Celtic Illumination, part 384, “You must have chaos within you, to give birth to a dancing star.”
It was nice to think back to the numerous discussions we had in the air force based on the, ‘If you could start all over again knowing then what you know now,’ theory and realise that there may have been some sensible reasoning in our drunken ramblings. Some people were generally against my rapid rise through the ranks, they tended to be support staff who had been so for years, the sort of people who started at the bottom and liked it there. The people who supported me tended to be the Jan’s of this world, as if they too realised that learning disabilities needed able and forthright people to lead from the front. When I started I hadn’t a clue what the job or situation would present me with, however I now saw an environment where I could do some good and I liked being there.
I wish I could have said the same for Manchester. I arrived and was given seven houses with the associated staff teams where thirty people were supported to live in the community. I was now responsible for thirty people, I held their bank accounts, even was responsible for their motorcars, I think I managed a fleet of two dozen Motability cars. I was also responsible for the staff who had been allowed to do whatever they wanted for the previous six or seven months. As you may imagine many of the staff did not appreciate me coming into their world, the ones who were conning the system didn’t want their scams detected or ended. On top of all of this I had seven team leaders who all wanted to be service manager and couldn’t see why one of them hadn’t been promoted rather than bring a new person in from Liverpool.
At a managers meeting I was introduced by Delia as ex-military, someone who was coming in to sort things out. The word spread through the company and I’m sure the grapevine waited to see what my first move would be like. I couldn’t help but think of the time at boarding school when we got the new dean, Bam. Bam was six foot six tall, pure muscle. Every evening before second study juniors who had been naughty, Brian Lavery and myself had been caught smoking, were to line up outside the Deans office, open the doors to the senior study hall and be punished in front of all the seniors, some of whom were betting on who, among those being disciplined, would be the first to cry. We were the first boys to be punished at the school by Bam so everyone waited to see just how vicious he was going to be. Most of the priests at the school were cruel bastards, we expected Bam to top them all. When he told us to go get our towels we thought he was going to make us mop up our own blood, but instead he gave us cold showers. I knew the staff at Manchester expected heads to roll, but I knew I would have to come up with my own version of a cold shower for the miscreants.
That is until Delia called me in. You could never really tell what Delia was thinking, so I waited for her to speak. My first task was to investigate and report on an incident at one of my houses. A support worker was taking one of the people supported to his home where his boyfriend was continually raping him. Apart from the sexual abuse the pair of them had stolen thirty thousand pounds from the fellows account. The police were involved as were social services. I was to complete a report so that we could run through our own disciplinary procedure and fire the guy. My first thought was to grab a baseball bat and go pay them a visit, my second thought was to go back to Liverpool and ask for my old job back. I couldn’t believe how cruel people could be, but I also knew that unless good people, like myself came forward, the corrupt system would keep on rolling. I couldn’t help but think of the words of a fellow Irishman, Edmund Burke, who came up with what is claimed to be the most popular quote of modern times, in that, “The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is that good men do nothing.”
Bolstered by the rumours Delia had spread about me I was able to get some immediate respect and response from the staff in the various houses. Team leaders were upset that I now claimed the houses as my own and was taking their authority away from them. Having an ex-military man in charge was bad enough but an ex-military man who was a bit of a maths geek was really bad news for them. I can assure you there was not enough hours in the day and I wondered if I would ever get the job completed or at least feel that I had control of everything. You could sort one problem out and six more would be hammering away at your office door, not that I was ever in my office.
If the staff were not trying to steal the money from the accounts of the people they supported they would be at the opposite end of the scale and be afraid to touch it. Before I had completed my first week I had been called in front of Delia again and asked to open another investigation. This time it was a team leader and one of mine at that. Pauline was a big, black, loud, lady who ran a bungalow where four people were supported. Certain members of staff were complaining that Pauline controlled the house far too tightly and that the reason she did this was to cover her activity with the accounts. She would do the shopping every week, claiming that it was better to bulk buy. There was never anything out of the ordinary on the receipts but the staff complained that half of the shopping remained in Pauline’s car and they would often run short of food. She even kept the disabled parking badge, to enable her to do the shopping and the staff, using the Motability car, were now getting parking tickets.
It was frustrating when all you want to do is focus on people and try to give them a decent life. I had forty such souls but could never concentrate on these problems as there were so many others. And meetings, what is it with social workers and bloody meetings? The amount of time wasted travelling back and forth across Manchester was unbelievable and the meeting usually didn’t achieve anything, but I had to attend. Sometimes I would have to team up with a social worker and make a visit to sort some situation out. I was to meet up with a young female social worker one day, I went to the offices where she worked and presented myself at the front door. It was a mid-terraced house rather than a purpose built office block. A social worker opened the door and began telling me off saying that I shouldn’t be there unless I was supported by my staff. I know I was tired and confused but to be pegged as having a learning disability was a new one on me. He was told where to go and what to do with his attitude rather sharpish.
The social worker I was picking up was a little black girl and as we got in to my car she was squealing with excitement. I asked her why so excited and she said she loved Irishmen and their cars because they always had such interesting music playing. I don’t know about interesting but when I thought about the tape she was trying to get to play contained Mongolian throat singing and Japanese drumming I understood she may have a point. It’s the only music to travel to. So you spend half an hour driving to her office another half an hour going to the fellow’s house, ten minutes talking to his mother and then reverse your route back. Waste, waste, waste and not much achieved. I’m sure some of these people have never heard of telephones.
I was making headway with my investigation into Pauline. The senior staff member at the house was an Irishman and we bonded immediately. He was comfortable enough with me to sit down and tell me everything that went on. Pauline’s main business was as a temporary foster mother. She provided care for children who had been taken away from their parents for whatever reason. This is why she was almost never at the house, but she was contactable by telephone and would pitch up as and when asked. It was an in house joke that she used the house funds to provide food for the house, the staff and the people supported there, but she also bought food for her own house and wards using the house fund. Hard to prove but this guy tells me he has seen it with his own eyes. She was also very handy handing in petrol receipts especially as she didn’t normally drive the Motability car preferring her little sporty Mercedes.
Her second business was providing a telephone sex line where she had interesting conversations with gentlemen callers. The guy said it was quite funny when her telephone would ring and she would have to excuse herself but could be heard going in to the “Hello big boy do you want to know what I am wearing,” routine as she moved away to a more remote location. I knew that she was bad news and that I would have to set a few traps, involving the house accounts such as the shopping and petrol so that I could get solid evidence against her. What she did outside was of no concern to me; apart from tell me to use a twelve foot barge pole when dealing with her. I got back to the office and constructed my report, what I had found out, what my proposed course of action would be and Pauline being fired as the end result of the whole operation. So I presented myself to Delia and handed over the typed report. As she took the report, in a sealed envelope from me, Pauline came in with a cup of coffee for Delia. “Oh,” says Delia, “I’m sorry but you will have to find a new team leader for Pauline’s house.” Great, I thought, she’s fired her already, but no, this was learning disabilities. Delia had promoted Pauline to service manager.