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Joe Kelly's Blog - disability arts online
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Joe Kelly on The Blame Game / 14 August 2013

Few, if any, people in public life take responsibly any more. Nobody resigns, falls on their sword or does the decent thing. The Lloyd’s motto: ‘my word is my bond’ should be a proverb for public life.

In recent years many have fallen from grace including expense frauding MP’s, hacking journalists, paedophile priests, dodgy bankers, under achieving NHS executives, the metropolitan police and some BBC disc jockeys. Perhaps there are even more scurrying for the exit.

While others maintain a nervous silence the finger of blame is pointed at the shirkers. Those that receive state benefit. The unemployed, the disabled the old and infirm. My group the disabled or more accurately the mental health service users are doubly stigmatised. Being already stigmatised for our health problem. We are easy meat for the mean spirited predator.

Personally I would willingly to take the blame on the chin if I felt I were responsible. However I think the blame lies elsewhere further up the food chain with the authorities and organs of power. In contrast with PM David Cameron’s words: ‘The NHS is safe in our hands’ – we’ve recently seen the West London Mental Health Trust close the John Conolly Unit, now awaiting demolition, previously upgraded with a £6 million refit housing 120 beds. As I write two women’s wards are closing in the main St Bernard’s wing. Two day centres have already gone. Not to mention the threat to A+E.

Mental health service users are an easy group to marshal, and easy to prey upon. Not highly organized, we are sitting ducks. It would be hard to find a group in society with less power and influence. Surprisingly service users play no part in the commissioning of services and service users play no part in the decision making of the service. We play a small role in a feedback process called ‘User Involvement.’ By modern standards a very tokenistic  process.

Mental health services generally have been very apathetic, and not particularly good at rehabilitating people back to work. I think the figures are about 20% of their intake. Not a difficult group to blame or pass the buck upon.

Looking closely at the WLMH trust and the chain of command, one Doctor recently had three suicides on his watch, yet retired with a full pension. A poor Care Quality Commission [another public body under performing] report a few years ago also included numerous suicides in the forensic section. There was some reform in the pipeline, but too little, too late.

I would like to defend the dignity of Disabled People, and in particular mental health service users, against this nasty blame culture. Mental health Service Users/Survivors are not intrinsically a separate group we are indeed from every part of the community, every race, every religion from Smith to Lord Roseberry. What goes around comes around. Today your neighbour, tomorrow you.

‘The buck ends here’ was the slogan of President Harry Wilson in the USA but where does it end in the UK I ask?