Failure to communicate

I was first put into care when I was five and eventually taken out
when I was 36. I was shifted from pillar to post between three
different institutions. Some of my memories of childhood are good
but some of the places I lived in were like prisons. The first
place I was put was Challenger Lodge in Edinburgh. At that place
they gave you porridge every morning for breakfast. If you didn’t
take it, they put it in the dish cupboard and then out it came at
dinner and you were meant to take the cold porridge. If you didn’t
take it then, when it got to tea time they said “you’ll sit there
till you take it”.

I used to miss my mother but she always wanted me to speak up. She
would say “what do you think you have a tongue in your head for?”.
In those days I was afraid to speak up because you didn’t know how
the staff would react. They wouldn’t be able to do it nowadays. If
I went back now I would be able to speak up for myself and say “you
can’t do that”.

I was 13 when I was moved to Lennox Castle. It happened on a
Thursday but my mother didn’t find out where I was till the Sunday
at 6pm. They just hadn’t told her what was happening to me.

Next I went to Gogoburn. My sister used to come to see me but one
day I missed her visit and it turned out she had wanted to tell me
some important news. I remember the doctor called me in and just
said to me that my mother had died. They wrote to the social worker
to see whether I could go to the funeral. She said yes. When I went
back afterwards I was very upset.

Later I moved in with my brother and his wife. My life was all
right until he died. Then it all started to go wrong. I had a
difficult time and tried to move for years. Each time my social
worker would say “try to talk to them. We must keep the family
together”. He wouldn’t listen to what I was going through.

One day, after something happened, I decided I could never go back
home. I told them at the centre and that was it. I had to live in
respite miles away from my friends but my friends at People First
came to visit me and helped me get a new place. I’ve lived in my
flat for eight years now and it’s great. I’m as happy as anything.
And I’ve got a direct payment through.

I think talking about the past can help people. People need to know
what’s happened and speak up for their rights. I used to let people
walk all over me but I won’t now. People respect my position as
project director at Carlisle People First, which I’m very pleased

I didn’t think I would see a day where I spoke up for myself. If my
mother could see me now she’d say “I don’t believe it! Why couldn’t
he have done that years ago?”.

Andy Docherty is project director at Carlisle People First,
a group which is run by and for people who are labelled as having
learning difficulties.

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