User participation fails again

Last year I moved from being funded by the council to being funded by the NHS. I employ the same Personal Assistants, just the funding has changed. Most people who qualify for a Personal Health Budget (PHB) like this have to meet challenging criteria needing daily health care support.  I’m a big fan of personalisation – probably why my working life was always in this field. If done right, with good information and support, it can really help people have a better quality of care and support. For many it can be life changing.

When I was told I had met the criteria I was asked if I wanted to take part in peer support or consultations about using PHBs. I’m all for participating in things to help more people use a PHB so I agreed to be a contact.

Early February I was contacted by Skills for Care to review their online information for people who employ Personal Assistants and use a health budget. For participating they would pay me £15 an hour for around two hours of ‘work’ spread out over about 3 weeks.

I immediately said I was interested.

and so followed:

  • A 14 page participation policy
  • A 3 page form to detail how I found the online information I would review (the ‘work’)
  • A 4 page payment form to complete
  • A warning that I needed to seek benefit advice as a fee would be involved.
  • If I participate I become an Advisory Group Member.
  • A note to go to the HMRC website and fill out a employee checklist for tax and NI.

On that note, considering I am in receipt of benefits because I can’t work and all I wanted to do was provide a review of their PA resources, I’m out.

How can people participate when faced with all this. It’s too much. Too exhausting. 

If I do the above I could be viewed as looking to take up employment – I’m not, I just wanted to review a website over a period and time I am able to. People on benefits can receive participation fees, as long as it’s not a long term thing that would indicate they could work.  All of the above might suggest I am working. I’m not taking a chance on that.

 

 

The good disciple method of social care.

Summary

Drawing on parallels between early Christian/Jewish Disciples and current social care education settings. I explore the notion that teachers/educators/advocates place too much emphasis on reading, writing, publishing papers, attending conferences and web events …. to the detriment of good practice.I look at how to become a follower and put the ‘DO’ back into social work and personalised care.
Re written from an article I self-published in 2011.

Introduction

I was drawn to an article back on 2011  responding to a person who asked “Can we trust the message in the Gospels of Christianity”.  They were concerned that the biblical events were written down quite some time after they occurred. The reader wanted to know if they are truthful / accurate having being passed on by word of mouth initially.

 sermon on the mount
What surprised me was that the response to this article made me instantly think of how people learn and share information today – particularly within social care systems.
Throughout the early history of most cultures, information was passed on to generations of people through drawings, stories, dance, music, narrative, observation – long before written communication developed or became the main method or data preservation. People passed on skills through none written methods – and very effectively and accurately over thousands of years.
We might do well to relook at how  we learn and take it back out of the classroom and into real life.
I am going to highlight two of the parallels. 

It’s a cultural thing – we place heavy value on written works in the 21st century.

“Jesus never thought it important to scribble down a scroll of his greatest thoughts and leave them for posterity…. We live in a world where every leading thinker, teacher, politician … is in a desperate rush to record their views, insights and opinions for the benefit of the rest of humanity”. [Christianity Magazine: accessed 8 SEP 2010].

More often than not I was asked, as a social work educator/lecturer, to read and soak up every Green Paper, White Paper, policy document, book, journal article, news story / media article there was and condense it into a training session ‘to inform staff of the most important parts’ on some topic to do with social care.

I was asked to condense everything there is to know about Direct Payments or personal budgets into a few hours training time and spit out fully confident and knowledgable staff ready to convert those that live in the sin of dependency!

Social work students are told to read, read and read …. then listen, listen and listen again to lectures. Yes, placements occur – but they come with the burden of a whole stream of documentation and ‘writing it up’ or examining people on a well written essay. Those who are qualified are over burdened with forms and reports – spending less and less time actually visiting and getting to know and understand a clients situation.

We read and write ourselves to death. We Tweet, we blog, we Scope, we update our status and we think we are doing humanity a favour. We like to display our knowledge – our power. We like to think we are important and the more people who follow our blogs the more it boosts our ego? The more reTweets we get, followers whom we gather the more we show that we rub shoulders with the best? Is this networking or merely boosting our ego over and over again. I’ve seen a lot of ‘I shared it first’ syndrome and so many blogs are just a regurgitation of the same old thing – within social care information its no different.

We need to share information and learn from the best – but does our use of communication risk dragging us down and making us less productive or useful than ever?

I would rather a social worker who can DO rather than one who makes notes of every detail beyond the call of duty. Unnecessary details. Did my care plan really need to document I had 4 guinea pigs? Apparently it did.

We all know ‘form’ syndrome is not helpful. I would rather an adult service manager who demonstrates their management abilities other than to spend all day writing more sets of instructions to follow. I’d rather they acted on what they knew – and didn’t just pride themselves in being able to quote great chunks of disability theory at some higher level. Name dropping Finkelstein or Beresford during every conversation is not helpful – and I’ve known quite a few managers who have done this in the past.

Be a follower

The ancient way was for followers to have a relationship with their rabbi (and fellow learners) to do just that – follow every footstep, observe every practice.

“They watched their rabbi’s every move, noting how he acted, thought, responded in every given situation. They worked passionately to incorporate his actions and attitudes, as well as his words, into their lives. A disciple’s deepest desire was to follow their rabbi so closely that they would start to think, and act, just like him.”

We can take a lot from this. Social workers do not appear to get paired up with someone who is a good teacher – someone who is passionate and can show them what doing a good job looks like.  I saw new social workers who were being teamed up with others who were already tired and worn down to the ground. They barely had enough time to do their own work never mind support a new person. It’s that old expectation to hit the ground running – on your own.

Let’s look at personalisation, people have been given new jobs, new roles, new responsibilities and often a new place to work from (or working from the boot of a car). There is nobody to follow, learn from, observe because what they are being asked to do is like nothing they have ever done before. Social work and health care staff are left to rely on trying to fit in more reading or go to snapshot training events – and we wonder why personal budgets / health budgets are not happening for people.

Don’t just write about it – do it. There is no movement without ‘move’.

Christianity, like many other faiths, is a ‘living faith’. I always think it’s what you do on a daily basis that is important and not how many times you have read the Bible or been inside a Church. The way we live our lives is something that we can pass down to our children or be a role model for others – we are all teachers in that respect (for better or worse).

This passing down of knowledge, attitudes and behaviours is what occurred prior to the writing of the Gospels. The importance of passing down knowledge in many ways (song, dance, art, stories etc) can be found in many cultures whether it is how to prepare a ceremonial feast or skilling someone up to find food. You won’t find a twenty page policy on why the skill is needed, what the aim is, how to do it, who can do it, what not to do and a glossary of other notable texts to substantiate the document. What was important for a rabbi was:

“whether his apprentices had wrestled and engaged with his teaching on a personal level – did they really understand”. As opposed to whether they could recite chunks of text.

How true is that of social work? Many people recite the social model of disability but clearly have not understood it because of the resulting action or inaction? How many social work staff can recite ‘freedom, choice, control, flexibility, dignity’ in care yet fail on all accounts to make it a reality for disabled people?

It is all evidence that people have not successfully engaged with the ethos and practice of good social care. Staff are still refusing a disabled person who wants to spend their funding (personal budget) on going to a hairdresser – yet allow the same amount of money to be spent on a carer to wash the person’s hair at home because that is more ‘traditional’ or ‘familiar’. For those who can’t see their errors in thinking, throwing social care staff into a listen and learn environment or telling them to read something is not likely to work. They need to become a follower again. It’s uncomfortable, it strips you of your power – but it is needed. It is from this position that we build ourselves up just as the disciples did, to the point where we become the one who teachers the next generation and each other.

Learning to play computer games

So I grew up with a Vic 20, C64 and Amiga. If you’re around 40 you’ll know that this meant repetitive strain injury waggling the joystick like crazy to make Daley Thompson run for gold.  Several joysticks later ….

Back in those days, you used a few basic keyboard buttons or a simple joystick (up, down, left, right and ‘fire’).

I had a go at Gameboy games in my teens – a whole 6 buttons to control and played the odd game on the original Nintendo – which was around 8ish? That’s where my experiences ended. I went to Uni and games were pretty much not on my todo list.

 

Recently I started playing games again. Sims3 interested me so I played a lot of that – point and click, I could cope with that.  20 years later I look into it in more detail to see what I might like to play and OH MY GOODNESS. What the hell do all these buttons do? The screens gone all 3D, everything is trying to kill me, I don’t know which way I’m facing or which direction to go.  Oh and now I’m dead. Start again.

I’m playing games on Steam, watching lots of Ginx TV and YouTube. I haven’t a clue what I’m doing but I’ve enjoyed what I’ve played so far. I feel accomplished just loading a game (nothing changes in that respect if you’ve experienced tape loading before).

I like survival games and crafting – oh yes I didn’t really know what crafting was, in fact, none of the ‘types of games’ meant anything. I had to learn what ‘Sandbox’ mode was and ‘Open World’ games. Some of the games had so many menus just to start them! In my day you just hit the space bar and away you went. Now you’ve got to memorise 20 keyboard commands, programme a games controller and learn a whole load of abbreviations.

It took me 4 hours to work out what RMB was. Right Mouse Button apparently. It’s a whole new language.

So, now I’ve bought my first controller. I’ve gone for the Steam one because it is very programmable – and I will need that because I can’t use my fingers enough to press certain buttons. With this one I can just programme the buttons I can reach. I’m hoping it will be quite accessible.

This thing has about 22 buttons and a track pad. WHAT was I thinking! So far I managed to launch a game with it … but couldn’t figure out how to programme in my killer moves and ended up closing it before I even took  a step forward. I need to do a lot of reading and fiddling to get the hang of this. On the plus side, I can press the buttons in most places and it looks cool on my desk. Wish me luck.

 

 

 

 

 

A forgotten people HMD 2011

Archived  from my previous blog.

poster.jpg

I have picked this Untold story to share.  T4 is well documented – yet this programme designed specifically for the killing of thousands of disabled babies, infants and adults during the WWII is often untold or forgotten.

It is about those disabled people that were taken by bus into a beautiful historical building in Hadamar, Germany. It was a hospital. A place built to ‘care for the welfare of people’.  Disabled people were thought to be incapable of productive work (i.e. hard work) and this was the message given to the public in the papers and on film.  Work incapable disabled people were one of the first to go.  The treatment was the same for others with impairments,  for this place was a euthanasia centre.

” … make a clear promise to speak out against discrimination which judges some lives to be of less value than others today.”

[HMD 2011]

IMG_1410.jpg

Last year I went to Liberty Park in Overloon, Holland.

How far will we go to keep or win back our freedom?

It is here where visitors can look around the National War and Resistance Museum and Marshall Museum.   The park, the site of one of the heaviest tank battles, has a message – one that is relevant to each one of us today – freedom cannot be taken for granted.  It invites us to think about war and oppression. How far will we go to keep or win back our freedom? It was hard to make it into the door without choking  up.

I wondered about my own freedom and how much my life is valued?

As I write this I ponder over the current budget cuts that take away the liberating welfare support or health care disabled people rely on to survive.  In the UK it seems society values us less than ever before. Oppression and injustice is never far away. Whatever format it takes – it still damages lives and takes lives.

I read the exhibits, I looked at the photos of death, destruction, fear, hope and survival. I sat in the quiet, reflective memorial room. Where are the disabled people of Holland and elsewhere who were tortured and gassed, who is telling their story?  How many people have sat in this place and remembered our forgotten people?

Hidden stories

On the way round we saw the graphic images and videos of genocide to present day.  In Overloon they are not afraid to show it as it is.  It’s not for the faint hearted but worse not to look.

Life size photographs of children in their mother’s arms – both slumped on the street, dead from gas attacks in recent wars.  The video of survivors  with skin blown of their bodies getting help in the years after the Atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki.  These are the images that stick in our minds, that make us tearful.

 

DSCF4691.JPG

However, much injustice is out of sight.  Travelling around Holland, looking at pretty houses and out onto fields of flowers and parkland it is hard to imagine the stories that unfolded in those very buildings and fields.  It is a reminder that injustice and denial of freedoms and liberty is often disguised, going on unnoticed for far to long, in front of our eyes.

Sometimes we open our eyes and see it happening – yet people do nothing. People knew what happened in that hospital – few spoke out and fewer still did anything about it.

Do you speak out against inequality and discrimination against others?

Injustice is part of my history as a disabled person  – and relevant to my life today.

It is relevant to all of us today.

Holocaust.jpg

 

Never forget.

When I met genocide survivors

Meeting survivors of genocide – my blog for Holocaust Memorial Day 2012 has now moved to this page.

 

I have been reflecting again this week on why HMD is so important. I know, in a small way, how hurtful words can be. How powerful they can be – to make people live in fear or to give comfort and hope.

Please pledge to speak out against hatred and hurtful words – whether it’s cruel words on Twitter, Facebook, at work or spoken by people you work or live with.

20120127-091123.jpg

Visit HMD.org.uk


HMD 2012

The theme this year “asks us to think about the rights, responsibility and duty we all have to speak up when we see or hear something which we believe to be wrong. It challenges us to learn about what happens when we don’t speak out and what can happen when we do use our voice.”

First I read.

Then I watched.

After I cried.

Now in my weakness I am strong.

I am alive

I can and will speak out against the path to genocide.

When I met survivors of genocide

In 1988 I first learned about the Holocaust as a high school student. Genocide was something consigned to history, or so I thought  – but it wasn’t. The Guatemalan Civil War, the regime in Chile, the Lebanon massacre were to come.

Then came Rwanda – the second time I had heard the word genocide and the first time I had witnessed some of the most graphic news footage of the time.  About a year later Srebenica in Bosnia… and this is where my story starts.

Bosnian widows grieving at 11 July 2010 funeral.JPG

When I volunteered for the Red Cross, many of those fleeing Bosnia and surrounding countries were coming to the UK hidden in lorries etc. I would hear people complaining about asylum seekers and making it clear these people weren’t welcome. I was proud to be in an organisation which was world renowned for providing help based on the grounds of neutrality and in a none-judgemental way. I will never forget how my friends would be called out to set up beds and treat the wounded.

[Image, above, Bosnian women grieving]

People arrived with bullet holes in them, their families missing or dead. They arrived not knowing what would happen, fearful of whether they would be sent back to die.  They looked at my friend’s uniform bearing the Red Cross – a symbol of protection bringing the look of relief – Krissy Cross they said.  It didn’t take a translator to work out that comfort, food and some reassurance was going to be needed.

I got involved with a First Aid course for Albanian people, refugees, who were staying in the UK and spent long hours working with a translator I had to source. I went armed with all our handouts, but as it happened, they had very good English and a translator in attendance by that time and my efforts went unappreciated!  After all the terrible things, here was a sign of hope, a new life.

I feel angry that people in my community were speaking the language of hatred against these people, wanting to send them back where they came from.  It was the power of hurtful words, exclusion and stereotyping that had contributed to changing their life back home into one of terror and massacre in the first place – the first stage on the path that led to genocide.

I leave you with the following to contemplate.

*Resources from Holocaust Memorial Day Trust

“Many people consider tackling the issues of equality and fairness to be the province of anti-discrimination law, of advocacy groups, or of government, to be addressed by discrete, often marginal programmes of activity directed at particular groups. But the greatest impacts on the opportunities open to individuals are made by everyday decisions in every part of society, most of which apply equally to everyone.”

Equality and Human Rights Commission, 2010.

Review: Floating/submerged moss ball

Not all moss ball ‘kits’ are the same.  Let’s look at products from two eBay retailers (both importing from China).

  
These plastic domes are filled with a fine layer of aquatic moss to create either a floating or floor ball. Only a table spoon of moss is needed for each ball (no room for much more).

First up – from ‘plantsforyourtank’ – £4.49 plus postage.

I ordered the floor version. It comes with filled with small balls of fertiliser. I removed these (the golden rule of don’t put it in the tank if you don’t know what exactly it is).

The ball comes in 3 parts. A plastic mesh cover which has a spike to push this basket outer layer onto a preformed dome shape (and the hollow dome has a base which un screws). I replaced the fertiliser with larva rock fragments. It felt pretty heavy but I still had to anchor it in my tank as it floated.

It was easy to use and held together well.

  
 I ordered 2 more from ‘sseariver2009’ – in the floating version as I could get 2 for £4.99.

However, these were disappointing.

First of all, the picture showed the weights to be glass beads (inert and safe for tanks) [top of picture below]. They were actually metal engraved coins (bottom of the picture was my kit). I would never risk unknown metal of this nature in my tank). The plastic was poorly fitting and very difficult to put together. Overall, poor quality.

 
  
I will let you know how well they grow or if the moss just rots.

Beginner FAQ

  
Starting With Shrimp

The most common questions from new shrimp keepers – part 1.

FAQ Volume 1 – general

Q1. What do I need to keep shrimp?

That will depend on which type you keep. Each variety comes from different places around the world and have adapted to different conditions. Fresh water shrimp need to have these conditions replicated to thrive. Generally you will need:

  1. A tank – the bigger the better (easier to look after).
  2. Tap water that has been treated to remove chlorine/chloramine or ‘pure water’ eg rain/spring that you will add shrimp minerals to.
  3. A cycled tank
  4. Some plants/moss and substrate (gravel or  shrimp soil)
  5. All round shrimp food to give them all the nutrients they need.
  6. Heater or a cooler to maintain a stable temperature.

General care will include small water changes, feeding and glass cleaning (and possibly plant pruning).


Q2: Can you identify this shrimp.

It is not wise to put shrimp in any tank if you don’t know what type they are. There are many types of shrimp and each require different habitats and water conditions.  To place them in the wrong conditions could harm or kill them. 

Tip: If you don’t know what type it is, don’t buy it or take it from the wild. 

Q3.  I have a tank with fish, which shrimp should I get?

Firstly, find out what water conditions your fish live in. Shrimp can live with small, peaceful fish but consider these points:

  • Fish eat adult shrimp and love eating baby shrimp.
  • Shrimp will hide from fish so you might not see them for months at a time.
  • If the fish can fit the shrimp in their mouth they will eat them.
  • Tropical aquariums usually run at 25-28 degrees – shrimp prefer around 22-23 degree temperatures and will cook at around 30!
  • Shrimp water conditions should match what is also good for your fish.
  • Shrimp have a low tolerance to change in conditions and you won’t be able to treat fish illness with some medications as they can kill invertebrates.

Q4. My shrimp came in a sealed echo sphere/closed habitat but they are dying. What should I do.

Sealed units are usually a death trap and pretty cruel. Companies tell people they are self sustaining ecosystems – but they deprive shrimp of  natural behaviours, access to foraging, access to varied foods, deprive them from breeding behaviours and shorten their life considerably. It may be impossible to find out the exact breed of shrimp to know what conditions to keep them in (usually a salt water variety) to set up a proper tank. Inability to maintain an optimum temperature can be a killer – so you might want to see if this is the problem. It might be that an infection is present, not enough oxygen being made, ammonia build up from decaying organisms, lack of algae to eat. Sadly there is no way to help organisms in a sealed unit.

Some advanced keepers make their own sealed habitats but it’s not for beginners and I would argue, not good for shrimp welfare.

  
Q5. I put my cherry shrimp in my tank. They began to swim frantically then by the next morning most were dead. What went wrong?

Did you set up a drip to gradually get them used to their new water over 2-5 hours? If not then the cause could be stress. Other causes could be a tank with ammonia in the water or high concentrations of Copper or  chemicals. Did you put your hands in the water – residues of soap, detergent, creams etc can cause deaths.  Did you put them in spring/bottled/RO water without re-mineralising it?

A mass of shrimp deaths can cause an ammonia spike if left to decay and harm or kill the established residents.

Do a 50% water change, gradually lower the temperature to a stable 20-21 and remove all dead animals.

Q6. How big should my tank be?

If this is your first go at keeping shrimp, the general rule is the bigger the tank, the easier it will be. 28-35 litres is a good starter size.  You want this to be fun – not hard work!

Q7. Do I need a filter?

You will need a filter to house ‘good’ bacteria, circulate nutrients/minerals/oxygen and clean your water – a sponge one inside your tank or an external filter (with mesh over the intake pipe).

Q8. Do I need a heater or a cooler.

Shrimp do not tolerate changes in temperature and if your water gets above 26 they can struggle to survive. Above 30 degrees and they will cook. Equally, drops to below 20-23 and they will breed and swim less. So you will need to stabilise temperature. 

Q9. How often do I clean and feed them?

I only do extra water changes if my TDS has increased. Some people do a 20% or 50% change weekly! People have different opinions. For a shrimp only tank, I do 15% approximately every 6 weeks and feed as much as they can consume in 1-2 hours (all round shrimp food), every 2 days.

Making a new planted tank

  
Yesterday was an exciting day. After 3 months of buying all new stuff – the day to create my new fish tank had arrived.

I’m writing about how easy it was to do because it’s exactly the same whether you put fish or shrimp in it. I hope it might inspire you to care for a beautiful aquarium too!

Step one

Research what you need and get everything ready. Over the course of 3 months I bought:

  • 50 litre tank (Dennerle)
  • External filter (Eheim 150)
  • Scrapers soil (Dennerle)
  • 2 Lights (Leddy Smart Plant LED)
  • Heater (Tetra)
  • 1 unit to put the tank on.

The day before we connected up the filter and added an additional plug socket  in the wall. The empty aquarium had already been pre filled and emptied to check for leaks. The light and heater were added.

We had also collected 5 X 10 litre tubs of rainwater and filtered it through our home made filter station.

So this is how we looked the night before if you ignore the moist soil!

 

Step 2

On the day it took about 4 hrs to complete. We re -mineralised the rainwater and poured it into the soil until it started to pool. We then landscaped it – less at the front and higher into the back for perspective.

Step 3

Now for the fun bit. I already had wood planted up with a variety of plants that was in the fish tank. Basically I glued rhizome plants on the wood.  So that came out of the fish tank.

I also had some spare pieces of Dragon Stone (About Dragon Stone) and some green slate paddle stone from the outdoor pond. Paddle stone is slate which has been tumbled smooth to look like rock that has been washed by a river for decades. 

I washed it several times in a high vinegar to water ratio. This removed dust and tested for fizzing. If a rock fizzes when acid is poured on it this indicates carbonate is present which will increase pH. Vinegar isn’t a strong acid so it’s not the best test but the only thing I had to hand. It did fizz slightly so I will use with caution and check the pH. I can always take them out.

  
Next I took out masses of Pogostemon (See blog page About Pogostemon) from my shrimp tank. I also took out all their moss which had taken over and not stayed attached to any wood where I glued it!

 Now it was just a case of arranging it in the new tank.

I kept tall plants to the back (Pogostemon) wood plants in the front but away from touching the glass as much as possible. 

These are some overhead pictures before the water went in.

   
 
I also played around with some moss- more about that in another blog post.

Step 4

Next we added re-mineralised water very slowly so as to not disturb the soil or plants. 

 
About an hour later it was complete.

  
The filter was turned on, heater and thermometer used, spray bar adjusted and voilà! The filter is totally silent – superb. Plants have a good  sway to them and the water is crystal clear thanks to gentle pouring of water and polishing from added Purigen.

Bacteria were added, the soil has ammonia so just letting it cycle now for 4-6 weeks or until it’s balanced. Then it’s ready for aquatic animals.