About Me

My photo
I have been working to support disabled people to live as independently as possible and realising their individual potentials for over 20 years. I am qualified in Health and Social Care Management and Ethics and Social Welfare. All blog entries are my responses to issues I see affecting those I support and indeed myself as I joined the disabled community after surviving a stroke.

Monday, 28 June 2010

Coping After Acquiring A Disability

Becoming a disabled person is one of the hardest things I have had to come to terms with in my life, which is quite an admission after I have spent most of my life supporting people in some form or other to manage their own disabilities, be they physical, mental health or learning disabilities.

But even becoming a member of the community that comes under the mass umbrella and half baked term of 'the disabled', there are significant differences between having a disability from birth and acquiring a disability in later life, as is the case with me following a stroke in March 2009.

Below is a list of 5 stages of coping after acquiring a disability that have assisted me and I hope will assist others.

1) Anger - it is perfectly natural to feel angry after something happens that leaves you with a disability or lifelong impairment, take control of that anger and use it wherever you can to stimulate as much recovery as you can.

2) Recovery - for those who are newly disabled there is sometimes a period of recovery. It is almost impossible to put a time measure on this as it very much depends on the individual and the nature of the disability or impairment. In the early stages. For me it was learning how to walk and talk and trying to regain movement and feeling in my affected side.

3) Management- learning to manage your disability or impairment is important, if you can manage it you can regain a level of control over what your body is or isn't doing.

4) Mourning - this might be considered a little strange but for whatever reason a part of you has changed and as much you battle to get back to as near to the person you were before, some things will not fully recover. It is perfectly healthy for you to mourn for your old self who, until recently, you have lived with with various degrees of happiness.

5) Acceptance - once you have mourned your old self you are in a position to accept your new self and tackle head on the challenges that life throws at all of us from time to time.

I do not claim this list to be in anyway scientific, but it has and continues to work for me. I have tried to keep it general and not specific to strokes, however I'm sure not every stage will be applicable to everyone.

I hope you have found this interesting and useful.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Emergency Budget 2010 - DLA

I feel the changes to Disability Living Allowance announced in this afternoon's budget have raised more questions than they have answered.

For those that missed it the rates will remain the same but in 2013 a medical assessment will be used to simplify the current autobiography you need to fill in, which on paper looks fine and can be viewed as ensuring those in genuine need receive as much support as possible, however in our current financial position, with a huge national deficit, it is likely that they will be looking at reducing the number of recipients.

Now some of us think we know somebody who gets full disability and they can walk and do their own shopping and do all kinds of things. Whereas in some cases I am sure this is true there is still the assumption that its not a disability if you don't use a wheelchair or a cymbal cane. I also worry that those with hidden disabilities such as Aspergers Syndrome or mental health issues will be overlooked in this medical assessment procedure which may concentrate on physical need.

Also who will carry out the assessment and what is their agenda? Where there is a financial implication will there be a government financial target and will that take precedent over ensuring those in need receive support?

Its a bit early to say but bitter experience leads me to believe that fewer people will be in receipt of DLA in the future in an attempt to capture those trying to cheat the system, but even if that is successful there will be a significant number of genuine disabilty cases left out in the cold.

I hope I'm wrong!!

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Undercover Social Worker & Government Cuts

I know I said at the end of my last blog I would complete the story of my Scottish trip, however is all happening in the health and social care spectrum in the UK at the moment and it would be remiss of me not to comment on some of them.

Firstly I would like to mention the Undercover Social Worker programme on Channel Four last night, which seems to have raised a lot of issues that many of us have been aware for some time.

Sadly social workers are gatekeepers these days. Its demoralising for all involved. Most social workers go into the job because they want to help people, but all they can do most of the time is assessments and forms and reports then tell people they can't have what they need because the bean-counters refuse the funding, which then becomes demoralising for the people who need the help. People come into contact with Social Services because there are problems so to then be assessed and to be told what you need doesn't meet funding criteria is extremely distressing, but its not those that refuse the resources that have to pass on this news, it is the poor hapless social worker who then becomes the scurge of the person who has been refused services.

The result of this is numerous Social Workers on long term sick leave, skilled people leaving the profession; which in turn leads to staff shortages and those remaining being over-worked, stressed and demoralised, which in turn has an detrimental effect on the standard of service received by people in need.

In a bid to resolve this you get cases such as those demonstrated on last night's programme where you have inexperienced and sometimes unqualified staff making assessments on people with the best of intentions but being terrified of making wrong decisions. How can we have confidence in our social workers when they don't have confidence in themselves?

The role of the social worker has been stigmatised to point where it amazes me that anybody would want to do that job now. From the media who report on social service failings, to society who access the media and make their own judgements where the social workers are at fault, to the bean counters who blame the socal workers for unsuccessful funding bids to access services for people in need, which in the end is down to a lack of resources rather than anybody's mistake, but it is always the social worker's fault.

I hope this programme will have the effect of realisation that a social workers position can be impossible at times (no consolation to those missing out on services I know) but by always blaming the social worker you are often 'kicking the wrong cat' and all that produces is stigmatising the profession, people leaving and arguably worse, putting off potential new social workers. If the situation continues as it is I fear there will be a real crisis in the next 10-15 years where there will be a catastrophic shortage of social workers.

The final thiing I woul like to raise (and not unconnected to my first point) is the new government's public consultation on the 'painful cuts' that have to be made to our public spending.

Although I cautiously welcome this public consultation, I have great concerns that those in the greatest need will not be heard. As the name of my blog might demonstrate, I work with people with disabilities (as well as being a disabled person myself). There is a long history of disabled people being at the bottom of the list when things like this are concerned. An obvious case in point is the The Disability Discrimination being introduced in 1995, 20 years later than its brother and sister The Sex Discrimination Act and The Race Relations Act of 1975 and 1976 respectively.

So I ask myself how accessible to people with disabilities will this public consultation be? Will papers be available in Easyread and/or braille (although not many blind or partially sighted people are braille readers). Will television reports be subtitled for those who are hard of hearing, unlike some of the pre election Leaders debates? These are the people who are most likely to be overlooked, or possibly worse have well meanng people decide their opinions for them.

The only way to avoid this is for the government to consult with the charities that have direct contact with disabled people. And I don't necessarily mean the larger charities who on occasions have their own political agenda and have therefore become detached from the people they are meant to be serving. I mean the local advocacy groups and what used to be the local Coalitions of Disabled People.

This is the only way anything resembling true public consultation can take place includng those that may be the most adversely affected by the inevitable cuts.