Last week I went to a 'Friends and Family Information Day' arranged by the local Mental Health Trust (or whatever it's called this week). I didn't really know what to expect but thought it could well be worth going to. As I had borrowed a car to get there I was asked to give someone a lift, which was no problem, and at 8:30 I was wondering around a strange road looking for her house. Fortunately she found me and off we set.
The first thing that struck me, both on the way and when we got there, was just how much carers want and need to talk about things. From stranger to knowing whole family details took on average a minute or two and I guess we spend so much time isolated that when we are in a group there's a freedom and understanding you don't really get from friends no matter how they try.
It all started off quite well – they had a couple of opening pieces and then a group thing where we talked about what made us anxious and how we coped. These were then collated and it's fair to say most tables came up with almost exactly the same things as our worries are pretty universal. Unfortunately before anything could come out of this they moved on quickly to a speech by the Chair of the local trust. You know the sort of thing, we're wonderful and we try hard. He said he was new and there to learn but it was all basically self congratulatory clap trap.
Then there was supposed to be a piece entitled 'Opportunities and Challenges Facing the Directorate' given by the Director of Operations. He couldn't attend (never explained) so his deputy gave the speech and again we were being told how wonderful they are. When she started telling us about all the services available I was shocked to hear her say that all units had OT's as I've been told everytime I've said my son needs one that there aren't any at my local Unit. I pointed this out and was told I was wrong! I then pointed out that if she believed that I could be back in an hour with letters from that Unit saying they had no OT's on staff and couldn't provide my son with one. At that point someone else pointed out that they couldn't get an OT at their Unit either and other people started pointing out other things she'd said that simply weren't true. In some ways I felt a bit sorry for the lady being dropped in it like that at short notice but out of around 50 people in the room more than half were pointing out the lack of services she had said were available.
To be honest the whole day stank. The lady 'running' the day stopped the questions and wanted to move on as there was no time in the schedule for questions at all. Frankly the whole attitude of the day was 'We're here to tell you', not to listen. How on earth can you arrange something like that and not imagine that the carers are going to ask questions? Ridiculous.
Well everyone's dander was up and when we broke for lunch shortly after she and the Chair were pretty much surrounded. She promised to look into all our cases individually and get back to us. 'Would you prefer a letter or email?' she asked and I said that I wanted her to meet me face to face and everyone else agreed they wanted the same. Revolution!
The afternoon followed much the same style in so much as we were being talked at and a lot of people spent more time outside talking amongst themselves which was far more productive. The stand in lady (who has the rather meaningless title of 'Access and Recreational Pathways Manager') spent most of the afternoon in hiding and despite them saying all day that the session had to finish at 3:30 it didn't as the Chair decided he wanted to make another speech. It was slightly different to his other speech in so much as he claimed he had learnt a lot but looking at him it really seemed like nothing more that empty words, especially when he started talking about the challenges facing HIM form the upcoming 20% cuts to services. I asked (over him) what about the challenges facing us but despite this getting a round of applause he skirted over it for some more self congratulation.
These are the sort of people, and the sort of attitudes, that we have to deal with every single day and it's an absolute disgrace.