Celtic Illumination, part 285, A call to arms.
Everything was ticketyboo. It was like keeping a line of spinning plates spinning. My work at TPT was going to plan, the cadets were getting to know me and I them. I was almost hitting six hundred words per day with my writing and I sensed a breakthrough with my battle on the adoption front. I had maintained a barrage of letters to the three main groups concerned with the adoption process in Northern Ireland. There were the MP’s who kept side stepping the issue, the civil servants who claimed to be setting a new system up and the social workers who on a daily basis were proving to me just how useless most of them are.
It wasn’t just the social workers involved with the adoption process I found useless but the ones who seemed to circle like predators in the lives of most of the people on my course. I would hate for any of you to think, ‘Oh no, here comes another rant about how incompetent social workers are,’ let me give you an example, so it’s not rant, and by the way, during my life I have met hundreds of social workers and I promise you one was actually an able and capable person. So not every social worker is utterly useless, there is one good one out there somewhere. And if any of you are wavering, just remember the case of Baby P in Haringey, a council district in the London area. Baby P died at the age of seventeen months.
During the final eight months of his life he was on the ‘at risk register’ and was visited sixty times by social workers and health professionals. Despite this he was found to have more than fifty injuries on his poor little body at the time of his death. If that’s not bad enough, the person in charge of social services for Haringey at the time, who was earning one hundred and thirty three thousand pounds a year, refused to resign, as every person in the country pointed out to her that Baby P’s death was ultimately her responsibility. She was fired, claimed unfair dismissal and was awarded six hundred thousand pounds compensation. I know, speechless.
So, I walked in to the classroom one day and noticed that a new fellow had joined us. He had been placed at the rear of the classroom but the person, who had brought him, along with John, asked me to step into the corridor and ‘have a word.’ I was told that he had been injured in the Hillsborough disaster. The Hillsborough disaster was a most unfortunate incident at a football match in Hillsborough where ninety six people died and almost eight hundred were injured. My chap had been seriously injured, in fact, using layman’s terms he was a total cabbage. He had recently returned from America where he had been helped to regain the use of his limbs. I was told, by who I now know was the social worker, that there was nothing I could do for him. In fact, I was to let him think that he was part of the staff and he could just sit at the back of the classroom for six weeks.
Well; it was quite obvious that the social worker knew absolutely nothing about me. I decided to let the fellow sit for a while so that he could settle in and anyway I did have other people to deal with. It was much later in the day when his parents came for a visit. I brought them in and showed them around and then we left and went into an office where we could have a chat. His parents explained to me that they were both elderly and that their main concern was their son. It was obvious that their son was improving, they weren’t sure exactly how much more capable he would become but the one thing they prayed for was that their son could provide for himself in some way, when they were no longer around.
First thing the following morning I sat down with the fellow and began to dig around in his life. He had been training with a local company as an electrician when he was injured. I had the craziest of ideas, I know, not like me at all. There was a unit on the site where TPT was situated who dealt in second hand furniture and electrical goods. I went over and asked for something electrical, that didn’t have to be paid for. He gave me a music centre so I made my way back to the classroom, via the motor mechanic department, where I borrowed some tools. I set the music centre on my desk at the front of the classroom and asked the fellow to come forward. He did and I gave him the tools.
I then asked him to strip the music centre, but to explain to the rest of the class what each component was that he took off the music centre and what it did. I had already seen that he could walk unaided from the rear of the classroom to the front. He took the plug off the music centre and explained it to the class; I was prompting him along asking various questions and in a way leading him through it. But it was quite obvious that he could use his hands and tools and he could express himself and still knew a bit about basic electrics. I honestly felt that his major problem was a lack of confidence. Later that day I telephoned his old company. It had been a good few years since the disaster but they still remembered him.
Unfortunately they didn’t do electrics anymore they now did electronics. However, if this fellow could get a qualification in electronics they would quite happily reinstate him with the minimum amount of fuss. I’m sure you are all well ahead of me here because my next port of call was a training firm in Skelmersdale who specialised in electronic training. I found the head of training, who was actually in a classroom with students. As I approached him I could see that he was an ex-military man, from the way he held himself and the way he was dressed. I asked him what mob he had been in, no point in beating about the bush. He told me that he was ex-army which allowed us to engage in a little bit of banter before I explained my situation to him.
To be told that my fellow could start electronic training whenever he was ready was great news, but the guy just kept talking. If there were problems it wouldn’t matter, if they had to give extra tuition they would, if they had to extend his course they would, basically they would take my guy and he would pass this electronic course. Now I don’t think anyone could ask for a better result than that. His parents were over the moon, they couldn’t thank me enough. Action For Blind People wanted to make a big fuss and get the story into as many newspapers as possible, I said that I didn’t mind if they publicised the story but asked that I not be mentioned. I don’t know why I was reluctant, it was a sort of feel good story but for some reason I just didn’t think it was right for me to claim any of the glory as other people were involved too. I may have been the motivating force behind it all but it wouldn’t have happened without the participation of everyone else concerned.
So it was strange, the following week when a social worker turned up and asked to see me. We went in to my office and she began to explain that this couldn’t happen. She said that my guy lived with his parents who cared for him. Because of his injuries and their provision of care a certain amount of state benefits came into the house each week. If my guy started the electronic training course the household would lose all their benefits which, in her opinion, was something they couldn’t afford to do. The family were already poor and this would just finish them off. I explained what the parents had said to me and she dismissed it saying that in an ideal world that is what they would like to happen.
In order to lessen any possible disappointment she was removing my guy from the course. He would go back home and resume his daily routine with his parents and the status quo would be maintained. Action For Blind People were furious, as was I, TPT reminded me that I had a vacancy and should recruit a new person for the course. The incident still annoys me to this very day, but that wasn’t the end of my involvement with social workers. There were to be more confrontations during which I would learn the real reasons social workers didn’t want me to get people jobs. And I promise you, once you read and understand those you will have no problems with the old joke. How many social workers does it take to change a light bulb? The light bulb must first fill out all the appropriate forms to determine eligibility for service.