Celtic Illumination, part 373, Shifting a paradigm to leverage best practice.
I think one of the great things about working in the learning disability and mental health fields is that no matter how good you are, or no matter how good you think you are, almost every day something will happen that will reduce you back to the cretin that you really should be. It was almost impossible to teach Jimmy anything and I mean simple life skills, like making a cup of tea or switching on the telly. Would it have improved his life if he had been able to do any of these things, I really don’t know. I spent an awful lot of time with his brother listening to stories about Jimmy, seems that he liked old movies, Fred Astaire type musicals and he liked big band music and sitting in a vehicle watching the countryside roll by. Those could be easily sorted for him.
Andrew was a different story altogether, he was a survivor, so I began to spend time with him. All of his teeth had been removed, I understand it is the high sugar content of the medication they are usually given that rots the teeth so quickly, plus poor diet, lack of hygiene and brutal ward staff. I noticed one day at the dining table that Andrews’s teeth were horrendous. The teeth were perfect but it looked like he was chewing mashed potato and this was just after breakfast. Apart from having to ask a fully grown man if he knew how to wash his teeth, how do you ask a fully grown man if he knew how to wash his teeth? I can remember him sitting there, smiling at me and shaking his head. Again I think these situations I treated as matter of fact, Andrew did not know how to wash his teeth, so I would teach him, if he wanted to learn. There was no judgement call on my part, although I have to admit you would often like to get your hands around the throats of some of the old staff who would have dealt with him in the institutions.
Andrew seemed to want to learn to do more, he wanted to learn basic cooking skills, and he wanted to wash the dishes. He had no understanding of basic hygiene and because his lifestyle had the spectre of AIDs constantly looming in the background the staff were not impressed, and so I had to buy a dishwasher so that after Andrew had washed the dishes they could be boiled clean. I was determined to try and get him dressed appropriately in clothes that fitted him and that were suitable for his age and body. I took him to a shop in Liverpool, T J Hughes, quite a well-known store. I always found it interesting how you would always place yourself between whoever you were with and members of the public, I don’t know who you were protecting more, but it was obvious that you were always on edge, always expecting violence.
We moved on to an escalator and went to the second floor where I attempted to buy him some new shirts. Andrew couldn’t make up his mind so we ended up buying him some new bed linen. It was a start, he was learning how to do things for himself, he was out in public, and he was with me, what could go wrong? Well, when we came back to the escalator Andrew refused to get on it. I leapt on the escalator and as I began to descend smiled and held out my hand asking him to follow me; I didn’t want to make a big thing of it. Apart from being terrified of the escalator, which he had calmly come up on, he now thought I was leaving him alone in this massive shop and began to panic.
He wasn’t the only one panicking as I tried to fight my way up the down escalator with bag laden shoppers, unaware of Andrew skipping from foot to foot behind them, tutting their little hearts out at me as I tried to squeeze past them. Some shoppers were stood standing watching Andrew go in to mild meltdown, but as I reached the floor he began to punch himself and it sure felt like every shopper was now watching. This is the time you realise that you have not done a course that has covered this situation, but you must deal with it, because if you didn’t, very soon T J Hughes was going to have a Tasmanian Devil running about its second floor and there wasn’t even a sale on.
First of all I grabbed Andrew, in a great big bear hug, pinning his arms by his sides so that he couldn’t hit himself anymore. I then made straight for a fire escape and smashed through the doors. It was nice and cool out on the staircase, which was an internal staircase. Andrew was pacing about but appeared to be calming down. Two or three staff members came and I assured them that we were fine, I apologised for any fright we may have given them and then asked permission to use the staircase, which we did and left the building. I tried to get Andrew to explain to me how he had managed to use the escalator to go up but was terrified of it going down. He was unable to explain it to me so I left it, far too deep for me to explore.
I think, or at least I hope, the staff started to fall in to line behind me as they knew I was a ‘can do’ sort of fellow. My team was still short two members and I kept asking Joe when I could have two new members of staff. Joe was always extremely busy, apart from one afternoon a month when he would come around to complete my assessment. This was one of Richard’s ideas where we were always trying to improve ourselves. Joe asked me what I thought of NWCS and I can remember telling him that I loved it so much I was going to get a big tattoo of the company name and crest on my forearm. The reason I remember saying this is that the following month he checked his notes, and asked me if I had got my tattoo yet. It was a waste of time and a pain in the arse, but ours is not to reason why I suppose.
I really could see nothing in Richard’s personality that made him stand out as a leader. He was a typical stereotypical accountant. He would always come in to meetings with an apple, which he never ate, but one day he did, which I found rather strange. If I was chairing a meeting I would never eat an apple, or anything, once the meeting had started, but Garry was having a go at one of the female team leaders. Something had happened and he was giving her a telling off in front of everyone. I felt that Richard was eating the apple, thus allowing Garry to speak, but by being there he was actually reinforcing Garry’s position. To me this was bullying and there’s nothing I hate more than theft, or social workers, than bullying. The girl was holding herself together well, but it was quite apparent that she was shaken. I could see that some others were taken aback and now began to feel that the drama was a lesson for us all. I immediately stood up and told him to stop. I didn’t ask him to stop, or suggest that he might stop, I told him to stop and in the back of my mind I kept telling myself not to swear.
It was Richard who gave the nod to Garry, who sat down and I knew that he had been behind the whole thing. He was going down in my estimation and going down very quickly. As an Irishman who is ten times more better looking than most others on the planet, and the best looking member of British MENSA I feel it is my duty to help people. Richard, probably not in MENSA, seemed to want to tell everyone how good he thought he was, which to me was a weakness, but explained why he religiously followed policy and procedure. One day he introduced us to a management technique where we could assess every manager for a specific task. He was in his element talking about Core Team Members, Matrix Management, and Situational Leadership. This would allow any manager to put the perfect person in the correct position and contribute to a successful management project.
In the forces I was used to whoever was in charge coming in and saying, “You will do this, you will go there, you will do that.” Real, practical and positive, management. I could imagine twenty six of us, middle of the night, standing in a white out, half way up a mountain with Jack saying, “Hold on chaps, I think I’ll just complete a matrix management plan to determine who does what.” I had many names for what Richard did, horseshit being the most common, but I settled for the fact that he was doing nothing more than getting us involved in some sort of Victorian parlour game. I wasn’t the sort of person who believed what people said and did spend a lot of time in libraries so looked up Richard’s Management Matrix to discover that it could be used once. That because people changed, within themselves, the matrix had to be carried out every time you were given a new project. Unlike Jan who had turned herself from a social worker into a brilliant and inspirational leader, Richard seemed to be heading in the other direction.