VISITING dignatories often get an unreal view of life. They spend their lives meeting people for whom their visit is a special occasion. Hosts spruce up the place painting walls, hiding rubbish in unused rooms and ensuring the best china is used for the cups of tea. They must think the world smells of freshly painted walls.
This week Jane Cummings the Chief Nursing Officer for England and Wales visited us as part of her fact finding mission into best practice in the aftermath of the Winterbourne View scandal, to get a true picture of what is happening in the health and social care sector for vulnerable adults and to experience what we offer. The support we chose was our most recent in Knaresborough.
We didn’t hide anything away. Jane toured the support meeting some of the people we serve in their homes and had the chance to ask some very honest questions.
She got some very honest answers.
For some of the people we serve their lives before ubu had been a harrowing helter skelter of hospitalisation, poor care and institutionalised abuse.
They recounted some of the things that had happened to them, the way they now live, their hopes and dreams for the future.
To hear their plans and how they are coming to fruition was uplifting for Jane. Sadly, the people we serve are the lucky ones; having had the choice and the chance they have grasped it by the nettle and are doing some amazing things now with their lives.
They also know that they are the lucky ones and because they are a caring bunch of people, they want other vulnerable adults still in hospital or poor care settings to get the same opportunity they have been given.
Jane Cummings asked to visit so she could see what alternative care was in practice, so we took the opportunity to bend her ear, so that she could make a difference for those who are still not able to enjoy a pathway to greater independent living.
We can campaign, and we always do, but the people we serve are the true testimonies and have a far more powerful impact.
People like Sarah who had spent years in a hospital, drugged up to the eyes, spoke honestly to jane about years of mistreatment, while Alun told her how people totally misunderstood him and said he couldn't communicate, he seemed to have no problem sharing his story with jane!
But they also told her how they believed that every one of the remaining 2500 people still in long term hospitals should be given the chance.
There was no aggression, just quietly spoken determination that they wanted some action and soon! At the end of her visit Jane spoke about how she was more determined than ever to enable more people to get the chance of a greater independent life at the heart of their community, based on what she had heard from the people she spoke to during her time with us. She said that hospital care was not the best place for vulnerable adults and she wanted to do all she could to give them a better option.
Jane had planned to stay an hour, she stayed more than two. We did put the kettle on and Glynn one of the people we serve made some fantastic cakes; but we didn’t hide anyone or anything away and we didn’t paint the walls.
I hope Jane is able to make the difference she wants to make and that she can take everyone with her on the journey. Hopefully not having glossed over the facts will boost her determination to help close long term hospitals and give more vulnerable adults the chance of independence!
See some of our photos and film from the visit and follow us on twitter @ubusupport.