at least you don't have to stand about waiting for busses in the rain like a lot of your less affluent contemporaries.

So what's next, any forward planning for the Platinum jubilee? Suppose it is a given that we will all get a day off and it will pour with rain. Another ten years might push some of the current celebrities and entertainers we saw at this years Jubilee concert just a tad over the hill, but then celebrity or plebeian (if we can be such a thing under a monarchy) we're not nearly as well looked after as you are and I fully expect to see you at the next jubilee. This year's Jubilee left me with a strange taste in my mouth, not a bad taste, but a strange one nonetheless and I wonder if you have any idea how difficult it is for people at the bottom of the heap these days. The disadvantaged, the disillusioned and displaced, even the downright disinterested. More and more people, every day having to struggle to get by and I wonder if you Ma'am, have any idea how hard that can be. I don't think you do. I don't think there is any way you could possibly understand what it is like not to have the trappings of royalty on hand all the time. Do you do your own washing, make your own bed, cook all your own meals, make your own tea, do your own cleaning, dusting and hoovering? Is your annual holiday a fortnight in a caravan at Tenby? Do you try and feed yourself and your husband for less than £40.00 a week? Have you any idea how much a decent loaf of bread costs? Sorry Ma'am, got a bit carried away there, it's inclined to happen more and more these days I'm afraid. If it is any consolation, my husband was livid when he heard they were doing away with the Royal Yacht, I don't think he knows about the price hike for using the No32 (The Royal) Squadron yet. Let's hope nothing goes too amiss with the Royal Train!

Anyway, have to close now, dustmen are due in the morning and I've got to sort out the recycling, don't you just hate doing that, I still can't work our which bag to put the padded envelopes in, and what do you do with crisp packets, it's a complete mystery to me. All the best to your family, look after yourself now.

Kind Regards,

Friday 2 December 2011

Carers Rights Day, Friday 2nd December 2011....

Somewhat ironically, the word Celebration appeared in all the publicity to attract the attention of carers living in Rhondda Cynon Taff to Carers Rights Day.

It read 'Carers Rights Day Celebration Friday 2nd December 2011'

The agenda for the day was what you would expect. Tea, coffee and biscuits, an update on the progress of the Carers Strategy which appears to be going well, then some consultation from the department that buys in services.. they got a rough ride.

A break for tea, coffee and more biscuits followed by the big issue.. the Welfare Right Presentation, well I don't have to go into detail here, we all know what is being planned by this current disgraceful government, well I thought we all knew, but surprisingly there were some who did not know how welfare reform Tory style is going to effect them. Wales is historically 'left-wing' (a term which I notice our 'leader' is trying to turn into an insult!) full of tight communities all looking out for one another, with very long memories. Margaret Thatcher and the Thames Valley police remain high on the unforgiven list. But even in the most left-wing of communities there are those who are not politicised and go along with whatever the gutter press wants to peddle as truth. Of the 70 or more people that were in the room today which included council and social services staff as well as carers, my guess would be that half of them would happily say they were left-wing, I noticed that the four sitting councillors, three retired councillors, one AM and one MP that that were among us were all Labour. There was also a small group who always have something to say about welfare and benefits and who gets them and who shouldn't get them and usually quote the Daily Mail as the source of their extensive knowledge.

I was a little surprised when part way through the presentation of the realities of what was about to happen to our Welfare State, I noticed a couple from that group, probably in their 50's looking at each other with undisguised shock on their faces. She told me later over lunch that she had not considered herself subject to any of the changes which are soon to happen and was finding the reality of their situation truly frightening. Suddenly this nice couple with nice middle class sensibilities, who have worked hard all their lives until a disability meant they had to rearrange their lives and make use of the welfare state they had been complaining about paying into for so long, are going to be subject to the same disregard as the 'ne'er do wells' they assumed the cuts were being aimed at. We didn't hear much from that group after the Welfare Rights presentation, several of them were visibly shocked by what they had heard which has left me wondering how many more people are there out there with no idea of what is going to happen come next April if we don't all jump up and down and make a stink about the nonsense which this arrogant and ignorant government is hell bent on perusing.

So, I hope that 'Celebrations' of Carers Rights Day were held everywhere today and were as well attended as the one I was at in the splendid Rhondda Heritage Park Hotel in Trehafod. It is all to easy to become complacent and think that swingeing cuts in benefits will somehow not affect you, but they will and lives will be lost. As we went through the changes and implications facing us a fellow carer I was sitting with was close to tears at the prospect of having to allow his wife to undergo reassessments and the possible loss of much needed benefits by failing to score enough points on a somewhat skewed points system aimed at proving eligibility for work. Yes, times are hard, but penalising the poorest and weakest is not a civilized way of dealing with financial problems created by the richest and strongest.  

Friday 29 July 2011

Everything Was Going So Well......

If you have visited here before you might remember that our autistic daughter Sarah, is apt to be a little volatile when faced with routine changes. When those routine changes involve transport to and from the day centre that volatility is apt to become something a touch more volcanic.  As of a Tuesday last week the bus has been arriving an hour late by Sarah standards. A chance meeting with a member of staff from the day centre while we were in Asda the following evening shed some light on the bus problem, and please don't ask what we were doing in Asda on a Wednesday evening, it happens almost every week and deserves a post all to itself which may or may not materialise depending on the mood I'm in.

Apparently some pen pusher behind some desk somewhere has decided there cannot possibly be staff taking buses out from the day centre as early as 7:30am  and the new proclamation has been made saying 'Thou shalt not drive the minibus out of the gates of the day centre before 8:45am and if thou doest the wrath of god will fall upon thee followed by weeping, wailing, rending of garments and gnashing of teeth'

A little background information is probably required.. the annually contracted transport supplied by Rhondda Cynon Taff to take service users to and from the day centres across the area started well last September, new contractors seen by most as pretty good compared to the previous bunch of cowboys, bearing in mind the council always chooses the cheapest contract. Sadly the good start quickly degenerated into the usual erratic timing, bizarre routes and untrained escorts with little or no idea of what was expected of them. Several of the service users found all this more than a little upsetting and the day centre decided that they may as well use their own mini buses for those clients most affected by the contractors inconsistencies.

Because of the sheer size of the catchment area for the day centre, never mind the terrain and the remoteness of some communities, this means an early start to get everyone in by 9:00am. Nobody had a problem with this, staff hours adjusted accordingly and from my point of view things could not have been better. Round about 8:00am the bus would arrive and Sarah would be ready and waiting because she was going with people who she likes and trusts and who understand her need for routine and no surprises.

Everything was going so well and then this twerp sitting behind his desk on the other side of the mountain who has probably never visited the upper reaches of the Cynon Valley pokes his nose in and now we are in turmoil again. With no warning or time for preparation things have got to change, so not surprisingly Sarah's volatile volcanicity has gone ballistic. We have had a week and a half of weeping and wailing, only one garment got 'rended' but gnashing of the teeth has been evident accompanied by ear splitting screams and flying fists.. so far only one fist has landed, my deflection skills are well honed.  Nothing has been broken yet, which is pretty good going but the poor old dog is keeping a very low profile and has taken to slinking around corners very gingerly and hurrying across open spaces with ears and tail very low. Husband behaving in a similar way to dog, although his verbal skills are a great help. He can make Sarah laugh which gives us a few minutes to regroup ready for the next onslaught when she forgets what she is laughing about and gets back to the business of making her discomfort over the transport known to anybody within hearing distance.

We all know times are hard and services are being cut back, but this particular proclamation is not going to make any difference to the social services finances, all it is doing is causing disruption to staff, service users and carers alike by messing up schedules and time tables and confusing the hell out of anyone on or near the autistic spectrum. As this change coincides with the schools breaking up for the summer holiday that is the excuse I am using as reason the for the disruption which gives us six weeks grace in which time she will hopefully be used to a new routine.

It does effect the finances of a carer that I am aware of though. She lives alone with her daughter who has CP, is wheelchair bound and without speech. This lady has a job which starts at 9:00am, when her daughter was picked up 8:15am this was fine, plenty of time to catch a bus to work . Now her daughter is being picked up at 9:15am which means she cannot get to work much before 10:00am. She loses an hour in the morning and it looks as if her chances of keeping the job are further threatened by the uncertainty of the return home times. Didn't mention the change in coming home times did I, well Sarah used to get home at about 4:00pm, now it can be as early as 2:00pm but averaging at about 3:00pm. The proclamation also stated that buses must be back inside the day centre gates by 4:45pm.  This irritating little pen pusher has just increased my caring hours by eight hours a week, and has made it extremely difficult for another carer to carry on working.

I wonder how he would feel if a bigger pen pusher told him he'd had eight hours cut from his working week starting now with no consultation, after all, that is a whole days wage. Financially it makes no difference to me, I get the £55.55 a week carers allowance for the approximately 144 hours of care I now deliver per week to my daughter, with our income support duly reduced by that amount per week to make sure we don't creep to far above the poverty line.. I know my place.

The most important point I am struggling to make here is that these changes were made with no warning, no consultation and apparently no good reason.  Things have calmed down in our house now, but we have had at least ten days of upset and upheaval which could have been avoided if we had been given a decent amount of time to prepare Sarah for the imminent change and I'm sure that goes for other carers too, we have to make alternative arrangement for care if we cannot be in the right place at the right time, we need to know in advance if times are changing. The same goes for the staff at the day centre who are having to deal with multiple service users all in a state over routine changes and the uncertainties that go with it.  Most importantly the service users themselves have enough challenges in a day without having to worry about who will be on the bus, what time the bus will leave or arrive and who will be there to meet them, sudden changes may not bother your average administrator. but they have a profound effect on your average service user and that just isn't fair.  Awareness of the consequences of changes when you are dealing with service users must be paramount in the minds of administrators within social services, surely?

Thats it, rant over until the next time, 2:00pm is fast approaching and you can bet your life if I'm not prepared Sarah'll be home expecting everything to be in order and I still haven't located the album artwork for Amy Winehouse's (RIP) album 'Back to Black' which seems to have gone missing while I was uploading it to Sarah's iTunes and shuffle over the weekend. Everything has to be in order for her in iTunes and every track must have it's artwork, and if it doesn't there will be weeping and wailing, a rending of garments and a gnashing of teeth and I don't feel like dealing with that today....

Monday 13 June 2011

It's Carers Week. I'd Better Say Something About It....

Carers Week 13th – 19th June 2011

Carers week already, it crept up on me this year. I know I've been seeing references to it all over the place but after a year of being vilified in the press about being a 'benefit scrounger' it is easy to forget the positives. So today I finally got my head around it, made a few phone calls and got my week organised.

A sort of bonus for this week is that Sarah has a few days in respite so I don't need to be home to meet and greet in the afternoon or worry about the damage the husband and daughter 'home alone' combo might do to the house and any trauma inflicted on the dog in my absence.

So tomorrow sees the start of a week of "activities for carers living in  Rhondda Cynon Taff designed to give a mixture of opportunities for you to access information and advice, to learn from other carers experiences and to have a little fun!" And the first event is.....

'Trouble Shooting drop-in session. Access support, information and advice about wills, benefits, debt, and getting back to work with support.'

Very nice, much needed I'm sure, but I'm having a 'week off', better known as respite, and since all the above has a tendency to depress me I'm steering clear of that lot, and anyway, I got a better offer for lunch from the Older Carers Support Worker. I turned 60 this year, I'm officially older, I got a bus pass! No pension yet but they moved the goal posts on that one. Never been one to refuse a free lunch so that's Tuesday sorted out.

There's nothing doing on Wednesday, so I suspect that will be the day I have to go to Aberdare and Asda and pull some weeds out of the garden. Thursday could be interesting.....

'Carers Celebration and Information event in Hawthorn Leisure Centre - bring your gym kit! A chance to find out about support available for carers locally and your opportunity to join the Carers Strategy Implementation Group meeting, join in a taster adult education session or a relaxation class, have a manicure and join us for a buffet lunch.'

Bring your Gym kit!?!?!? I think not. Observing and commenting on the Carers Strategy Implementation group meeting seems much more appealing and most probably pain free. Apparently there will be floral arrangement and relaxation classes available too. I opted for floral arrangement a couple of years ago, the relaxation class followed by a session with a hypnotherapist after the floral disarray were a godsend. Hopefully the Strategy meeting will take us right up to lunch and I can avoid getting involved with the 'gym inductions' and the 'free taster Zumba Gold (designed for the over 50's)' and be home in time for tea. Friday is the most interesting day for me, I'm involved with this already so really I should be there.....

'Carers Sharing Session. Find out how you can be a part of recruiting and training the next generation of social workers, nurses and social care staff. Come and hear other carers stories and meet the staff you may be working with over lunch.'

These sessions are great. They are a mixture of carers, service users and staff who provide an overview of their experiences of involvement and the benefits they have gained or seen, followed by a chance for others to get involved. In my experience much is gained on both sides, service providers are often unaware of problems carers and service users may have beyond the direct professional involvement, carers and service users don't always understand the problems within social services, and of course carers and service users don't always agree! These get togethers are always eye openers on all sides and the knowledge gained is invaluable.  Which brings us to Saturday.....

'Carers Day Out! An action packed activity day for carers and cared for in Dare Valley Country Park. Try out Canoeing, have a guided walk or learn some circus skills - suitable for carers and cared for of all ages and abilities.'

Now I submitted myself to this torture last year, the 'gentle warm up' almost killed me, and if you think I'm going to break the habit of a life time, which is the avoidance of canoes under all circumstances, you've got another think coming! I already know how to juggle and how to spin plates, both activities quite pointless and a bit boring after a while. The only other circus skills I can think of are unicycling, stilt walking, tightrope walking and the flying trapeze so I think the wisest move would be total avoidance of the beautiful Dare Valley Country Park on Saturday.  A little bit of gardening if the weather allows seems quite appealing.

So that's my carers week sorted out, three lunches and plenty of opportunities to put the world to rights, see a few old faces, catch up with the gossip, share some moans about the ConDem government and their cuts, then share some more moans about all the stuff that's gone wrong with social services or day care or health or the council or best of all, the new neighbours weird behavior or that obnoxious child from up the road. You know the stuff I mean, the important stuff that is really none of your business but certain to take your mind off of caring and benefit cuts!

If you are a carer, have a good Carers Week, make the most of it and spread the word. If you're not a carer then think yourself lucky, spare us a thought and remember that becoming a carer can happen to anybody at any time and it is not something you choose to be it is something you have to be and believe me, you will get precious little thanks or recognition for it. Understanding and a little bit of give and take can go a long way towards making a carers life easier, we're just ordinary people who have to deal with and be responsible for someone else's life as well as our own for as long as it takes.

That's all, I could go on forever about the difficulties but that would be boring for me as well as you! I could also get all sentimental about the joy of giving and the sense of worth and achievement you get from caring, but to be honest, that goes against the grain and would be a load of sentimental twaddle anyway, so if you got this far, well done! Thanks for sticking with it to the end.........

Wednesday 1 June 2011

It's All Over The News So I'd Better Talk About It....

That's right, Panorama on the BBC last night. I didn't watch it... I watched and read the comments and disbelief washing all over Twitter.  I suppose it's a reflection of the people I follow, but at one point 90% of the tweets I was seeing were something to do with care homes and care workers. Of course all were expressing shock and sorrow that such an appalling thing could be going on.

You won't be surprised to hear that I have a lot to say on the whole subject of care homes and care workers and in particular, how they care for people with autism and learning disabilities. Our daughter lives with us at home and we know how difficult she can be, but that goes without saying, when she is not staying at home she stays in a small respite house, one of half a dozen or so run and owned by the local authority which take a maximum of four clients at any one time for a few nights of respite care each month.

They are almost fully booked for the foreseeable future, and sometimes stays have to be cancelled because they have to use the respite beds for emergencies. Carers get sick too, particularly the elderly ones, and if they have to go into hospital or even worse, pass away, places have to be found quickly for the upset and confused sons or daughters in reasonably familiar and homely surroundings with people they know and trust. These are ordinary houses in ordinary streets and fortunately for us, our local authority uses this model when moving people who need constant care and attention out of the family home and into supported living. Ideally three compatible clients and of course care assistants or workers who are aware of the difficulties these people are facing and are trained and confident enough to deal with them. Now and again things go wrong, but on the whole it works and most people are happy with the way it works. The thought of any of the people I know living in these houses being placed in a hospital setting for care is absolutely awful.

Of course, I do not know all the details of the dreadful happenings in Bristol but the fact that it is being described as a 'private hospital' speaks volumes to me. I have no experience of private hospitals as such, but I do have a little experience of the privately run care homes for the elderly, my own mother was in one briefly here in Wales and my husbands grandmother was in one in London, and her daughter, my husbands aunt now in her late 90's is in one also in London. In all three cases, care was and is only just achieved and individual needs a nuisance to a mainly foreign staff with very little understanding of the English language, here I should say that some of them were and are angels in a very difficult place, albeit scrupulously clean and ordered and run with military precision! I won't bore you with the bedsores, broken leg, disappearing chocolates, disappearing shoes, disappearing teeth, dreadful food and so on and so on. It was and is the indifference that bothers me.

We all know that caring is an expensive business, £20,000 to £30,000 per annum for the elderly, give or take ten grand either way, finding a figure for the cost of care for a person with learning difficulties, a disability, autism or mental health problems is more difficult, but at the bare minimum it seems to be more than three times the cost for the elderly.

Pause for thought and a flight into fantasy... £100.000 per annum... I could pay off the mortgage, get the bathroom sorted out, do a few repairs around the place, even have a little holiday... all in one year!

Back to reality, you can see why the private care home for the elderly businesses expanded into the care for the disabled business! Sadly I don't think they realised that caring for the disabled is a completely different kettle of fish.  We have private care providers who are supposed to fill the gaps social services can't cater for.. they are a disaster, they send out domiciliary care workers to people who don't know them and are expecting to be taken out if only to walk around the shops and have a cup of tea. I won't bore you with the extended telephone debacle which took place between me and one such care provider over five days a couple of weeks ago which resulted in complaints being made and apologies being received and over a week of anxiety and upset for our daughter which spilled over as challenging behaviors at home and at the Day Centre. It was a very difficult couple of weeks which could have been avoided if the care provider had got its act together and delivered the correct training for their staff, and I mean all of their staff including managers and the poor girl in the office, who has yet to master the art of delivering bullshit down the telephone in a convincing manner!

When it comes to providing services of any sort to service users in their own home, in a shared supported living home, in a 'private hospital', in fact, wherever a person with learning difficulties, autism, CP, Downs, mental health problems or whatever spends most of their time, they and their families should be able to expect those services to be fit for purpose. Fully trained staff who treat their clients with the respect they deserve.

It is a sad reflection of our society that it takes a current affairs television programme to make the 'authorities' take notice,  I suppose we have to be thankful there wasn't something really interesting on another channel and enough people did watch and comment to make it front page news this morning. Eminent people, experts, professors, cabinet ministers and the like are being wheeled out to make comment and people have been arrested. For the first time in quite a long while now I'm able to say I do not sense the usual indifference.

Some of us have been aware of instances of bad practice taking place but have said or done nothing, not from indifference but from the knowledge that although a complaint will be listened to sympathetically and appear to have been addressed it will only have been brushed under the carpet, usually because dealing with the problem will cost money. Most annoyingly from the parent carer point of view, is the innate superiority that some (and thankfully fewer as time passes) care professionals display when you question aspects of what is happening with your son or daughter, they obviously haven't run across the excellent Expert Patient programme which is being made available to parent carers in many regions now!

At the very least, many more people will now be aware of instances of abuse and malpractice within social care, possibly even newly aware that there is such a thing as social care for the people some members of the press have been insulting with the label 'benefit scroungers' in recent months. Awareness is a good thing, we need more of it! So thank you to the brave whistle blower for persevering and thank you BBC for the broadcast. Now lets hope the government gives this more than just lip service and sees the danger of  privatisation and the lack of accountability inherent within it, especially when you are dealing with societies most vulnerable members, many of whom do not have a voice.