I’m referring to my experience of the social care system, although I’ve also felt a bit vague and slow myself today … such can be spoonie life!
So, yes, I was referred to the social work service in my area in April 2016. A little over a year later (yes, despite the referral being marked ‘urgent’ it really did take that long – we would all lose the will to live if I were to detail all the intervening shenanigans) I met my newly allocated social worker who was to undertake an assessment to determine my eligibility for social care support. This involved taking a detailed life history (not inconsiderable given that I’m in my late forties) and details of the circumstances surrounding my need for support.
The assessment was undertaken in two appointments at my home of around 80 minutes each, 11 and 10 weeks ago respectively. My social worker also explained that she would be my ‘key-worker’, but despite being asked was unclear about the actual remit of her role. Generally it’s a role of co-ordination, in this case it seems that her responsiblility was to make an application for social care to my local authority on my behalf, which includes her assessment report and recommendations. The latter being that she believed I should be granted funds for a support worker/personal assistant/assisted living worker (they seem to have all manner of titles essentially meaning the same thing) for four hours per week, two hours twice weekly. This time would be utilised in two ways, split roughly 50/50 between domestic help – cleaning, cooking, shopping and other household chores – and social/emotional support – eg. company on a regular walks, support to go swimming or do other forms of exercise, help getting out and about where necessary, someone with whom I can talk.
The social worker went away to prepare and submit her report which she said would take around four weeks. In the meantime I was to decide how I would like my support to be provided, assuming funding were to be approved. I had to decide ahead of approval to make the process go more smoothly. This proved difficult as her explanation of the seemingly multitudinous options was less than comprehensive to say the least and I was left baffled. After some research on my part and a further brief meeting with my social worker, I made what I hoped was the right decision based on the information I had, although there were still gaps in my knowledge that I hadn’t been able to fill.
My social worker hasn’t had any other involvement with me and she left work yesterday to begin a period of maternity leave. She’d said she hoped to get everything wrapped up and my support in place before she left, but that wasn’t to be – an email yesterday evening told me that my third choice of provider could support me BUT has a lengthy waiting list. My second choice provider think that they will be able to support but have been unable to give a definite answer so far. At some point I’d already been told that my first choice had a waiting list of months … and months … and months.
If she could get support in place before she left her role, my social worker had said that I I would not then be allocated a replacement social worker – but that there would be a general social work number that I could call should there be any issues with my support that I couldn’t sort out myself. However, if support could not be put in place in time then, she said, my case would be allocated to another social worker.
Her last update came at 6pm on her last date of work. She had emailed in the morning to say that she’d definitely be in touch before the close of play and promised not to leave me in the lurch. She was unable to tell me who would take over my case, she said she didn’t know. I’m envisaging a department of overworked social workers with vast caseloads and a sense of not knowing where to put me. She did give me her manager’s details, ‘in case I wanted to chase it up.’
In my mind, I’d nicknamed my social worker ‘Stepford Wife’, perhaps unfairly, I do not know her well. She’s always appeared to be very smiley on the surface but it’s like there’s nothing behind the smile, she felt very disconnected. She’s young and had been in this particular role for around a year. Whether the stress of the job led to that ‘disconnection’ or that is just her way, I don’t know, but it meant that I never had full confidence in her nor did I ever feel entirely comfortable dealing with her. Still, I had to trust and hope that she would do the best job that she could for me.
I’m well aware that social care has been subject to significant budget cuts, something which I strongly oppose. There’s no doubt in my mind that people in need of services are suffering as a result. But it can be difficult to tell sometimes whether delays, poor communication and other issues are a result of the impact of budget cuts or down to the shortcomings of staff themselves.
I’m going to give it a week and then all being well will email the manager to try to get a further update.
Following the assessment, I have capitalised on the hope that support would ultimately be forthcoming, together with the hope I took from my friend’s unexpected visit seven weeks ago. I’ve used both to keep myself going. More on that in the next post.
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