21-12-20: The Journey So Far
The beginning of the year saw me get rid of Care Solutions Bureau ('CSB' hereafter), the care agency providing me with personal assistants who were, to list only a few things, unable to communicate with me, falling asleep whist I was on the toilet and abusive. The victory was not gained without a fight though. The agencies I liked from numerous of providers rated ‘Good’ by the Care Quality Commission that I interviewed were more expensive than the current arrangement. I needed to get permission from the local authority as a result. This process took several months, and, in that time, my care fiasco continued. The Director of CSB attempted to illegally withdraw services, which was only avoided because I was able to show that the contract between the agency and I required 3 weeks’ notice before cancelling my care. Similarly, the local authority told me that I had to show evidence that I had considered employing assistants directly. I could not prove I had done this despite the fact that I constantly reconsider the best options available to me, given that I engage with others in the disabled community with different approaches. I was only able to resolve dilemma by asking the local authority to explain under which regulations was this a requirement, as this caused a change in approach from the local authority. The request was now considered a misunderstanding, but I remain unconvinced.
The end result was that, at the start of the first coronavirus lockdown, I had escaped an awful situation in which I had suffered physically and mentally. The local authority ignored my complaints and concerns because 'they had not received complaints before'. Apparently, it had nothing to do with CSB being the authority's commissioned care provider. I genuinely believed that the worst assistance issues were behind me. So much so, I started working for my new provider, Serenity Integrated Care ('SIC') as Care and Business Development Manager.
I thought the role was one in which I could make a difference. I hoped that I could mould a care provider that would be a good option for those who are active in their lives. I enjoyed it for the first three months and made significant improvements. I changed the aims of the company to supporting independent living, renovated all the marketing materials, ran a user-led focus group, met new clients, prepared rotes, researched social care, wrote contracts and introduced the agency to local disabled people led organisations. All in a £8.75 an hour, part-time role.
I did get on well with everyone, but concerns had began to develop. I felt my own support was suffering because of my role. My superiors had become complacent and issues were arising. My team of PAs at this time included both the Director's son and her business partner, all of which were living together. They were arranging cover for each other in casual conversation and forgetting their arrangements. The cover was not being arrange properly and, ultimately, led to me being without care. Communication was generally poor and it is a miracle that I was not left without care more often. I was also concerned about being overcharged for services I had not received. I had a brief conversation with the Director's business partner about having one of their deep cleans. He asked me how much I would be willing to pay, but I do not like dictating costs so I told him to name his price and I would consider it. He said £35 and I agreed. Payment and service commencement was not discussed. The next week I was invoiced around £89 and no start date had been mentioned. The Director said they invoiced me for it because it was late at night and could not talk to me about it. She could not explain the £89. The clean, when it did happen, was poor and dust remained in the most obvious places. Chemicals were also left on my bathroom walls for days after. He even said that it should be removed to avoid stains but he still left it on the walls. That night my cat, Rio, was sick in the bathroom. I do not think that this was a coincidence. My shower also stopped working. He did come back to try fixing it though. I was also worried about how incidents with other clients were being handled. I was also frustrated with how recruitment often led to love interests and friends of the Director's son were given the job, regardless of suitability. I handed in my resignation on the 19th September and finished on the 20th September.
The Director's business partner, by this time, had become one of my primary PAs and care coordinator. He only gave one week's notice that he was leaving the UK on a business trip to Zambia on 5th October 2020 and chaos ensued. There was the urgent need to recruit two PAs to replace him. Recruitment was extended by another week because one successful candidate decided not to commit. I had to give time to help them interview and my care was disrupted. The Director became responsible for organising my care. She persistently delegates to her son, who is a bright, decent lad but he is only 18, untrained and would rather be doing more interesting things. I was without care at the proper times between October and Bar Course Civil Litigation exam at a frequency impossible to record, especially since it means I am desperate for the toilet and need to chase them up. I was left in too much discomfort for significant periods on at least 20 occasions.
The weekly invoices became the Director's responsibility and they are wrong a lot of the time. This led to led to incorrect and duplicate invoices for different amounts and time periods, which caused confusion for my payroll company. I had to spend time having them corrected. This intensified between the 23rd and 25th November when I had to spend two days going through every weekly invoice since March, seek and provide clarification from my payroll company and discover the cause of confusion at the care provider. This was not ideal with exams swiftly approaching.
There is now distrust on my part because I cannot believe that so much of these things are happening without intent. The issues became severely time consuming and frustrating to the point where, for the first time in my adult life, I entrusted my Nan to speak to the Director in an attempt to improve the situation. To summarise many long conversations, the Director continues to struggle to accept these things are happening and likes to talk about her experiences and qualifications. When I was working for them, I tried to move them away from frequent embellishment of truth, but it seems they have reverted. The new website now contains a phrase that I had discarded because it was not truthful. The website states:
'Over 25 years, we have developed a vast customer base in London and the surrounding areas. With the experience that we have acquired during our journey so far, we ensure that you will receive completely personalised care services that will meet all your requirements.'
The company has been going for 8 years, which is what I was told when in my role. The Companies House register declares incorporation on 18 December 2012. I am sure that the Director has not been involved in other care companies. She worked as a nurse and had a bakery business. Her business partner runs a cleaning company.
My invoices began to include unexpected charges. When I queried them, the Director said that it was because recruiting PAs to meet my specifications and training them was costing too much. I did not appreciate this because the statement was untrue. None of my PAs had completed training at this point so there was no such cost. Equally, the low staff retention rate was not linked to my specifications.
the only specifications I have are:
1. I feel more comfortable with male PAs. The Director even said to me that "women won't have men". I think it's fair to say men have an equal right to the same sex too. So much so, in jobs like care, the Equality Act allows for discrimination in such cases. My request is, therefore, nothing unusual.
2. They must be able to understand me. While I do have a speech impairment, I am understood by most people. I can refer to the fact that I speak professionally and have appeared in tribunals to assist my clients as evidence of this. I also engage with people in daily life. This should not be difficult to meet and is essential in ensuring safety and comfort.
3. They must be able to complete my care plan without causing stress in the time given. This is standard.
The first PA brought to me, Allen was sacked by SIC after he faked coronavirus symptoms to get a night off. The second one, left
the job for unknown reasons. The third person was not able to understand me. The fourth had a suspected mental breakdown and became unreliable. He also had issues with management. The fifth is the Director's son and is still with me. The sixth was the Director's business partner who went to Zambia. The seventh was initially considered by the business partner as inappropriate/ incompatible for me. Although I think he forgot about the conversation when he repackaged her as a fantastic option when he wanted to earn money elsewhere. I also had concerns about being uncomfortable with having a woman and that 2/3 of management at the time had worries about her handling of another client. Giving her to me a few days after was a worry as She was also unable to reach the cupboard where my cups and bowls are stored, which would have been an issue. Her small stature was also problem with manual handling given that I am much taller. I did not feel she would have been able to help me onto the toilet. The eighth is doing well. The ninth decided he did not want to come back for shadowing so SIC parted ways with him. I admit that I declined the third and seventh recruit. Given the reasons, I think I was correct in declining them. I think most people would agree that they probably should not have been allocated to me in the first place. The rest left voluntarily or because SIC sacked them, which is unrelated to my specifications.
There has been growing frustration as one PA is always on the phone or video call, which causes privacy issues with my personal care. It also gives him an excuse to work slowly and not get as much done.
For these reasons, I need to find a better option. I think employing my own PAs is the answer. I hope you will join me on my journey and provide support.