The Equality and Human Rights Commission was in the news (on BBC Radio 4) tonight, saying that disabled people continue to be disadvantaged despite the Disability Disrimination Act... Whether you are facing an assessment, an appeal or are not sure how best to present the complex situation of one of your clients: You need an independently minded, highly experienced and deep-thinking expert who will find a way to credibly present the person's rights and interests. Send us an enquiry...
From personal and professional experience, it seems to me, it is not just that legal aid is practically not available when needed - including eceptional legal aid: - someone I know well was assessed over the phone in 5 minutes by a person who sounded like she was hardly out of her teens and - refused. It is also, the way formally available tools such as e.g. Judicial Review are advertised - on government web sites, hiding more information than providing, and certainly not inviting or facilitating. Any phone lines given are usually occupied.. and don't even the fonts used look forbidding? I may already have quoted the retired solicitor-husband of an acquaintance of mine: "Justice is practically only available for those who can pay for it." In England.
A few weeks ago, on BBC Radio 4, I heard Prof. Jay say (from memory) one of the deeper systemic changes that would have to be a lesson from the Abuse Scandals the Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse is looking at was, would have to be that "all that disbelieving people with a mental capacity issue has to go'. The shocking implication, of course, being that disbelieving vulnerable potential or alleged victims is still wide-spread part of the culture in services. Having seen more than one example where this is not done with blatant disregard but with skilled sophistication, dressing up an inquiry so that nothing that comes out will hurt Management, I believe with skill, conscience and ethical clarity these issues can now be addressed by independent professionals.
A couple of weeks ago, a radio 4 programme described the situation in home care for the elderly as that - neglect and it did not do it tentatively. The facts of serious abuse cases, care companies failing is only the tip of the ice berg, and not all difficulties are du to shortfall in funding. oreviewing a Care Home, as I did for a time as part of my role as a social worker, it shows if the Care Home owner thinks of their residents as a means of making money first - rather than his role to facilitate their life in dignity. And such impressions can be read against current guidelines, policies and - for what they are worth CQC standards. If the practise falls short of those standards, then that will have to be reported - before a resident comes or even just feels less than comfortable. Thus far, the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights has been a yard stick, to. However, even when that might not apply any longer, conscientous and detailed inspections/reviews and reports can protect standards. - Suffering in silence is never an option, in my view. I am available to assist.
The BBC Radio 4 programme recently dedicated 2 editions to the issue of appreciation of Judges - the type they apparently do not feel, the reason why there are so of them. I felt there was untypically more description than analysis in the programme. While Joshua Rosenberg stated that the appointment of p/t Judges - less experienced - can be a creating an issue of less quality as the are less experienced, on the reasons why there were so few applications for, if I remember correctly, almost 25% vacancies for High Court Judges, there seemed little clarity. Repeatedly, it was mentioned that there had been some pension cuts... Is that the whole picture, I wonder. Maybe I lack the imagination, but it seems difficult to comprehend that at a quite nice senior level of appointment this would be such an important point - unless the legal profession has so thoroughly been diverted to put commercial profit over - securing justice? With my little experience in civil proceedings over the last 5 years, I can't help wondering whether a missing link is not to be found in a speech by Mr Mostyn, a Judge in Family Court, a few years ago and published on the ministry of justice web site: He said "It is not the Judges' job to follow their preferences but to apply the Law." Ouch. Had I, as a lay person, not experienced how it can happen that a lesser experienced Judge may come to set aside complex and tiresome evidence to follow his 'preferences', I would have thought that quote simply left-wing propaganda. However, I think Mr Mostyn's implicit analysis points to a deeper issue. It seems to me the introduction of the HRA indeed creates a climate where Judges' decisions have to be accountable to principles of law over their - undoubtedly educated - opinion. That, from the inside, may feel as 'not being appreciated'''. If there is some truth in this thought, and I hope I am wrong, then it may take more than a new round of appointments to secure quality of Justice. It may take education of yet another generation of lawyers in order for them not only to live the principle of accountability (versus closing ranks?), but also to appreciate the widely and internationally recognised principles of Human Rights to be respected for what they are: Safeguards - and that includes full appreciation for policies introduced since the HRA such as No Secrets Act, Disability Discrimination Act and similar - intended, it seems to me, to truly embed the principles behind Human Rights in the British society, as a democratic society.
As part of the CPD programme mentioned, I also had the chance to speak with a Mental Health in-patient who was said by staff who had known him for years not to have "any insight" in his condition they called schizophrenia. On one occasion, within less than one hour, he told me how he had arrived with his family as small boy in the UK one cold February. His parents had had high hopes coming to this country. So he felt unable to thell them that he was bullied at school, began to retreat into himself and started to 'always feel different.' No insight? This turned out to be the first of many similar observations. Dr Eleanor Longden: "The question should not be: What is wrong with you?' - but: What happened to you?"
Today I heard an interview with an internationally renowned choreographer who at one point talked about observing open heart surgery for research purposes and he mentioned that the surgeon was operating to music, "Bach in fact". That reminded me of a cholecystectomy (key hole surgery) I was privileged to observe when studying a CPD course 'Interprofessional Learning' together with health staff at a University in the south of England, in 2006. The focused atmosphere I am only a little hesitant to call sacred increasingly left me in awe. The young surgeon disappeared quickly down the corridor after the op was completed. It seemed he needed to be alone. This only reinforced the impression.
A bit late switching on BBC Radio 4's Any Questions last night, I was more than interested to hear (Jeremy Browne saying): "When will we realise the NHS failing is not about the money but the structures that need changing." From experinece I am inclined not to disagree. However, much better put I found what may be referred to here, by a GP (born and bred in the UK, practising in England and himself involved in the new local Commissioning Group: "In this country (unlike others) the role of health managers is - to block (rather than to facilitate) proceses." Ouch.
Among the memories from my graduate course studying social work is the seminar where we discussed the need to support specially clients who had been disadvantaged earlier in life in order to meet their Human Rights. 30 years later, I found myself in a situation where I had to defend myself against a Psych. Consultant when I felt that his statement had to be disclosed as a safeguarding matter (concerning a mental health patient), He had said: "I have known the family for 20 years and that (sexual abuse of the person by her father) has long been a suspicion. At one point (she) threw herself down a flight of stairs. This was seen by some as due to the father kissing her more in a boyfriend-girlfriend kind of manner. The allegation was put to him but denied. And Social Services did not take it any further." He threatened me with a management response if I did disclose this. It followed 3 days later. Fast forward 5 years, and this June a Judge said he "preferred the evidence given by the Defendant (the NHS Trust, in my claim for damages after the management response).
Some readers may wonder how my background as a theologian goes with my passion for person-centred social work.
I started working as a social worker in my early fifties, with adults with long-term needs and mental health issues. And I don't think I had come to love the work so passionately, had it not been for the background insights in the potential for clients to help themselves.
I started studying theology independently after a powerful liberating spiritual experience during a feminist psychodrama workshop. It was liberating, and gave me a lifelong inner imperative to understand it and respond to it ever deeper.
Because of its context, I felt drawn to study philosophy of religion.During those studies, among other inspiring minds, I came across Bernard Lonergan, a 20th century philosopher and Jesuit,
who like his contemporary Karl Rahner, made it his life's work to return religious concepts into existential categories - terms
that describe what we all deal with during life and do so more effectively if we understand what it is we are doing.
So Lonergan developed what he named 'transcendental precepts:
Be Attentive, Be Intelligent, Be Reasonable, Be Responsible.
From workshops and conferences I attended with the Hearing Voices Network since 2009, I learned how people who hear voices
can begin to recover when they attend to their experiences and take them serious but not literally. Or, as Dr. Eleaonor Longden put it:
"It should be asked what happened to you, not: what's wrong with you?" And there is already the element of being intelligent,
that is aiming to understand. And when unpleasant symptoms persist, another voice hearer comes in (contributor to Intervoice fb page; I
can't remember his name - if you read this: Thak you!), saying "I learned as long as I don't add my imagination, I am alright."
And that is then also being responsible - for one's own wellbeing.
Of course, we need also to talk about social circumstances that harmed us, that caused the original trauma and, in many cases, added to
by so-called psychiatric care, in the case of mental health patients.
I find, I never come to the end of attending, understanding, reasoning and responding responsibly.