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Archive for the ‘problematic behaviour’ Category

Listening to BBC Radio 2’s Jeremy Vine show yesterday left me feeling deflated.

In a debate about the archaic cliché “the deserving and undeserving poor” the overwhelming message coming back from callers and interviewees seems to be that we should stop giving out state benefits to those who are not deemed to be deserving of them, i.e. those who do not actively try to secure work, those who have ‘too many’ children, those with addictions and endemic social problems. 

One particular caller spoke of her belief that the children of these so-called undeserving poor were not at fault for their situation and therefore should not be deprived of the benefits afforded to their parents to care for them.   This was met by a counter argument that this was not the way to support these children…but not followed up with any productive suggestion of how the state should intervene to support them and break the cycle of poverty and benefit dependence. 

What struck me throughout this debate was people’s inability to make the link between the children in question who are often lacking in balanced diet, education and opportunities; the “deserving poor”, and the adults being described as “undeserving”.  These deserving children are the undeserving adults of tomorrow and I can’t help but wonder when and how exactly these callers and politicians will nail down the transition from one to the other?   Taking benefits away from this group of people is not going to miraculously fix society’s ills, but rather exacerbate them.   So long as we live in a society that seeks to deprive those without skills, opportunities and education, there is always going to be a need for the support workers in organisations such as Simon On The Streets.   It will be a fantastic day when there is no need for our service!

Helen, Simon on the Streets

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Today “The House of Lords science and technology committee said ministers seemed to be mistaken in their use of what is known as the nudge theory.”  ( http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-14187802 ) Nudge theory is the idea that changes are made to the social and physical environment without legislation that encourage (or discourage) specific behaviour. One example of this would be for fast food restaurants to have salad rather than chips as the default side order.

The committee made the point that a balance of approaches should be used rather than relying solely on ‘nudging’ people.  This seems a blindingly obvious ‘finding’ for anyone who has worked personally or professionally around changing problematic behaviours.  Perhaps this is more about where power and influence truly lies rather than personal perspectives on what is a sensible approach. 

My point here is there is already a very well balanced set of approaches to something like illicit drug use where the agenda is quite simple.  The problems with balanced approaches and the use of legislation become far more complicated when things like minimum prices for alcohol and supermarket food labelling are on the agenda.  The challenge with the use of legislation here is that some influential organisations and individuals might lose money; suddenly there is apprehension about moving forward.

It’s great to see all the ‘courageous’ stands by politicians about ‘the press’ in light of the News of the World scandal.  But it seems unlikely that the same courage is going to follow through into other areas.

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The Children’s Society yesterday reported on the numbers of pre-teen runaways increasing (link below) and the risks that these young people face once they have fled their home or care. The report noted that a child runs away from home every five minutes in the UK and one in three of these will go unreported.

As a society we seem easily able to understand the impact that this type of thing has on children and how unacceptable it is that they are left in such a vulnerable position. The report also said:

“Agencies are unaware of the scale and nature of the problem and often fail to see runaways as children in need. Yet the report reveals that a quarter of them are forced to leave, often fleeing violence, abuse and chaos at home.”

For us we know these young people who miss out on a good start in life and then slip through the net of services all too often end up as adults with some fairly challenging support needs. The tough bit for us to swallow is when these people aren’t children anymore ‘as a society’ we seem to think differently. But they are the same people with the same traumatic pasts, they simply can’t be seen as ‘helpless’ anymore even though they are officially vulnerable adults.

A few hundred years ago these people were known as ‘sturdy beggars’, and were punished for begging when they were physically able to work. Today society is still obsessed with people’s physical ability to work and blames ‘choices’ to become drug or alcohol dependent adults or their irrational and problematic behaviour as the reason for their situation. As the above shows we have to get away from the physical and have more capacity to work with the emotional and psychological state if people in this situation are to find a way to reach their own potential.

http://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/news-views/press-release/report-worrying-new-trends-increasing-pre-teen-and-male-runaways

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Jon, one of our support workers shares the experiences of a day ‘at the office’ in Huddersfield:

As I was walking down to the Mission to meet Tim I bumped in to Julie who I have been doing some short term work with regarding her abusive relationship and domestic violence. She had blood on her coat and clothes and what appeared to be a cut on the side of her head. I spent some time talking to her and tried to get her to either go to the doctors’ or to let me call her an ambulance due to the fact she had a head injury. She refused to go seek any medical help and insisted she was fine. While talking to her she informed me that she had been stabbed in the leg with a screwdriver repeatedly and had been attacked by her husband but she still refused to see a Dr or to have an ambulance called.

As I had an appointment to go to and I could not get anywhere with Julie and she insisted on staying in the park I went to meet Alan. I managed to book him an appointment at the Doctors’ in order to talk to the Dr about his mental health and the options available to him for treatment. While waiting for the appointment we managed to phone and restart a benefits claim for him and he is now just waiting for the statement to be posted ou.

I also called the addiction service for Alan to talk to his worker there about his community order. When I managed to talk to his worker there she told me that he had not been engaging, as we knew, and that all efforts on their part from home visits and outreach that they had been unable to re establish contact. His worker was keen to help me to help Alan re engage with herself, his
CPN and probation and gave me the names and contact details of his probation officer and his CPN. On contacting these I managed to establish that Alan has been discharged from the mental health team due to non engagement, however they are willing to re asses him if the need arises. I was also told by probation that if Alan re engages with either the addiction service or probation or both them he would not be in breach of his community order and they could work to sort things out for him. I made an appointment for Alan at Lifeline tomorrow at 10am, his worker agreed to contact me to let me know if he did or did not attend so that we can discuss ways to help him to engage.

At the doctor’s appointment Alan was told that he needed to start re engaging with the addiction service as his short to medium term problems were best addressed by them and that once engaging with them more medium and long term solutions could be considered for his mental health. Alan gave the doctors’ permission to share his information with me and to contact him through me. From this I learned that when Alan was discharged from hospital his assessment was that there were no mental or psychological needs and that he was not in need of any medication. I am not sure if this diagnosis/assessment is still accurate as Alan talks about hearing voices and has told me he is a paranoid schizophrenic. He does exhibit signs of increasing paranoia and has been very agitated since the passing of a friend of his.

Later on when I went back to the mission I was told that an ambulance had been called for Julie as she was looking to be very sleepy and people were worried about her injuries. I talked with the paramedics and because she refused to be taken to hospital there was little they could do except to inform us of the signs to be aware of with head trauma. After this Julie wanted to go to a housing appointment we had booked previously and so we went up and presented at housing.

Initially they processed the application as a domestic violence application but after going through the interview and checking details the only places they could offer were in Keighley or Rotheram, neither of which Julie wanted to go to for differing reasons. As she had been sleeping rough for 2 nights we managed to go down the rough sleeper process rather than domestic violence. Once this was done they found her some temporary accommodation in until such a time as they can give her a temporary flat.   Julie was over the moon with this and was very thankful that I had managed to get her somewhere to stay and said that although she still felt scared she did feel safer. I called into the mission with her on the way back in order to make a referral for clothes as the only ones she had were the ones she was wearing and they were all covered in blood. Julie appeared to be ok when I left but I’m still worried and will catch up with her again as soon as I can.

 Jon, Support Worker

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Our support worker in Bradford, Mat, who is new to us and quite new to our service user group is asking some great questions!  For instance yesterday he spent a few hours trying to support a guy to get some housing who had just been evicted from a hostel.  As always with our service users things are never straight forward and there is probably more to learn, but the reason for his eviction (or at least a contributing factor) is to do with him either having alcohol or consuming alcohol on the premises.

The challenge for Mat is that the guy only moved into this hostel about a week ago.  He has a massive alcohol problem.  So Mat’s questions are why was this person referred to and housed by a hostel that has such strict rules about alcohol on the premises.  The job in hand today should have been done a week ago and without the challenge of a recent eviction making supported housing providers nervous about this guy’s behaviour.  We’re confident that he’s no angel, but if square pegs are forced into round holes something has to break and it’s usually the vulnerable that come off worse.

My worry is that we live in a society where it’s all too easy to point at people like our service users and say ‘it’s your own fault, you should behave properly’ but when you consider this not unfamiliar story of how someone was set up to fail maybe the fingers that are pointing need to take a u-turn!

Clive

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One of the volunteers and I were walking through the centre of Leeds last night on our way up to the soup-run when we spotted a couple of guys who we had seen at the soup-run a few weeks before.  We didn’t really know them but had had a quick chat with them.  As we passed them in the street we both said hello to them.  They eyed us very suspiciously and then one asked us, “are you cops?”  After a bit of explaining they remembered us from previously and joked about the mistake.

 

As we walked away we realised that one of the reasons that we choose to do this work, and that it needs to be done, is that for these guys the only people who tend to take any kind of an interest in them are police officers.  Hence when someone they don’t know says hello; they presume you are a cop!

Clive

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If you would like to help Simon on the Streets support homeless people in Leeds, Bradford, Huddersfield please check this link to make a donation or here if you would be interested in volunteering

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