Celtic Illumination, part 367, The lady doth protest too much, methinks.
As someone who was, ‘capable,’ I was making a bit of a name for myself in the company. It wasn’t very hard to do, I can assure you. The upper echelons of management seemed to favour social workers, which is probably why the whole field of learning disabilities was in such disarray. I was quite surprised at the number of support staff who were actually studying to become social workers, although when you see their hourly rate of pay it is understandable why many people would be attracted to such a job where the key employment skills have nothing to do with leadership, organisational ability or even problem solving but insist that you are absolutely fecking useless to begin with. I was an ex-military man and therefore really only understood direct, fast, positive action, an approach a social worker wouldn’t recognise if it stomped up and slapped them in their face.
One job I had been given was to support one fellow, one afternoon, each week, but there were two of us. I met up with John who seemed to be a nice chap and who was very quick to inform me that he was studying to become a social worker. John had worked with this fellow for some time and almost treated him as family. We took this fellow out every Sunday afternoon, John seemed to be a great friend of the family and I soon discovered that the other gang of useless incompetents, the DHSS, were messing them about and they, the family, were balancing on the poverty line. When I met the fellow I was surprised that there were two of us to support him. Forgive me for saying this but he was about four foot tall and walked like a monkey. That is the quickest and most accurate way of describing him and I mean no disrespect or offence whatsoever. We were taking him out for lunch and he was unable to eat anything through his mouth.
He lived on a diet of liquid food which was specially prepared for him and was fed to him through a tube in his stomach. John informed me that this fellow loved architecture, so every Sunday afternoon was spent visiting Cathedrals from Chester to Preston, National Trust properties and other historical places of interest within the area. I loved it especially being introduced to places like Port Sunlight, the model village created by the Lever Brothers for their Sunlight Soap factory workers in 1888. I never knew about the place but having been introduced to it spent many a wonderful hour there, learning about its variety of buildings and different styles of architecture, not to mention the Lady Lever art gallery which is well worth a visit.
When it came to the meal time I was always a little bit wary. We knew that the sight of us feeding someone through a tube in his stomach was upsetting to some people and once again the question of rights came in to it. Did this fellow, who got his sustenance through a tube in his stomach, have the right to sit in a public café and be fed? Did we have a duty to try and shield the public from what we were doing, should we have snuck off in to a corner where no one could see us? It reminded me of the debate that still goes on to this day, about women breast feeding in public. The guy had no verbal communication skills, so I could never ask him how he felt about the situation. He did have a fair set of hands on him and I soon learned why there were two of us supporting him.
I noticed that one of his shoe laces was undone and went down on one knee to secure it for him. I was a big roughie toughie ex-military, rugby playing, red meat eating, bloke; this was a weak four foot nothing chap, what had I to worry about. Well; he latched on to my hair with both hands and tried to pull my feet out through my head. And it was as times like this that you often reassessed your life, like drowning, where they say your life flashes before you. Luckily John managed to break his grip and I composed myself and wondered if we could get him slip on shoes in the future. We had one or two people supported in the community where the company were very pleased with the position that had been secured for that person. One day I was called in to the head office, there was a problem with one of the prime cases, could I help.
Of course I could, show me where to go. Well; it was the Liverpool Women’s Hospital, a major obstetrics, gynaecology and neonatology research hospital in Liverpool. They had managed to get a job for a fellow delivering, three days a week, throughout the hospital. I’m sure you will be glad to hear that it was the post he delivered and not babies. The usual support staff had been placed on suspension for two months so someone had to step in and cover the duty or we may have lost the position. I could see no reason why not, so agreed to accept the job. Once again everything was in place. I would arrive at the fellow’s house, well; he still lived with his parents in Aintree, and a pre-arranged taxi would turn up and take us to the Women’s Hospital. We had three mail runs throughout the day, delivering and collecting the mail throughout the hospital, and then a taxi would turn up and take us home.
Nothing too difficult, well, not at first glance. I was a bit perplexed as the fellow had no verbal communication, I could talk to him and I thought he understood me. He could use his hands and lift and reposition light objects, oh and perhaps the most important factor was that he was in a wheel chair, which he could not propel or manoeuvre. The permanent guy in charge of the mail room came in and we introduced ourselves to each other. He was a very busy and important fellow so couldn’t afford much time to train me on the job, so I went in to military mode. The mail arrived in sacks which my charge couldn’t move or lift, so I would lift them up and empty them on the counter, which he couldn’t reach. I would then sort the mail out into the various pigeon holes and then place the mail to be delivered in the mail trolley.
My only real worry was that I got the correct post to the right office to tell you the truth. So I found myself sorting and delivering the mail, three times a day in the Woman’s Hospital in Liverpool for two months, while pushing a wheel chair and chatting away to the fellow in it. It was a boring and repetitive job and it did require a certain amount of dedication to get through each day but it was so important to the company that it had to be done. At lunch time I would sit with the caretaking staff, the electricians and carpenters and painters and have a bit of a laugh. They soon accepted my friend and I felt that for that one hour at least I was doing him some good, encouraging him to join in with the banter, which of course was mostly about football which I knew absolutely nothing about. But he would smile or grimace in response to their comments.
At the end of the two month period his original support guy was found not guilty and returned to take back over the duty. I was glad to hand the duty back to him and asked if he felt that he was able to communicate with the fellow. I was horrified to learn that he had created a sheet of characters which, when laid out before our guy, would allow him a limited amount of communication. Questions could be asked, information could be given and the fellow would point to a small picture or symbol on the chart indicating his response. I was so angry and confused that something like this could happen with a company that was happy to claim that it was the best in the country. I felt awful that for two months there had been no commination between us because someone forgot to tell me that it was in fact possible.
I began to wonder what on earth was going on. I had already experienced situations where mismanagement of medication could have killed people, lack of information meant that people were being supported in a negative way and the whole shooting match seemed to be geared to keep money flowing in one direction. On my first day in the cushy job, the house in Croxteth, I was approached by a member of the team who informed me that he was a fully qualified social worker and if he suspected me of any foul play he would make my life hell and ensure I never worked in learning disabilities again. Had I taken his head off, there and then, I may have been accused of doing so for various reasons. He was a weedy little five foot nothing homosexual social worker who was deaf in his left ear, so I kept my eye on him, based on the Shakespearean quote of, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”
Being a mathematics nerd I would always volunteer to finalise the accounts at the end of each week, and everyone else seemed happy to allow me to do this. I began to notice that when certain people went shopping they would buy bottles of wine and as neither of the two fellows who lived in the house drank alcohol I found this strange. Certain people liked to take them out for expensive lunches, there would be a lot of, ‘buy one get one free,’ deals like for example with shampoo, but only one bottle in the bathroom. And the one that got me the most was the way people could buy twenty quid’s worth of petrol when I would have been one hundred miles away in the car at the time. I could see that the world of learning disabilities was top heavy with useless social workers; it was time someone like me was let loose on the workforce.