Comment

‘Mr X’ case only one example of Barnet’s ‘unethical and opaque’ care system

Local resident Charlotte says her relative and many others are also being failed by Barnet Council

Image of Hendon Town Hall - as local resident criticises Barnet Council for social care 'failings'
Hendon Town Hall

I am a Barnet resident with an autistic and learning disabled family member who, like MR X, has felt the sharp end of Barnet Council’s failings. She is due a care & support plan review, which has been delayed by more than 2 years but this is by no means the first time she has had to live with the consequences of an unethical and opaque assessment system.

A process that is rooted in attempting to fit needs into an ever-changing set of ‘eligibility’ criteria, can rarely offer suitable or sufficient care plans. We as a family have never been privy to how or by whom eligibility decisions are made. My family member’s choices or views of her own needs don’t feature beyond the bounds of the paternalistic and resource-led system. 

Her social workers have faced the same dilemma over the years, some doing a better job than others to squeeze what they could out of limited budgets and ‘one size fits all’ services. I feel for them, it can’t be easy to reconcile your moral duty as an advocate of people who are so marginalised, with trying to meet budgetary requirements and tick the right boxes.

The needs of individuals drawing on care and support services are as unique as we all are but the way the current system works doesn’t accommodate individuality, indeed it often creates needs where they weren’t before! Carers and support workers, paid and unpaid, also bear the brunt of a system that so desperately needs a cultural overhaul.

The truth is, the failings of Barnet Council aren’t isolated to ‘rare’ mismanagement cases. They also don’t only lie in a lack of resources when the resources already there are being used so inappropriately. Rather, they affect a large number of people who are too fearful or exhausted to challenge the council and they lie in a lack of imagination on a local and national scale about the best that people’s lives could be.

The Care Act 2014 is a piece of legislation that should enable fair and transparent allocation of resources based on a person’s view of their own wellbeing needs. Wellbeing is defined by nine areas and amounts to a fulfilling life, being a part of your community and with choices equal to others; living rather than merely existing.

I had high hopes that a new Labour-led council in Barnet would do things differently. Unfortunately, my recent experience as a member of the ‘co-production’ steering group for social care demonstrated the opposite. They are determined to defend the status quo and provide the window dressing to do so. I support the Charter for the Right to Wellbeing and I urge others to do the same.

Charlotte (Barnet resident)


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