Posts Tagged ‘Bureaucracy’

A LIFE WITHOUT MUM

February 8, 2009

At 16, Clover Stroud’s idyllic childhood was shattered when a riding accident left her mother severely brain-damaged. Now, 15 years on, funding for her care is being withdrawn. Can that be right?

By Clover Stroud

The Guardian, Saturday 6 January 2007

In the late morning of November 25 1991, my mother was riding on a disused airfield in Gloucestershire when her horse slipped and fell on a strip of concrete. She was wearing a riding hat but her head took the full impact. She was admitted to intensive care in Bristol in a deep coma, and was operated on that afternoon. Her prognosis was very bleak. The neurologist operated on Mum a second and third time over the next two months. We wish he had not.

Her reawakening, four months later, was very slow: there was never a movie moment when she opened her eyes and normality returned. Mum never came back, and she never looked like herself again either. Flaps of her skull were cut away to relieve the pressure in her brain and she had a big scar running from one ear to the other over the top of her shaved head. One of her eyes was partly shut, and has never reopened. So as she awakened she stared at us – her five children and my father – from her one good eye, looking frightened, angry, alone, because she, like us, was trying to work out what had happened, who she had become.

I am the youngest of five children. Mum had my oldest sister when she was in her 20s, and me in her 40s, and what she loved was chaotic family life. She had three children, my siblings Emma, Sophy and Tom, before getting divorced and moving to Oxford. It was the late 60s, and she and her best friend, Felicity, swapped babysitting and hotpants, wore their hair long and straight and ate a lot of cheesecake. She met my father, 11 years her junior, when he was still a student. They got married before he finished his finals and then my sister Nell and I were born.

We moved to Wiltshire when I was seven. Mum had an innate ability to create a very strong home, but would never have stressed over matching sheets and pillowcases. She filled the house with messy bunches of wild flowers and a lot of people. Everyone fell for her, because she made every day into something magic without seeming to try. Of course there must have been arguments, because that is the stuffing of family life, but even in the generically stormy teenage years, I didn’t fight with her. If I am making my early life sound romantic, that is because it was. When I feel anger or despair about what has happened to her, I remember that I was very privileged to have had her as a mother for as long as I did.

I was 16 when the accident happened and in the first year of my A-levels. Nell was on her year off before university. Life changed absolutely in the space of one morning. I can’t remember much about the time immediately after the accident, about the weeks we spent beside her body in intensive care, but someone told me that shock and trauma can make you forget a lot of things. But when she did slowly wake up, she was totally changed and entirely mentally disabled.

We all talked about what would happen when she got better. Then we imagined we would be unlocked from this awful parallel world of brain-damage units and rehabilitation centres, incontinence pads and a dribbling, confused, damaged woman who in some strange, shadowy way resembled the woman she was, but in most ways did not.

Writing this, 15 years later and Mum’s condition unchanged – if anything much worse – it seems laughable, pathetically optimistic, that we estimated her full recovery might, at the very worst, take two years. Denial, I suppose, is what we were in. And survival mode, too. When you are looking at the reality of long-term, chronic brain damage, you will do anything you can to survive.

I am now 31 and I have two young children of my own. I look back on the time before her accident as an entirely different life. Part of this is the inevitable nostalgia of an adult reviewing childhood, but what happened to Mum did profoundly change my life and my sensibilities. It is not true that every cloud has a silver lining, because nothing good, nothing positive, has come from what happened to her. It is just a nightmare, for her, for us all, that goes on and on.

Five months after the initial operations, the NHS declared that Mum, doubly incontinent, confused, disfigured, deeply brain-damaged forever, could be sent home to be looked after by Nell and me. She was awake, so they saw her surgery as a success.

A year after the accident, my sister Emma took Mum to the surgeon who had operated on her, to show him the condition she had been left in. He refused to see her. If this was saving a life at any cost, then that cost was too high.

Mum came back to live at home with a nurse. We changed her nappies, and tried to pretend that life was OK, even though the house smelt of hospitals and pee and an unnamed damage that we still couldn’t really contemplate. I did my A-levels, and Nell went to university. None of us wanted to be at home, and then a sort of late teenage rebellion set in, because it was the early 1990s and the rave scene was huge. Dancing all night in a muddy field was the most effective way Nell and I found to block out the reality of the Gothic hospital that our home had become.

But after two years everyone conceded that Mum was too sick, too deranged and damaged to live at home. So my dad sold our house, bought himself a houseboat in London and spent the change on a small terraced house in Oxford, where Nell and I both had places at university. Mum, needing skilled, full-time nursing, was awarded full NHS funding, and moved into a rehabilitation centre.

Seven years ago, she moved again, to an EMI – elderly and mentally infirm – unit in Norfolk. All of us have visited her as much as we can over the past decade. After I finished university I got married very quickly and had two children, now three and six. I got divorced almost as rapidly, and now live in Oxford in the same house that my dad bought, which Mum partly owns.

Visiting Mum is difficult. She cannot speak, write or communicate. She is epileptic as a result of the accident and doubly incontinent. She is disfigured, her head swollen, and now both her eyes are half-closed. She had to have all her teeth removed last year, she dribbles a lot, her tongue lolls and she is on a largely pureed diet. When she eats, she chokes, her tongue out. She does not recognise me, except for a moaning sound of sadness that she sometimes makes when I come into her room. I find it quite hard to remember the person that she was, the sound of her voice, the things we laughed about. She used to love babies, but when I first arrived with my son, she sat on her hands and wouldn’t look at me or touch him. I don’t know who she is.

Mum would have hated the idea of what she has become and the life it has created. There is no doubt that death would have been preferable. It would have been dignified, and you couldn’t construct a more sad living present for a person than the one that Mum lives in. Eight years ago, when she was a little more mobile, she got hold of some medication and took an overdose. She went into a coma, again, and in hospital her stomach was pumped. For what? To perpetuate this living death? When she came round again, her brain damage seemed to be more profound, and she has deteriorated even more since then.

Knowing that she was getting the nursing she needed was the one consolation after her accident, but recently that has changed. Early last year, Wiltshire Primary Care Trust (PCT), part of the NHS that had granted Mum full funding 15 years ago due to the severity of her injuries, informed me that within 28 days they would cease her funding. They claimed she no longer fulfilled the Continuing Health Care criteria to qualify for funding. No social worker has been actively involved with Mum in the past decade, even through her suicide attempt, and later an allegation of abuse at the rehabilitation centre involving a police inquiry. So the first time in many years that a social worker or member of the PCT had come to see her was to assess her for the removal of her funding. When we appealed against this decision, she was visited again by a PCT nurse who didn’t meet her, as she had been rushed into hospital that night, but he looked through her notes, talked to one of her nurses and me, and then filled in a form in which he stated that her needs were no longer “intense, unpredictable or complex”, three of the key criteria to qualify her for ongoing funding. After that the PCT relinquished responsibility for her without any formal discharge of responsibility. She was just dumped, even though social services never accepted responsibility for Mum.

Events became even more critical in late November, as we were told her nursing home was closing in early December. I found another home in Wiltshire, and stopped work, spending a month on the telephone with the PCT, pleading with them to reinstate her funding, pending the result of the appeal in January 2007, so that I could move her to a new home. Their refusal was categorical and felt deeply inhumane, as within days she would be homeless. I was advised they were acting unlawfully by ceasing responsibility for her while the appeal was in process, but I was also powerless in the face of the bureaucracy of the NHS. So they were acting unlawfully, but what could I do? Call the police?

When the PCT nurse told me that he would be going on leave for a week, and with her home closing within three days, I realised I would have to take dramatic, practical action. On December 1, I left my children with a friend in Oxford, and my sister Emma and I drove Mum to the offices of the PCT in Wiltshire, where I was prepared to leave her, because I did not have an option. The sight of Mum – damaged, frightened, vulnerable – forced them to concede, and Alison Knowles, Director of Performance Improvement and Commissioning, agreed that the PCT and social services should jointly pick up her funding until the result of the appeal in January.

The appeal about Mum’s funding is next week, and fighting her case has taken over my life. I have not worked since last November. I am a single parent supporting two children, and because I live in the house partly owned by Mum, I am facing losing my home. I know that this is a familiar story to a lot of people. Care for elderly or sick relatives cripples families already buckling under the emotional consequences of that sickness. Longevity is a family trait and Mum may well live for another 25 years. I don’t know how to shoulder such long-term financial responsibility, as her fees are more than £26,000 a year.

My story is not an isolated case. This is the way the NHS works today.

Care and the NHS

The 1946 NHS Act and 1948 National Assistance Act established two parallel systems of care: the NHS, which provides care free at the point of delivery, and local authority-funded social care, which is means-tested. Successive governments have exploited this division to cut costs and reduce NHS provision, redefining health care as social care. As long-stay NHS hospitals have been closed, funding has been moved from the NHS and local authorities to for-profit corporations.

Today the NHS in England has fewer than 190,000 available beds (most for acute hospital care); in 1948 there were 450,000 (which included long-stay beds). The mainly for-profit sector, meanwhile, has been subsidised to provide in excess of 360,000 long-stay beds. Today the NHS is responsible for fully funding fewer than 21,000 people with long-term care needs – most people in long-stay beds must pay until their assets are exhausted.

The 1990 NHS and Community Care Act was designed to reduce funding and restrict eligibility for NHS-funded care further through the formal assessments of need. In 1997, the incoming Labour government established a royal commission on long-term care, but rejected the core recommendation that personal care be free. Since then, the health ombudsman, health select committee and the Law Society have published reports drawing attention to the unfairnesses and confusion in government policy and the distress caused to thousands, yet nothing has been done. Now the courts have stepped in. The judgments highlight that government policy and procedures are being applied unlawfully, and that people whose primary need is for health care should receive fully funded care.

More than 4,000 complaints have been received by the health ombudsman – complaints can only be made once all avenues have been exhausted.

· Allyson Pollock – author of NHS plc: the Privatisation of Our Health Care (Verso)

BUREAUCRACY OF OPPRESSION

June 19, 2008

 

Social Services Abuse Children – frequently ! No, Perhaps most of the time !

 

A local family I have known for some time told told me an amazing story recently. It’s about the sheer nastiness of Social Services and the bureaucracy of oppression this Labour Government inflicts on us all.

The story is one of those awful tales of Social Services tearing children away from their families without the slightest moral justification whatsoever.

This family are at the bottom of the social heap. The fifty year old husband used to be in the army. Now he is a full time carer to his wife who suddenly descended without warning into mental illness – schizophrenia – a few years ago.

It could have been because of the awful traumas the family experienced. With a son and daughter with learning disability under the age of ten, the family discovered their third child, a son without any medical problems until then, acquired bone cancer and ended up having one leg amputated at the very top of the thigh.

The family remained close and supportive of each other with the husband loyally caring for a wife constantly causing problems making life really difficult for everyone with her muddled and mentally ill mind.

I have heard a mental health nurse working in the NHS say to another husband looking after a schizophrenic partner “Why bother staying with her. It’s a waste of time looking after them. It doesn’t do any good in the end and it just destroys your own life eventually, so why bother ?”

It made me really angry to hear that. It seemed typical of so many of the lazy, self centred bureaucratic employees in the NHS, only concerned with getting paid and with no intention of ever bothering to do their jobs properly. Instead, hiding their incompetent lazyness behind a blizzard of rules and bureaucratic justifications.

The daughter went to a special school for people with learning disabilities and emerged a reasonably competent young woman, perfectly able to look after herself in her small single person flat supplied to her by the local council. The learning disabilities had been quite minor really.

Then she became pregnant. So far, unremarkable. Everyone is getting on with their lives normally and nothing particularly unusual is happening .

Then, let’s call the young girl Julie, instead of her real name, in case some bureaucratic moron working for the government tries to imprison someone for talking about this matter; because it is, apparently, against the law to openly talk about these things and people are often sent to prison for doing so.

Most people won’t know about that and you don’t really hear about the people imprisoned for protesting against the appalling and vicious incompetence of Social Services and the Family Courts.

The reason being, the Government gags everyone with oppressive laws forbidding any exposure of the dreadful activities Social Services and the Family Courts get up to.

Of course these laws completely protect Social Services from being exposed for the destructive, useless, idle and incompetent idiots they often are. The law also conveniently protects the complacent and pompous little Judges sitting in the family courts, happily collecting their large pay packets, secure in the knowledge they are answerable to no one.

I once heard of a family court Judge who billowed in thoroughly late for the Friday afternoon hearing that was supposed to have started at 2 p.m. It was nearly three O’clock when she finally arrived in the court. She must have had a really good lunch.

Apologising brusquely for being late, she announced she hoped everyone in the court would get a move on and conclude the case before four p.m. as she really had to get off on the dot of four O’clock to do her weekend shopping. She couldn’t possibly stay a minute longer that four p.m., she said.

As a direct result of what she had menacing told the roomful of subservient and groveling lawyers, ritually awed by the sheer majesty of the almost unlimited power the Judge held over everyone in the court, a two year old child was deliberately and intentionally placed in great danger by Social Services.

The poor father who had brought the case to ask the court to uphold the law and return his two year old son the court had previously ordered be looked after by him because the Mother was dangerously mad with schizophrenia, was forced to agree to Social Services being given an instant care order so the case could be finished quickly. Then the fat little Judge could cheerfully go off and do her weekend shopping without a care in the World.

Never mind the child had been illegally abducted by the insane and dangerously psychotic Mother and the Judge herself had told the Social Services she was unhappy with the obvious dangers of expecting this Mother to look after the child when clearly she was seriously mentally ill.

But, no, Social Services insisted they thought it would be too ‘disruptive’ to return the child to his Father, even though everyone in the court agreed the Father was an excellent and competent parent, always having been the principal carer anyway. The Judge specifically told Social Services she was unhappy with the idea of the Mother looking after the child as she was clearly a danger and the Father wasn’t. But, no, Social Services must have their way.

So, the Judge said she would reluctantly agree to the Social Services recommendation that the child stay with the dangerous Mother on condition Social Services visited the Mother every day to make sure she was actually looking after the child and not neglecting it. The very real risk of the child’s death at the hands of a psychotic mentally ill schizophrenic was ignored.

Eventually, as it turned out, Social Services were forced to admit the Mother was dangerously psychotic and completely incapable of looking after the child, so they put the child into a foster home rather than return him to his Father.

In the foster home the child was thoroughly abused by the foster parents. When the child left the foster home he had twenty eight identical little round bruises all over his ribcage where he had been poked hard with the end of a walking stick wielded by the foster parents.

This was to keep the two year old child from coming too close to them.

They didn’t like the idea of the child approaching them to seek the affection it craved, having been arbitrarily ripped from both his Father and Mother by the wickedness of utterly incompetent Social Services people so obsessed with political correctness that they would do everything in their power to prevent a Father looking after his own child.

Social Services even went so far as to threaten the Father in that case with taking his son away and forcibly adopting him if the Father ‘didn’t cooperate’ with them, whatever that meant.


So, back to ‘Julie’s ‘ story. Twenty year old heavily pregnant ‘Julie’ sensibly applies to the Council for slightly larger accommodation – a two bedroomed flat instead of the laughingly described ‘studio flat’ she currently occupies. Actually it is just a glorified bedsitter really, but that’s the property market for you. All exaggeration and hype.

Immediately, the bureaucrats of the ever watchful Big Brother State Surveillance, Interference and Oppression Machine swing into action.

Because Julie has had to fill out endless forms describing her entire life history just to get her Council Accommodation in the first place, the nosy officials noted she once had ‘learning disabilities’.

Straightaway the busybody and prurient Council Housing Official handling an application for larger accommodation notified Social Services that a young girl in Council accommodation was about to give birth and as she was recorded as once having ‘learning disabilities’, perhaps Social Services might want to use this as an excuse to interfere in her life, possibly even destroy it.

You bet they do.

Social Services set about causing the maximum amount of destruction and heartache they can contrive. Standard procedure really. All in a day’s work. They are used to doing this sort of thing all the time.

Within a short time after the child is born, Social Services have grasped control of it through the complacent family courts, and they can now do what they want with the child.

That often means ripping the child away from the Mother and family and putting the baby up for adoption to meet the insane ‘adoption targets’ set by an Orwellian government obsessed with controlling every aspect of everybody’s life with ‘targets’.

‘Targets’ for everything. ‘Targeted Services’, meaning things like non-existent health treatment for vast swathes of the population because services are not ‘targeted’ in their direction. Rather all the money seems more ‘targeted’ in the directions of the government bureaucrat’s pockets and fat index linked pensions.

So, particularly bad luck on all of you lot who want dental treatment. Unfortunately all the NHS dental treatment seems to have been ‘targeted’ somewhere else, because you are certainly unlikely to get any of it. You will be forced to pay for your own dental treatment yourself. Just one example of the clever dexterity of our Government’s ‘targeting’ culture.

Soon the baby is placed in a foster home by Social Services, but the young Mother is still ‘allowed’ to look after her own baby as she too, is forced into the same foster home at the age of twenty years old.

Social Services are not satisfied with torturing the Mother by telling her they have decided to bring a case before the Family Court for the forcible adoption of the child.

So, for no other reason that some knowing official employed by Social Services has decided they know best and can decide on who can have the privilege of keeping the child they have given birth to and who can be arbitrarily deprived of keeping their own child, Social Services also use the Family Court to forbid the Mother and child to visit the Grandparents, or for the Grandparents to offer their daughter any help in looking after their own Grand-daughter.

Apparently all this is based on the grounds Grandmother has been mentally ill, although she is doing absolutely fine now as her husband and children are helping her so much and looking after her.

Social Services also hint darkly to the Family Court that as the Grandparents have an untidily gaudy front garden with lots of flower pots full of flowers, this somehow constitutes a serious hazard to the well being of the baby should she visit the house.

This is the sort of thing Social Services think they ought to protect the child from and even make sure it is adopted to take it away from such a dangerous environment where it might be over-exposed to the dangers of too many plant pots in the front garden. Tsk Tsk.

So the Court bans the child from visiting the Grandparents house, having given weighty consideration to the question of too many flower pots in the garden and other things of such similar great importance.

So there we have it. Another good day’s work done by Social Services. I expect they managed to keep their expenditure of public money to a modest hundred thousand pounds or so to interfere in private family life and tear a child away from it’s parents entirely unnecessarily

Never mind the hordes of dismally deprived children who really need the intervention of Social Services to prevent things like their parents starving or beating them to death. Cases like that are much too much of a bother for Social Services to deal with. There is always an excuse for not dealing with them.

Rather just let those children get on with it and suffer the most awful privations, because the laws of obsessive State secrecy will protect Social Services and the Family courts from the public ever finding out about the true extent their breathtakingly corrupt incompetences.

It’s all just a gravy train really, a nice secure position being paid for by the taxpayer, and there is no real accountability at all. ‘Who Cares. We don’t. We’re just Social Services. We couldn’t care less about anyone except ourselves thank you very much.’

To hell with the children.

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