The Simon Hen Column

    I recently met a young man who seems to have discovered his voice
    and his anger. Mick* has moved away from his parents into his own
    place, managed to get his own car and, in his words, “my own
    chauffeur”, which makes everyone laugh. He is organising his life
    on his terms for the first time – “not for my mother, not for my
    social worker, but for me”.

    When he talks about his life, he’s angry because he feels that he’s
    been treated as an inconvenience, shunted from special schools to
    day centres. Mick is still angry that people see him as less than
    completely human. Why? Because he wants to get married, and people
    think that he and Julia, his fiancee, aren’t capable of taking on
    the responsibilities of marriage.

    “What they really mean is that they don’t want us to have sex” Mick
    says, with typical directness. “They’re treating me and my fiancee
    like children, and it makes me very angry.” Mick and Julia* are
    clearly devoted to each other. They want everything a loving couple
    wants out of a relationship, including having sex. Society’s
    problem is that they have learning difficulties, and even the
    people closest to them find it difficult to talk about the
    relationship, let alone help them plan for the future.

    Mick’s life has been organised using person-centred planning, which
    is a concept new to me. As I understand it, this puts the
    individual at the centre of the process.

    This starts from their desires for life, and contemplates all of
    the potential resources around them to plan their goals, rather
    than starting with a menu of existing dedicated facilities, and
    planning around which of these would be most helpful.

    This approach seems to have helped Mick develop a clear sense of
    who he is and what he wants. He believes that he has the same human
    rights as the next person, and states his case forcefully and
    eloquently. When you listen to him, it’s hard to deny him. I wonder
    what would happen if person-centred planning was used for everyone
    needing social care?

    * Names have been changed

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