Parents Not Spoken To Enough

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Having just watched BBC Oxford News to see the report on Connor Sparrowhawk’s death (manslaughter) I am overwhelmed at the thought of what it must be like to watch that as his Mum and Dad. No matter how seriously and gravely reported, it is still a news item for the day. Done and gone and finished for many viewers and so too it seems for Southern Health.

The headline that resonated particularly with me was ‘Parents not spoken to enough”.

This will not be an unfamiliar concept to many parents, whatever their story, who are united in trying to access health and social care for their children. Unfortunately it seems even more likely if your child has a learning disability and is going through the difficult transition into adulthood.

Through personal experience I know that to be treated like you are some incompetent fool is bad enough but for that attitude to lead to your family member becoming harmed is torturous.

I sat in many many meetings with gritted teeth and red hot cheeks as I was referred to as “mum” and my daughter discussed as if she were more known to the complete stranger considering her needs. The stranger who had not even seen a photograph of her let alone the many albums and films and artefacts that made up a full and rounded and joyful picture of what was her life and the family who loved her.

My daughter came to serious harm because I wasn’t listened to. In fact it was worse than that. I was observed, judged, assessed and written about in negative terms. After all what could be more difficult and outrageous for a professional manager than some pesky parent fighting for the safety of their child…..

The other blood boiling and potentially dangerous thing that happens is that your child is wrongly edited in assessments and reports. Only a parent knows the subtle nuances and messages in some children’s words and actions. It is the living with them year after year, loving them, caring for them, listening to them, knowing the non verbal cues that makes parents the experts. God only knows why we are not treated as such by professionals.

Connor would not have been put in grave danger and as a consequence die if his parents had been treated as the experts. They should have been talked to, listened to, respected, given the management responsibility over their sons care. And now that he has died Southern Health want Sara and her family to “move forward” and “move on”.

Of course now they will have to listen to the dreaded ” lessons have been learnt” get out clause statements which makes even the most unaffected member of the publics heart sink.

If they had learnt anything they wouldn’t use that phrase because they would know how jaded, hollow, crass and insulting it sounds.

They can’t learn because they can’t listen.

8 thoughts on “Parents Not Spoken To Enough

  1. Oh, absolutely!
    And there’s this scene, played out far too many times. Anonymous office. “Suit” sitting behind or beside desk, leans forward, as you take a breath having spilled your woes, and looks over the top of their glasses.

    “So what would you like us to do for you?”

  2. My mother a foster parent of over seventy children, was so often not spoken to enough! She rightly predicted ‘outcomes’ of decisions made at meetings by ‘EXPERTS and PROFESSIONALS! It still riles me today!

  3. I have been following this terrible and completely avoidable tragedy from afar for a while now and I couldn’t agree more with what you say here. As parents we are faced with a massive hurdle to overcome in that the powers that be genuinely seem to think that the state, the professionals and the experts are the ones that should be raising children, not the parents. I see this played out in all areas, for children of all ages and social/cultural backgrounds, but especially towards the poor and less well educated. Every effort is made to remove children from parents (not via social services, but by ever increasing childcare provision, longer school hours, etc, etc,) in the guise of helping parents when in fact we are merely disempowering them in regards to their own children and subtly shifting the balance towards the professionals and away from the parents. This is heightened as soon as there is any issue of special needs as the professionals seem to completely overwhelm the parents, especially as the child gets older. Parents are seen as part of the problem, to be assessed, dealt with and sidelined.

    When I started fostering I bought a house on a notorious council estate – it was the only way I could afford to provide the extra bedrooms I needed. Suddenly I found myself being treated like an idiot by professionals, including those from SS who were supposed to be dealing with me as a professional myself! I was patronised, preached to, offered services I didn’t need and that weren’t appropriate. It was amazing how attitudes would change when I mentioned that I used to be a teacher and had a masters’ degree. But we shouldn’t have to pull the ‘education card’ to get treated with respect!

    And yes, being called ‘mum’ repeatedly – very, very patronising. And breathtakingly inappropriate when it’s a LAC I’m not even their mum!

  4. Thanks for your comment. It’s such a shame that the judgement and patronising of parents and carers must often ignore a really good quality resource. Which also, very often, is a lot lot cheaper than the “experts” input.
    I too have found myself bringing up my previous professional experience which seems to make them even more defensive! X

  5. Living this all the time. We are only parents, what do we know? The professionals have many years of experience of children and young adults like this!!!!!! They have a degree or two on the subject and have looked at case studies and know which boxes to tick on their assessments.
    Perhaps enough sarcasm for one reply.

    We have verbally fought, argued and tried to educate every one of the many professionals we and our son are involved with and similar to this and many similar stories, have been lead the wrong way by the professionals. Why? because they “get to know” them once a month for a half hour session, close the file for another month and go home to their own lives. Parents live with their kids 24/7 not for half an hour a month.

    There was one session, I remember, with our son’s consultant psychiatrist, that really sums up the whole system. He had been explaining how he thought our son knew what he was doing and fully understood the consequences of his actions before, during and after a recent incident. I then was half way through replying, trying to explain how our son presents as understanding and knowing what he’s saying and doing, but scratch the surface and he understands very little, when the phone rang, telling the psychiatrist his next appointment had arrived. We were promptly rushed out of the room, as time was up for our session. I insisted I finish what I was saying, but I wasn’t being heard as he had “switched off” and merely commented that he would see us next month. I’m only a parent, what do I know?

    • Thanks Steve, that description of yours at the end sounds so familiar and so horrible. People wouldn’t believe it if they hadn’t been in that type of circumstances. It is so short sighted an attitude because not only can clients of social care be seriously harmed by misinformation and rubbish assessments, but also parents are a free resource. We can give lengthy and accurate assessments on our children for nothing! xx

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