Celtic Illumination, part 412, You shall be taken to the place from whence you came.
It was a strange six weeks, that’s how long they suspended me for. I didn’t mind, I was still on full pay so concentrated on my studies at Lancaster University. I had contacted the professor at Lancaster and explained my situation and asked if I could continue with the course. As far as he was concerned the company had paid for all of us, up front, so my place was secure and I was welcome to continue. Surprisingly none of the others from North West Community Services attended the course. It was interesting to discover that I was a hot topic of gossip throughout Manchester’s social services world. Some people, as I expected, were pleased that I might have the legs taken away from under me but many commiserated. I still found the whole situation confusing.
I had actually seen people, who Delia had ‘cared’ for, when she was a nurse at Calderstones hospital, pick up knives if she walked in to the same room as them. It was obvious that none of them liked her or had a good word to say about her. She was a bully, as thick as two short planks and even the deputy director of Manchester social services told me that they knew they couldn’t trust her and that she was a liar but she could do the job. How on earth she got the position in the first place I shall never know. The course at Lancaster was fun and I was desperately putting out feelers to see if there were any vacancies on the horizon. I know that I have often said that social workers are useless but the boss of Manchester’s social services, responsible for learning disabilities, and his deputy were two good fellows. I wouldn’t have minded working with them as they got things done, unlike most social workers who spend most of their careers on sick leave with stress.
On the day of my hearing I arrived at the Liverpool offices and felt somewhat out of place, which I found strange as I had been so familiar with the organisation. Rather than wander my way around the various offices saying hello to people and involving myself in idle banter, I was invited to take a seat in the foyer. I sat myself down and waited. The odd individual came and went then Jo came in, Joanne. This is the team leader I had stood up for against Richard and Garry in the managers meeting. She asked if I was there for my hearing and I explained that I was but she then asked who was my friend? I knew that everyone in the Liverpool office had been warned not to get involved with my case as they would still have to work with Delia afterwards and they wouldn’t want to sour that relationship. I couldn’t even get any of them to write a statement supporting me. Jo stated that this wasn’t fair; I shouldn’t go in on my own, so she immediately volunteered to accompany me. I wasn’t sure if she was just being nosey or if she actually wanted to give me some moral support so I agreed that she could accompany me.
We went in to the conference room and found Chris, the Liverpool accounts director, at the head of a large table. Beside him the CEO’s secretary, with pencil poised over pad. I realised that as everything was to be recorded I would have to be careful that I spelled out my case against Delia as good as I possibly could. We sat down and the four of us swopped pleasantries. Chris was the sort of fellow you would call in to and have a bit of craic with. He was a nice enough fellow, pretty useless at his job but we had always got on, at least that’s what I felt. He opened proceedings by saying that in his opinion the seventeen charges were a bit much and that he was willing to ignore fourteen of them and concentrate on the three main charges against me. I refused. I said, and I made sure I spoke slowly enough for the secretary to jot down every word, I said that it was my intention to prove that Delia was not just a liar, but that she had falsified documents and that her sole intention was to give her daughter my job.
As Chris had been the fellow who had telephoned me and inquired about the change, or the addition, to my monthly assessment I knew he was well aware of the situation. My job now was to turn the whole situation on its head and get Delia in to trouble. It took some time, I think it was four and a half hours in all, but at the end of the session I was satisfied that I had gone through every point sufficiently not only to prove my innocence but to highlight Delia’s guilt. Chris said that normally these hearings would take no more than half an hour or forty minutes, after which he would make a decision. In this case he decided that I had raised enough concerns to encourage him to continue investigating the situation and therefore I was to remain on suspension on full pay. It wasn’t the outcome I wanted, which of course would have been Delia hanging from a lamppost in the street, but at least it wasn’t negative.
We were facing our final paper for the course at Lancaster and I made sure that I was not connected to any of the North West Community Services Crowd. I did have my eyes open and knew that if I wanted to move any further up the career ladder I would need to get myself a degree. This of course didn’t mean that you would actually know something as most of the social work cretins had a degree in social work which didn’t really mean anything. I had decided that a management qualification would help me, as would an accountancy qualification, so I had signed up with the Open University and was completing a degree in management and accountancy. The good news was that the course at Lancaster would contribute to my overall degree. So even though I was a wizard with figures and actually enjoyed complicated accounts I would now have some proof that I could count and organise things officially.
I know that I went into the management programme with a willingness to learn but could only describe the management course as a sort of collection of Victorian parlour games. And even though the world was moving in in leaps and bounds and some brilliant, all singing, all dancing flavoured accountancy programmes were available we were told that we would have to start with the basics and use handwritten methods before moving on to the new technology. It was a bit frustrating but I got through it without shouting, too much, at anybody. I have to admit that it was a very interesting experience as we had conference calls some evenings for debates and discussion and I soon learned very quickly how to take over and control these events. Even on the management exercise I would immediately volunteer to be the team accountant as I knew most others would be afraid of the numbers, but I wasn’t, and once you had control of the purse strings you had control of the whole project. I only wish I could have used similar techniques with my Delia situation.
Of all the seventeen charges against me there was only one that I couldn’t prove beyond a doubt that was not my fault. I had difficulties in one house and the team leader had been fired. I had problems finding a new manager for the house and asked one of the senior support workers to step up and cover the position for me. It was really more of a paperwork exercise as my statistics now would please social services but I knew I needed a new team leader and was desperately scouring the company to see if there were any suitable candidates. One of the people in that house had his medication changed by the local mental health nurse. I made a note of the day it was to be changed and turned up at the house. I explained to the acting team leader that I needed to check that the medication had been properly changed and documented. He assured me that the medication books had been changed. He told me that he was about to go to the pharmacist and collect the new medication and then pointed to a bag on top of the kitchen cupboards telling me that this was the old medication which he was about to return to the pharmacist who would dispose of it.
As far as I was concerned it was just another small routine problem out of the way. Unfortunately I wasn’t aware that I was still on a huge learning curve and that the acting team leader had lied through his back teeth to me. Ten days later the mental health nurse had turned up and noticed that the medication had not been changed. Talk about brown stuff hitting the fan, the acting team leader was now in Vietnam for six weeks with his girlfriend. How could I prove what I claimed was true? After a further two weeks suspension I got a letter informing me that I was to given a six month written warning. This angered me as I wasn’t too sure what it actually meant. I also wondered how it would affect my search for a new job, but more importantly no action was to be taken against Delia despite the case I had put up against her. I asked Chris why no action had been taken against Delia and he explained that the disciplinary procedure had been against me, not Delia. I wasn’t happy but then my spirits really did go through the floor as Chris explained I was to resume my normal duties on the following Monday morning, back at Manchester and back working as Delia’s deputy.