Been missing my twitterpal Rosi Reed. She has had to take time off socmed for health reasons, and I sometimes feel I should join her, in the interests of preserving my sanity.
As soon as Jeremy Hunt refused to promise that the Mazars report would come out before Parliament broke up for Christmas, I, along with the other #JusticeforLB’ers, knew we were in trouble. The whole shebang was headed for the long grass and tumbleweed territory, and so it has proved. Today, the 100th day after #Mazars was published, absolutely nothing positive has happened.
Southern Health NHSFT claim their ‘panel’ has reviewed 289 learning disability deaths, but there appear to be no reported outcomes from those reviews, and no information on their nature, scope, processes or findings. Meanwhile, Sloven Board meetings continue to be opaque to the public, when they are not being downright disrespectful to individual members of the public who exercise their right to attend said meetings. Katrina Percy and her merry band of nodding yespersons remain in situ, although a number of non-executive directors have jumped (or been pushed). Among the remaining NEDS, one, Malcolm Berryman, appears to have been guilty of some seriously inappropriate talk over the family table in his moated mansion (and a catastrophic parenting fail in the teaching-courtesy department), since his teenage son popped up on twitter to call Connor Sparrowhawk’s mother a ‘fucking pest‘ for continuing to ask Mazars-related questions. Needless to say, this indiscretion has not led to any consequences. Now Sloven are quietly preparing to realise their assets in Oxfordshire through land sales, probably with a view to disinvesting in their unprofitable northern patch.
Although a few individual MPs have continued to ask questions, Parliament as a body has not followed up on the Mazars recommendations; nor, more pertinently, has the Secretary of State for Health, who appears to be evading every opportunity to take executive action. As Rob Grieg said this morning on BBC Breakfast, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the Government does not consider the lives of learning-disabled people to be of any importance.
Since Christmas, I’ve also been grappling with ECHP* paperwork, as Grenouille’s SSEN** was due a major overhaul, which in turn means a switch to the new system. All the usual, draining nonsense has ensued: lack of communication from the Local Authority; insufficient or inaccurate information in what communication there has been; blind following of ‘our processes’, in defiance of both the law and of simple commonsense, when the ‘processes’ manifestly don’t apply to G’s specific circumstances; layers of bureaucratic obfuscation; and a hefty helping of plain mulish obstinacy. “Just go with it, and we’ll Tribunal ’em,” said G’s Papa, wearily. I have persisted, because if we go down the Tribunal route (again), the chances of things being sorted before next academic year are hair-thin; but I resent doing, for free and at length, the admin that someone in County Hall is well paid ostensibly to be responsible for.
At the same time, Parliament has voted to cut Employment and Support Allowance – a benefit set at a level intended to sustain people for the medium to long term for people in the ‘Work Related Activity Group’, to that of the short-term Job Seeker’s Allowance. This means a permanent 28.5% reduction to the income of anybody who, while unable to work now, might be able to do so at some future point, however distant (and it could be years… or never).
Personal Independence Payment criteria have been tightened to the point that some people are losing their Motability cars, their jobs, their homes and their independence. In the Budget, the Chancellor proposed to cut PIP still further, to ‘save’ £1.2 billion a year, and only the Brexit-directed flouncings of the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions prevented the proposal becoming immediate reality.
The Health Secretary, the smooth-spouting Jeremy Hunt, is locked in a patently stupid dispute with the junior doctors and his strategy for providing himself with a way out appears to be ‘keep kicking until I’ve made a big hole the NHS’.
Finally, the current Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, has out-Goved her predecessor by announcing plans for the forced academisation of all State schools in England. The ideologically-driven bonkersness and economic illiteracy of this notion is beautifully dissected in this blog; but the effects on Special Needs Education of effectively abolishing the bodies – the Local Education Authorities – charged with specifying and ensuring individual provision, adds a further layer of horror to the gruesome prospect. Academy schools don’t ‘do’ SEN. They are supposed to, but there are no meaningful sanctions for their failures or refusals. When we were looking at secondary schools for Grenouille, the local Academy school was the only one at which we couldn’t get an appointment to view with the SENCO, despite repeated requests and despite the facts that it is (a) our nearest school and (b) the one that Eldest attends.
Yes, Local Authorities have to be watched like hawks over EHCPs, and it’s a pain and a headache to keep them up to the mark, but the marks are there, and so are the legal levers, and the links to local education establishments. At the end of the day, it sort of works, after rather string-and-safety-pins fashion. We certainly couldn’t ask for a better school for G than the one we ended up naming, but it’s hard to see how the school could have accommodated G, were it an Academy.
So what will there be for Grenouille, if all this goes through, after all my days and weeks and months and years of caring and researching and learning and writing and meeting and persisting? No place in the academised, privatised school system (Special Needs provision is costly, not profitable), so unequal access to education? A lifetime of pauper-level income and severely limited prospects for work, leisure and healthcare? And a premature, care-less and ignored death?
I’m seriously frightened.
*Education, Health and Care Plan
**Statement of Special Educational Needs