The Care Act comes into force in April. Much has been made of how this should put disabled people in control of our own lives, by giving us choice over how our needs are met.
This is extremely important to me. I would object fiercely to having my life micro managed by the local authority. I want to make my own decisions, to have the support I need, when I need it, provided how I need it. That, after all, is what is meant by independent living.
The Care Act’s focus on this is a welcome step in the right direction but legislation is only one part of the story. In my experience, one of the biggest barriers to getting support is finding people with the right attitude.
Supporting a deafblind person, like me, is undoubtedly challenging and requires someone with a very special mentality. It’s a job full of contradictions.
I need someone who is bright, who engages with what I am doing when I need support but disengages and melts into the background when I do not. They have to, for example, be capable of summarising a complicated inaccessible policy document. But, they also have to be able to sit quietly, not participating in interesting meetings, whilst an interpreter is supporting me, but be ready to step in to guide me to the toilet during breaks.
I need someone who is patient enough to relay communication into deafblind manual for me, even when they know what my response will be, but can use their initiative and act quickly in urgent or emergency situations.
Negotiating this minefield requires the right attitude and skills. People providing support must have the self confidence to know that they are valued, even when not doing anything, that stepping back is as valuable as intervening.
This is in conflict with the very reason many people are attracted to working in social care. The attraction, for many, is a very disempowering desire to help; a need to feel needed.
Most of the best support workers I have had have been young people, with little or no experience of deafblindness, and little or no knowledge of deafblind manual or guiding, but with the right, empowering attitude. The practical skills people need can be taught. It is much harder to change attitudes.
I have become quite good at picking up the tell-tale signs from application forms, interviews and practical tests, and spotting those who can talk the talk but can’t walk the walk.
Most importantly, candidates who are motivated by a desire to help are out. The bottom line is, if someone came into social care to boost their own ego, to get their own sense of self worth from being needed by others, then they are not suitable.
As the population ages, and the numbers needing support increase, so, too, will demand for people with the right attitude. Legislation alone cannot solve this. Where do we find these people? Tell us your solutions in the comments below.