Celtic Illumination, part 372, Wrong siding the demographic
Where Jan had proved herself to me as being a most wonderful and positive people person, Richard was proving himself to be a bit of a dick. For team building and bonding Jan would take each team out and have a fun day, usually involving beer, and far too much beer at that. She led from the front. Richards’s idea of bonding and leadership training was to give us all a book, Stephen R Covey’s, The 7 habits of highly effective people, in fact. Richard wanted us all to be managers, everything had to be formalised. You could see his accountancy training behind everything he did. He decided that for every monthly managers meeting, each team leader should submit at least one subject, or motion, that would be discussed at the meeting. I decided that I would submit three.
I could see that it was going to take some time for Richard to realise just how utterly brilliant I was so I brought my attention back to my own house. There were one or two factors that I wanted to investigate. Jimmy could speak but didn’t, however you could easily lead him in any conversation that you wanted. So who decided that Jimmy wanted a holiday in Spain? As I said before many people, resettled into the community had twenty to thirty thousand pounds compensation sitting in their bank accounts. If Jimmy went to Spain for a week then Jimmy paid for the staff to accompany him. I had been out with a group of Irene’s workmates and had heard one of their partners bragging that he worked in learning disabilities. He claimed that he had convinced the fellow he supported that he liked formula one racing so every year had to go to Monte Carlo for the Grand Prix.
You could spend your whole life uncovering fraud in the world of learning disabilities. I did investigate it as much as I could but most people were under the impression that it was normal to go on holiday every year therefore what Jimmy was doing was normal. I also discovered that Jimmy always had an up to date bus pass because he loved sitting on the back seat of a bus and simply watch the world go by. The staff would never take him on a bus because he would attack school children but as regular as clock work they would make sure his bus pass was up to date. This is how stupid the system was. His personal lifestyle plan said he loved travelling in buses therefore each time the social worker came along for an inspection they checked that the bus pass was valid and there.
Jimmy had a brother who came and took him out for the day once a week. The first time I met him I spent as much time as possible with him trying to learn about him. I even helped as we manoeuvred Jimmy out through the front door on his wheelchair. It was an old NHS wheelchair, rickety old wheels and a bugger to push. Being the team leader allowed me to have a certain amount of flexibility so one of the first things I did for Jimmy was to go and have him fitted for a wheelchair. It was a little expensive, light weight, manoeuvrable, and it even had a go faster stripe, but Jimmy had thousands in the bank and I thought it better that the money was spent on him rather than jaunts to Spain for the staff.
I had to reapply for Jimmy’s benefits which meant stretching the truth a little. There was a huge questionnaire booklet that I had to complete detailing all of Jimmy’s aliments and conditions. I filled it out as best as I could and then asked the staff to have a read through it and if they felt I had left anything out to let me know. We were all waiting for the second fellow who would be living in the house to arrive, once again I didn’t know what to expect. Another thing I didn’t expect was to be summoned to Richards office, perhaps he had realised just how utterly brilliant I was and wanted to promote me. Once again I was wrong, he had had a complaint.
Seems that one of my staff members had read through the list of ailments I had put down for Jimmy and was horrified. She had contacted Jimmy’s brother and said that I was making stuff up about Jimmy. Ever had one of those moments where your head explodes. I may have stretched the truth a little but everything I had written was geared for one thing and one thing only and that was to make sure that Jimmy got his full entitlement of benefits. I had no gauge as to exactly how many conditions or ailments he should have to qualify, so I put down everything that I thought I could get away with. Being ex forces you can accept stupidity, most civilians have it, some more than others, in fact you probably expect it, but to have one of your own team go behind your back was the worst form of insult possible.
To drive from head office to Jimmy’s house meant that I had to pass his brother’s house so I called in for a chat. A female member of the team had complained to him that I was lying about Jimmy and she thought it was awful. I explained to Jimmy’s brother not only what I had done but why I had done it and he apologised. Thankfully Richard and Jimmy’s brother were easy enough to deal with, but what would I do with the female member of staff who had let me down? I was sat sitting having a cup of tea pondering my problems when my new problem arrived, Andrew. A social worker was delivering him to his new home.
I was hugely unimpressed. I thought the whole system was geared for people like Andrew to choose where he wanted to live, which at a rough guess might have been closer to his sister who now lived twelve miles away on the Wirral. He was to live with Jimmy, because I had a couple of spare rooms, did not sound like personal choice to me. Andrew was also sixty years of age, but he was a small, skinny, man. His clothes were too big for him and were twenty years out of date. All his personal belongings were in black plastic bin bags that lay about his feet, I felt awfully embarrassed with the whole situation as there was no dignity at all for Andrew. I don’t think he was aware of this but I certainly felt bad. I organised the staff to take his belongings to his room and one to take him through and introduce him to Jimmy. You would think that someone might have thought of bringing them together months before, to see if they would get on, but social workers always know best.
The social worker and myself waited for a few moments in the hall listening for any commotion from the front room. The introductions seemed to go peacefully so we headed out to the back kitchen for some privacy and where the social worker could give me a detailed brief on Andrew. My day had already been going from bad to worse and as it was now heading for catastrophic I saw no reason to stop it. It didn’t matter what I thought about what the social worker was saying to me, my personal feelings did not come in to it, so I tried not to show any expression that I was disappointed.
Andrew was a drinker, not an alcoholic, not even a heavy drinker, but as we say in Ireland, he liked a drop of the hard stuff. And for someone with a learning disability he was quite resourceful. I controlled his money, but the social worker warned me that if I gave it all to him at once he would blow the lot in one afternoon. He would be plastered after four pints of beer but he loved buying everyone else in the pub drinks. When he was drunk he would become aggressive and demand more money, so I would have to be firm with him. I saw this as a possible ruse for getting rid of the two faced female member of staff. If, his own personal money was exhausted, or as normal people would say he was skint, he would steal money or he would sell himself for sex and then use the money to get hammered.
This was not a random affair, as there was a regular customer who lived in a wonderfully large house facing Sefton Park. I can assure you that this is the point where my brain stopped functioning and the thought of being locked in a room for twelve hours with a naked and violent man throwing poo at me seemed appealing. I really did feel out of my depth, as so many issues were now brought to the fore and I knew that the staff would overreact to most of them. I needed to trust my staff team and get them behind me, unlike Richard I wasn’t going to give them a book to read. Richard must have noticed my managerial abilities as he had me organise an evening out for all the managers in Liverpool. I organised a wonderful evening staring with a quiet meal in an Italian restaurant followed by lashings of beer in most pubs along Mathew Street.
I can assure you I didn’t let the side down and got quite drunk, not legless, but drunk enough to know I should go home, if I could find it. I wandered my way through the streets of Liverpool until I came to Saint George’s Hall. For the heathens among you Saint Georges Hall is a neoclassical building containing concert halls and law courts in the centre of Liverpool. It is a wonderful building to visit, however that night all I was interested in were the large sandstone steps that surrounded the façade, they just seemed so warm and soft and appealing. I sat myself down and wondered if I could make it across the road to Lime Street train station where I could get a train to Ormskirk, if they were still running. Next thing you know is someone is waking me up. The husband of the two faced female staff member. ‘I thought it was you,’ he says, helping me to my feet and leading me off to his car, which is pulled on to the pavement by the traffic lights. He took me back to Jimmy’s house and along with his wife bundled me in to the self-contained flat where I collapsed on the bed. Next morning, apart from wondering where I was, all I could think of was that perhaps I already had a good team around me; perhaps if we had a day out, on the beer; things might not be so bad after all.