There is something of a theme for the week and while I wanted to move onto other subjects and events, I was unfortunate enough, in my daily trawl of news websites to come across this ignorant abomination of a ‘column’ by Bel Mooney in, yes, you guessed it, the Daily Mail.
There is so much in it that angered me starting with the headline
The madness of offering the mentally disabled sex with prostitutes at taxpayers’ expense’.
What decade does she exist in that she thinks that ‘works’ as a headline. ‘The mentally disabled’ – thereby she says all she needs about her own attitudes and prejudices, immediately stripping any humanity from those who have learning disabilities of a wide range and using their disabilities as their defining point and mark.
Also this ‘taxpayers’ expense’ lark – I wish there were a greater understanding of the role of Personal Budgets for this reason alone. Everything is at the taxpayers’ expense. Trident is at the taxpayers expense. Soldiers in Afghanistan is at the taxpayers expense. Being a taxpayer gives me the right to decide on some of the things for which public funds may be used at elections but we all pay tax. You know, Bel, it may surprise you but even disabled people pay tax.
It gets worse of course as she brings up the chestnut of ‘human rights’ and smirks and sniggers at the woolly do-gooders, in the persona of course of the man’s social worker’ who obviously have little understanding. I wish she would attend one of my AMHP (Approved Mental Health Professional) or BIA (Best Interests Assessor) Forums. She would be hard pressed to find a less woolly bunch of people who are incredibly keyed in to legal minutiae and who tear apart case law savagely piece by piece. Compassion and wooliness do not have to co-exist.
Then she goes on to show a widespread ignorance of the Putting People First agenda which she might well have typed into Google but she might need to use more robust research tools than Wikipedia to have any kind of authority.
The 21-year- old’s trip to the Dutch brothel, where he hopes to lose his virginity, will be funded through a £520million scheme introduced by the last government called Putting People First: Transforming Adult Social Care.
The original 2007 document (written in the usual tedious socio-speak jargon) sets out Labour’s ‘ambition to put people first through a radical reform of public services, enabling people to live their own lives as they wish… and promote their own individual needs for independence, wellbeing and dignity’.
If she had done a little more research, for example, she’d have discovered that the precursor to the Putting People First agenda was the Direct Payments legislation which was implemented and championed by the previous Conversative Government who were all in favour and pushed through the 1996 Community Care (Direct Payments) Act. The Putting People First agenda was an attempt role out the steps taken in Major’s administration to a wider ‘audience’ and in fact, if anything, broadened the scope of the direct payments system. So blaming the Labour Government doesn’t quite work here.
This is NO TAXPAYERS MONEY – This is NOT A STATE ‘HANDOUT’ – this is money which is provided to meet social care needs and would have been spent – possibly at higher levels in any case. The idea is to save the taxpayer money – believe it or not – by achieving better outcomes to the service users and more choice.
So her next point that she
can’t help wondering about the ‘human rights’ of all the sad, shy people who write to my Saturday advice column, desperate for love and – yes – sex.
No one will give them a handout to buy what they cannot find in the usual way. No one considers it their ‘right’ to have a holiday paid for from the public purse just because they’ve got mental problems – as so many have. There’s no lobby for the lonely.
Now, I’m sure most Daily Mail readers can sympathise with the ‘sad, shy people’. But there’s a big difference – they do not have disabilities that preclude them from making the same choices and they would not be entitled to any services under the increasingly strict ‘Fair Access to Care Criteria’.
And this ‘right to have a holiday paid for from the public purse just because they’ve got mental problems’ – she fails to ‘get’ the CRITERIA part of the conditions. The money is not given because ‘they’ve got mental problems’ but because they have an illness or disability that severely restricts them in many ways and these are not ‘holidays’ – often the holidays replace respite breaks which would otherwise have been in residential care homes in the UK. Does she think her ‘sad, shy people’ would REALLY be eligible for residential care services?
She picks up nicely and ties this all in with the demonisation of social workers which is such a strong theme of the hateful Daily Mail – because y’know, all these ‘madcap’ schemes are dreamt up in social services offices. It’s all the fault of those woolly social workers.
She highlights that
The assessment is carried out by a social worker, of course, and the payment is given in addition to benefits.
And it seems that many councils, through their social workers, are using the Putting People First money to fund visits to prostitutes and lap-dancing clubs, sex courses, subscriptions to internet dating sites and holidays in places such as Tunisia.
How many times does she want to emphasise that this is all the fault of social workers? Not enough, it seems. And seriously, where is the evidence for ‘many councils’. She has come up with one case example and if she’s going to use the example of the holiday to Tunisia, I’d fight to the death that it is a much better and cheaper use of public money than a week in a residential respite home in Bognor Regis. Surely the right wing understand the beauty of CHOICE – that is why the programmes were brought in in the first place.
She goes on to tell a couple of stories of people she has known who had disabilities and had relationships and good for them. Seriously.
Personally, although I feel fairly neutral about using money from Personal Budgets to pay for sex services, the matter is that this is a question of choice from people who have the capacity to make these decisions but need assistance in the arrangements of these services.
I have personally recommended various internet sites to help people make social connections – not for sex or even for love but through common interests and yes, one of the Personal Budgets I set up included a laptop and broadband subscription. I know, it’s nothing racy but it has improved the quality of someone’s life more than an afternoon a week at a day centre would have.
I would place more value on a loving mutual relationship than casual sex but that’s my own decision and perception – maybe disabled and not disabled would make other decisions and the idea is that decision remains with the service user and not the social worker and that is the key misunderstanding and ignorance of Mooney. She thinks that somehow this money is ‘controlled’ by her, as a taxpayer and that the social worker makes decisions on behalf of the user.
There are stringent requirements and they are met. No more money is spent than would otherwise have been and why should we set stricter moral bounds to people with disabilities than those who are able-boded and able to make choices for themselves.