The Simon Heng Column

Some of my disabled colleagues and I are getting involved in
training social work students. It seems to be a good idea, to give
future practitioners a different perspective from the ones they
will get from their tutors, practice placements and literature, and
to remind them that they are preparing to deal with real people and
dilemmas, not just theory and case studies.

One of the things that we can do differently is to provide a
subjective view of the social care system, which, as Peter
Beresford has often said, can be just as valuable as the “hard
evidence”, which has been the sole guide to practice until
recently. And one of the increasingly validated ways of doing this
is storytelling. The practice is even included in the Health and
Social Care Act 2001.

Our group are all long-term users of social care. We have plenty of
stories to tell, both good and bad, of how we have fared. As it
happened we all decided to choose stories from when we first came
into contact with the system, and how it had failed to pick up on
some vital considerations – in some cases, all considerations – of
our needs.

One of the threads that seemed to run through our stories was that
we were not informed about what help we could access, which meant
that some people didn’t get the care they needed for months,
sometimes for years.

Another theme was that our packages of care – when they were
finally arranged – depended on what services were available, rather
than what we actually needed.

Then one of the students asked whether we thought things had got
better in recent years. We service users looked at each other with
raised eyebrows. “Probably not” seemed to be the consensus.

There are still opportunities for people to fall through the net.
For example, some doctors who diagnose degenerative conditions
still neglect to tell their patients about the support they can
access, so there are still people who think that they have to
struggle to survive on their own.

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