I received a call from Social Services yesterday, asking to come and visit me that afternoon regarding my care plan.
I was very pleased as I had been hassling them for the past three months to come and see me and update my financial assessment to work out my contributions towards my care.
It soon became clear that this visit was nothing to do with this, but was my annual report "to check how my care plan was working out and that everything was ok".
I mentioned my issues with finance and the social services chap duly made a note to contact the finances department upon his return.
The chap was lovely: very friendly and understanding. He had a long sheath of notes from the last time I had gone through this rigmarole so he said we didn't have to go through all the questions yet again. He asked how I managed my carers/Personal Assistants (PAs), what work they did for me, how I managed and if I was happy with what I had. He checked on my safety, particularly asking after the number of falls I have, my alarm button, and my arrangements in case of particularly bad seizure clusters or coming out of hospital.
So far, everything fine and dandy. As we finished up he laughed about the situation with Finance commenting that normally they would chase up any "change of income" like a flash, seeing an opportunity to get more money out of the client.
He then added: (pretty much exact wording as far as I can remember while it is fresh in my mind)
"I mean, at the moment, I'm going round and our clients have to justify the care packages they've already been given. We're told, go out there and do everything you can to save money. If you can find any reason, any small excuse to reduce hours, do it. I have to save a certain amount every week.
I mean you're ok. I'm going to go back and say "this is great, good value for money, whatever you do, DON'T touch it." But because I haven't saved money with you, this means I'm going to have to cut money from other people I see.
It shouldn't be too bad at the moment because I managed to save £750 from a care package last week, which is great. So they're really pleased with me at the moment... well... I suppose it isn't great for the poor sod who lost his care package, but I mean, I did find them alternatives so I don't feel too bad about it.
You can usually find ways to save money. And I do find people who receive care who shouldn't be. I'm usually really pleased to take away their care. But I mean, they're usually the people playing the system and who should be working but aren't."
I don't know where to start with this statement.
a) I was sent someone here on false pretences. They were not here on my behalf to to "check how my care plan was working out and that everything was ok". They were here on behalf of the council to see if they could cut my hours at the slightest excuse.
b) Targets are being set per council worker, ie per case load. This means that it doesn't matter how much in total need that case load is, a certain amount MUST be saved, regardless of the needs of the individuals concerned.
c) The attitude being fostered is obviously poisonous. This was on the surface a genuinely nice sympathetic guy. Yet he had been suckered into a system where he thought it was right to go round taking care hours away and judging people.
And before you tell me that he is a professional who would know who is playing the system, I would add that he had never heard of lupus, a relatively common and in some cases debilitating autoimmune illness which renders 50% of patients unable to work. Yet on the surface most people "look well". How many of the people he has judged "capable of working" and "undeserving of care" have similar diagnoses of which he is ignorant?
There are a lot of people dismissing claims of problems and cuts in social care as scaremongering. Yesterday's experience is to me direct personal proof of the effects on the ground.
P.S. I'm spending today feeling guilty at the thought of those unknown unsuspecting fellow disabled people in that chap's caseload who ARE going to lose hours from their care package this week, simply because I did not...