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What a difference a year makes? #JusticeforLB

It’s now 74 days since the spectacular finale of the #107days campaign, 439 days since LB died, preventably in STATT.

Progress towards #JusticeforLB continues at a pace, in the last week alone we’ve unveiled the beautiful LB Justice Quilt, and yesterday we launched the LB Bill website. All this in addition to the other actions documented in our earlier post about maintaining momentum. Quite a lot of action for an entirely volunteer campaign figured headed by a family in the worst situation imaginable. So yesterday Sara and I were talking about how much has been achieved since the end of the #107days, in those 74 days.

Contrast that progress with the progress made in STATT in the 74 days that immediately followed LB’s death. Over to Sara:

Apologies for the somewhat ironic title for this post. A year ago this week, the CQC went into the Slade House site (which included the STATT unit) and did an inspection that (at last) made visible the level of disfunction/malaise/failure that characterised provision there.

A marker of how bad it was, LB’s death hadn’t sparked any apparent consideration around whether or not there might be issues around the quality of care provided. Nothing, in 74 days after the worse outcome of ‘care’ imaginable, no action, no change, no improvement.

The CQC inspection team pitched up for a routine inspection and did their job.

The full horror of what the team found can be read here. It’s a deeply sad, harrowing, unbelievable and enraging read. And was followed by similar failures at other provision in Oxfordshire.

Here in the justice shed we try to remain positive and optimistic so, in the spirit of 107 days of action, we raise a cuppa to the CQC and effective inspection of health and social care provision.
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It is impossible to know, but our suspicion is that without CQC conducting routine inspections, issuing enforcement action and continuing to monitor the ‘progress’ at Southern Health, it is a very real possibility that STATT could still be open. The inevitable outcome of that is too much to imagine.

We have a long old road to get #JusticeforLB, but there are inklings that in small ways we may already be improving things for other dudes. So, as ever, thanks for all your support. Huge thanks also to CQC, for doing their job, but doing it with care, compassion and attention to detail, something the evidence suggest were rare commodities around STATT.

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Making LB’s Justice Quilt #JusticeforLB

We’ve a guest post today from Janet Read to coincide with the launching of the amazing quilt that emerged from #107days.

I’ve just seen a photograph on Twitter of George Julian taking LB’s Justice Quilt to the Lancaster conference where it will see the light of day in public for the very first time. If you were travelling north by train today and saw someone carrying a very large multi-coloured sausage, it was probably George.

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This reminded me that I’d better get a move-on with the post I promised Sara I’d write about the making of the quilt. I started it the other day but I was feeling a bit inhibited and it all turned out rather stodgy and boring. And the quilt (and the process of making it) is about as far from stodgy and boring as it’s possible to get.

The inhibition came from feeling that it’s hard to write honestly about something I’d had a hand in making, without fretting about looking as if I’m blowing my own trumpet. The thing is, there’s no getting away from the fact that I think the quilt is bloody marvelous and so do the other makers, Janis Firminger, Margaret Taylor and Jean Draper. It ‘s everything we hoped it would be and much, much more besides. It’s given us immense joy every time we’ve worked on it, looked at it and talked about it. We’ve been incredibly moved by it, too. But of course, the whole point is that it wasn’t really down to us at all. The main reason for its magic is that a whole bunch of you people who care about what happened to Connor and who want to change things for other dudes, rose to the occasion and set to. We said that we wanted to make something that reflected the campaign and its mood and energy. Well, you outsider artists sure didn’t need telling twice! The pieces that you sent us to work with were more arresting, inventive, moving, angry, irreverent, colourful, thoughtful, beautiful, affectionate and informed than anything we could have hoped for. They came embroidered, appliqued, crayoned, painted, felt-tipped, crocheted and knitted. They sometimes arrived with apologetic notes saying you hoped they were good enough. Good enough? Yes! Yes! Yes! More than! Every single one!

At the beginning, only Janis, Margaret and I were involved. We consulted Sara and George, did the post, asked people to take part and waited. Would anyone respond and if so, how many? We had no idea. We told ourselves that small could be beautiful but to be honest, ‘LB’s Justice Tea towel’ might have felt a bit of an anti-climax. On the other hand, where would Sara keep something the size of a football pitch? Then the contributions started coming in thick and fast– the patches and the gifts of thread and fabrics. I got the best job of opening the post and keeping tabs on what we’d had. It was so exciting. Apart from the individual contributions, we had the workshop at Cardiff Law School which Lucy Series wrote about on 107 days and the Messy Church in Kent organized by Beckie Whelton, also recorded on 107 days. I didn’t know what Messy Church was but I do now. I can tell you it sounds a whole lot more fun than the Sunday School I went to!

Shortly into the project, Janis, Marg and I found ourselves needing some help. Confession time now: we three are stitchers but we’d never made a quilt before in our lives! Sorry. I can almost hear a sharp intake of breath from all the proper quilters out there because they know better than most that The Great British Bake Off doesn’t have the monopoly on THE TECHNICAL CHALLENGE. So, we asked for a leg up from my big sister Jean whose day job is art textiles and who knows a thing or two about quilting and all sorts of other stuff involving fabric and thread. She loved the idea of the project and was busy stitching patches. After being bombarded daily with beginners’ quilting questions, she offered to join in.

One of the best times (and there were many good ones) was the very first time that we laid out all the patches in the same place. When we stood in front of this vivid mass covering my dining room floor, it took our breath away. We knew quite simply that we had something very special to work with.

And that’s about the top and bottom of it really. The end of May was close of play for contributions but of course, they came in for a while after that. What else would we have expected from a load of stitching rule-breakers? The patches came in all shapes and sizes, too, and were probably the better for it -though I did threaten at one stage, to stitch a patch that said’ Social justice activists can’t measure 4X6 inches’. When all the patches were in, we put the rather complicated jigsaw together ,and spent the summer machining, quilting and hand-stitching The People’s Art Work , as we sometimes called it. The final stitch went in a week ago.

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I don’t know how many patches there are because every time I started counting, I was distracted by something that I’d not looked at properly before. Living with the quilt has been a pleasure, and running our hands and eyes over your lovely work for the past three months has been an unforgettable experience. We’ve handled it nearly every day and that means that scarcely a day has gone by without our thoughts turning to Connor, his family and the other dudes. We’ve talked about them a lot too. We hope that the quilt will have the same effect on other people when they stand in front of it. Someone asked me last week when we were doing another one and the reply was that we’re not. LB’s Justice Quilt is a one-off for Connor, the dudes, Sara and her family.

Our heartfelt thanks, then, to all you patch-makers, protest stitchers and outsider artists. It ‘s truly brilliant that you created so many strong and beautiful fragments of resistance in response to something so terrible. What gifts you gave!

We couldn’t publish this post without acknowledging ourselves the absolutely phenomenal beauty of the Justice Quilt. There is so much love stitched into the quilt, which somehow perfectly captures the crowdsourced magic of the #107days campaign. The quilt would have certainly been a pile of patches if it wasn’t for the extreme dedication of Janet, Janis, Margaret and Jean, and we will be forever grateful to them for their work.

The quilt is officially being ‘launched’ at the #CEDR14 conference today (10 September 2014) and we will be looking for a number of venues to host the quilt over the next year. Given how delicate it is we don’t want it travelling every week so we’ll be looking for venues that can display the quilt, while also protecting it. If you have contacts in venues, organisations, galleries etc then feel free to leave a comment, drop us a tweet @JusticeforLB or send us an email with your suggestion and we’ll collect them in and make a touring plan. We are really keen that as many people get to see the quilt as possible, so we’ll keep you all posted on these plans.

Thank you to all our patchers, your contribution to bringing JusticeforLB and all young dudes is stitched into the fabric of this campaign.

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Maintaining momentum after #107days

A month now already since the ‘end’ of #107days and we’re delighted that the momentum continues. With little/no effort from those of us in the #107days shed (which is lucky as the shed has been largely empty for the past four weeks). So here’s a taste of some of the post #107days actions… in no particular order:

Chrissie Rogers (and Eamonn) ran the British 10k London Run in LB’s name with remarkable cheer and good humour. Wonderful to see the photos.
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Continuing on a running note, Natasha @notsurejustyet is celebrating her 40th birthday shortly and has decided to mark it by running a 10k race to fundraise for LB’s Fighting Fund and SNAAP.

In another one of those remarkable coincidences or happenings that have sprinkled magic dust over this campaign, we received the following message and photo on our facebook page:
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We are very grateful to all these healthy fundraisers.

Away from the exercise track, My Life My Choice held their monthly Sting Ray night club evening in LB’s memory with a raffle and ticket sales for the fund and LB’s favourite songs on the playlist. It was a brilliant evening with punters from across Oxford dancing their socks off all night. Amy Simmons wrote a wonderful and moving song titled Laughing Boy:

How could the world keep spinning?

Why does this house no longer feel like home?

Who are you to judge the value of his life, claim the cost is far too high?

Deciding who should live or die?

I no longer feel like smiling,

I’m surrounded by friends, but still I feel alone.

His life was never yours to take! My heart was never yours to break!

The choice was never yours to make!

I will not lay down my sword, for the world can ill afford,

To grow war weary, tired or bored, I cannot go back on my word.

For the battle must rage on, until the battle has been won,

Until justice has been done, for a life that’s been and gone…

Nothing lasts forever,

But eighteen years is hardly time at all.

I fight because I have to, there’s no happy ever after,

My world no longer filled with laughter.

My world no longer filled with joy…

Laugh on, laughing boy.

In other fundraising news, Pru has created chocolate buses for sale at her online chocolate shop and is selling them for £1.07 plus P&P, with proceeds to the fund.
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Other edible fundraisers included a cake sale by Rosa, Ruby and friends:

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…..before the flag was washed and Dan Goodley and Katherine Runswick-Cole continued the global march of the LB flag.

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As Katherine emailed ‘Just to say that the response to #JusticeforLB was amazing in Melbourne and Singapore and it was so exciting for us to watch the #LBBill emerging on twitter while we’ve been away’.
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Over the last month, awareness raising has also continued at a pace. Chris and Becky were tweeting from the IASSID Conference in Vienna and Max presented on #JusticeforLB at the #PDXGathering in Portland.

Closer to home #JusticeforLB was introduced to the JSWEC audience by a number of supporters including Hannah, Liz and Jo.
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Jackie also worked her magic on the Social Care Curry punters and arranged a donation for #JusticeforLB.

Sue Bott, of Disability Rights UK also raised the experience of LB through our amazing animation, with those at their Independent Living conference #ILVision

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LB made it into Hansard, a significant and heart breaking milestone:
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In other news, we are submitting a chapter about #107days and #JusticeforLB to a new edited book about social media and disability published by Ashgate. Animated and committed discussions are happening around the development of a Private Members Bill (currently ‘nicknamed’ the ‘LBBill’) to ensure that people have the right to live in their own home (an idea extraordinary with its simplicity). A facebook group has been set up to capture early discussions around this.

Finally, the Justice Quilt is being finished by the magical team of stitchers led by Janet Read and rumours are, it will be launched at the forthcoming Disability Studies Conference (9-11th September at Lancaster University) before being displayed at three other UK destinations across the next 12 months, yet to be decided.

So, as you can see any hopes of #JusticeforLB becoming quieter or less visible post #107days are entirely unfounded. Thank you all for your continued support.

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Progress towards #JusticeforLB in #107days

When we set out on #107days we weren’t really sure what shape the campaign would take. We thought we’d aim for an action, thought or reflection each day, but we never in our wildest dreams expected the degree of engagement, passion and conviction that emerged in the name of getting #JusticeforLB and all dudes. On Friday, the final day of the #107days campaign, and the first anniversary of Connor’s death, the most remarkable thing happened. The support and engagement and love was visible for all to see, as person after person changed their profile picture on twitter or facebook. This is what Sara had to say about it:

Friday was a day I dreaded with every bit of my being. When I woke, very early, I was surprised to see that overnight, people had begun to change their photos on twitter. Some couldn’t wait till the day. Rich and I went to the cemetery. We bickered on the way there about nonsense really, both stressed/distressed beyond words. The woodland section was beautiful and the cemetery was alive with rabbits, birds and insects. We lit a candle and placed it carefully among the long grass. Next to the buses and model policeman.

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We had our usual ‘how.can.he.be.dead?’ looping discussion. Thinking about how, that time a year ago, he was still alive, looking forward to the Oxford Bus Company trip. How his death could have so easily, so fucking easily, have been prevented.

An hour or so after we got home, people started calling in and we spent the rest of the day, till the early hours of Saturday, hanging out, chatting, drinking and eating with family and friends. A couple of times during the day I had a quick peek at twitter/facebook and was astonished at the sea of black and white pics of LB. It was absolutely brilliant and so incredibly moving.

The next morning, I lay in bed reading through all the tweets. Hundreds of people. Stepping up in solidarity with the quirky guy who should still be here. Wow. I thought. Scrolling down and down. Wow. Wow. Wow. When I got to Divine Comedy, I couldn’t help laughing. Absolute genius. And the most brilliant timing.

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#107days has been outstanding. And hopefully transformative.

Friday was the busiest day on the blog since it started, gathering 7,226 of our total 63,497 views. This post isn’t going to recap on all of the contributions to #107days, we will do that at some point but not yet. Instead we thought it would be good to share the image below… see how far #JusticeforLB has travelled, in the first 100 or so days. We’ve had 63k blog hits since this blog was established 113 days ago, an average of 550 hits a day, and we’ve reached more than half the world.

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We also thought we should update people on the progress made so far to getting #JusticeforLB. At the start of the campaign we were explicit about what justice looked like, so going above and beyond in an attempt to engage the NHS, we’re using a performance dashboard to update on progress!! You never know we may write our very own robust action plan next. Anyhow, I digress. What follows is what #JusticeforLB looks like, progress so far, and an assessment of performance:

For LB

Staff, as appropriate, to be referred to their relevant regulatory bodies:
>> Waiting to hear what is happening from Southern Health: RED

A corporate manslaughter prosecution brought against the trust:
>> The Police investigation is ongoing: YELLOW

Meaningful involvement at the inquest, and any future investigations into LB’s death, so we can see the Trust and staff account for their actions in public:
>> No progress on the Inquest yet, pending the Police investigation. NHS England have been very open, and have fully involved the family at every stage in commissioning the pending Serious Case Review. The family will also choose one of two lay representatives on the SCR Board: GREEN 

For Southern Health and the local authority

Explanation from the CCG/LA about how they could commission such poor services:
>> Response One + Response Two = No progress: RED

Reassurance about how they will ensure this cannot happen again:
>> Meeting on 16 May with reassurances given that contracts are being looked at, but no confidence gained that it wouldn’t happen again: RED

An independent investigation into the other ‘natural cause’ deaths in Southern Health learning disability and mental health provision over the past 10 years:
>> An investigation has been commissioned by NHS England to look at all unexpected deaths since Southern Health came into being in April 2011: GREEN

>> Terms of reference yet to be agreed or communicated and there are concerns that the Southern Health Board Minutes present an alternative picture to that which the family were led to believe by NHS England: RED

For all the young dudes

A change in the law so that every unexpected death in a ‘secure’ (loose definition) or locked unit automatically is investigated independently:
>> No Progress: RED

Inspection/regulation: It shouldn’t take catastrophic events to bring appalling professional behaviour to light. There is something about the ‘hiddenness’ of terrible practices that happen in full view of health and social care professionals. Both Winterbourne and STATT had external professionals in and out. LB died and a team were instantly sent in to investigate and yet nothing amiss was noticed. Improved CQC inspections could help to change this, but a critical lens is needed to examine what ‘(un)acceptable’ practice looks like for dudes like LB:
>> There appears to remain a gap in understanding ‘what good looks like’, or in implementing what is already known. It greatly concerns us however that the body appointed to address this very matter, Winterbourne JIP, appears to fail to make any real progress. We were surprised that they chose to not engage with the #107days campaign, especially given the pertinence to their remit and the widespread support from key stakeholders: RED

Prevention of the misuse/appropriation of the mental capacity act as a tool to distance families and isolate young dudes:
>> Lucy Series blogged about this issue on Day 32 and also blogged on her own website when the Government responded to the recommendations of the House of Lords Select Committee on the Mental Capacity Act 2005.

>> It also came up on the webchat with Steve Broach on Day 103. Steve said this:

The most recent Supreme Court decision to directly impact on disabled young people is the Cheshire West case, which radically increases the number of disabled people whose placements involve a deprivation of liberty requiring justification to avoid a breach of their human rights – see the judgement here.

So in summary we’re confident of progress: GREEN

An effective demonstration by the NHS to making provision for learning disabled people a complete and integral part of the health and care services provided rather than add on, ad hoc and (easily ignored) specialist provision:
>> No progress. RED

Proper informed debate about the status of learning disabled adults as full citizens in the UK, involving and led by learning disabled people and their families, and what this means in terms of service provision in the widest sense and the visibility of this group as part of ‘mainstream’ society:
>> This is where you guys come in. We were blown away by the engagement with the #107days campaign which showed a version of collaboration and co-production that the social care textbooks could only dream of. LB and dudes were central, always central, there was no hierarchy, fancy job titles, pay packets, pecking order, communications strategy, spin or fact-finding visits. You stepped up, you debated and contributed, you made suggestion and led by example, and through it all ego never entered the arena. Most of all you gave us, and each other, hope. Hope for a better, brighter, alternative future. This is what Mark Neary had to say:

It has been a very moving 107 days but yesterday was quite phenomenal, with so many people recognizing the importance of the campaign. I do feel hope. In the last couple of weeks we’ve had several of the great and the good wringing their hands and declaring that they are at a loss about what to do about ATUs and the future of the people trapped in them. The Winterbourne JIP has failed to bring about any meaningful change. Norman Lamb says the right words but admits he has hit a brick wall. This week I was invited onto BBC Radio London to discuss adult social care and one of the leaders from ADASS was on, also confessing his fears of the future. Its looking like these people can’t do it. I’m not sure the will is there. Perhaps the system can’t be changed from within the system. Perhaps it will be movements like #JusticeforLB that change the social care world. The will, the passion, the energy, the humanity is there. I think we have to stop waiting for the leaders and the social care world to show its humanity. It ain’t going to happen. Apart from some isolated (albeit powerful) examples, I don’t see any drive from within social care to truly serve the people they are meant to be serving. Service is dead. The drive, the humanity is coming from the families, ordinary people and the legal world. Coming together makes us very powerful – we’ve already seen lots of examples of the system feeling very threatened by that power. Good. This isn’t the time for observing niceties. This is the time for action. I’m sick to death hearing about culture changes being needed. Sod organizational cultures – let’s start applying the law. The human rights act. The mental capacity act. If your culture means you can’t apply the law, in fact you break you law, then you’re not fit to do your job. Let someone else take charge.

So we’re giving this performance marker a big fat GREEN.

This gives us the following summary of confidence in performance:

DashboardRed 7 indicators RED: 2 Southern Health, 1 NHS England, 2 CCG/LA, 1 Winterbourne JIP, 1 unclear

DashboardYellow1 indicator YELLOW: Police

DashboardGreen4 indicators GREEN: 2 NHS England, 1 unclear, 1 JusticeforLB’ers

Each and every one of you who have contributed to the #107days campaign has inspired us, and renewed our hope, that there is a better way and it’s in our grasp. We aren’t waiting for anyone’s permission to shape it either. For those who have been asking #107days is over for 2014, but #JusticeforLB has only just begun. We will continue to update this blog, twitter and facebook, from time to time, and while the days of action have completed, you are welcome to continue to use the blogs to debate and discuss things. In the words of Mark Neary:

Pulling this post together, I guess I’m hopeful for the future for Steven, and for social care because the #justiceforlb campaign showed that you can have your guts ripped out but through love, humanity, downright common sense and a fantastic dogeddness, find the strength and compassion to fight on.

and Elizabeth:

#JusticeforLB and the #107days campaign has been amazing and inspiritional. To see so many people come together behind a cause shows something of what might be achieved in terms of a real and lasting legacy. It has made me feel hopeful that it is possible to change the way people with disabilities and learning difficulties are treated. As a mum to a young dude I am constantly thinking of how to keep him safe and cared for in the future.  I cannot imagine how difficult the last year must have been for Connor’s family, without him. The sight of so many LB profile pictures on Twitter today was a very fitting way to round off the #107days. A reminder of the person at the centre of it all. A handsome, quirky, funny, unique and special 18 yr old young man. He should not have died. x

and finally Anne-Marie:

“There is a saying in Tibetan, ‘Tragedy should be utilized as a source of strength.’
No matter what sort of difficulties, how painful experience is, if we lose our hope, that’s our real disaster.”
― Dalai Lama XIV

#107days is hope.

Thank you all for the support. Let’s keep the hope alive.

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Day 107: Honouring LB #107days

Today we come to the end of #107days of action, exactly a year to the day that LB died, whilst in the ‘care’ of Southern Health, an entirely preventable death.

As accidental campaigners we never really could bring ourselves to plan for today, we’ve discussed it often, but nothing felt appropriate. Yesterday we finally settled on today’s action, in keeping with the rest of this entirely crowdsourced campaign, it’s over to you, our amazing, passionate, creative, committed, dedicated network.

We have two options for you today, you’re welcome to do one of them, or both of them (or none of course, it’s really your choice).

Firstly, please leave a comment on this blog post with your ‘take away’ message from #107days; what one memory, or thought, or learning will stick with you. How has LB, and this campaign in his memory, had an impact on you? We’re hoping for lots of comments and you’ll be able to read them as they grow throughout the day. If you’re a blogger and would like to write a post on your own blog please do add a summary, and a link into the comments here. Please remember that comments are moderated, so if your comment doesn’t appear immediately there’s no need to repost it!

Secondly, please change your social media profile pictures to LB for the day. You’re welcome to change it on twitter, or facebook, or tumblr, or instagram, or any combination of the aforementioned sites (and of course any others). We think this collective action will have quite a visual impact, to maximise that please download our profile pic below (right click on the image will allow you to save it to your computer and you can then upload it to twitter) so everyone is using the same black and white pic.

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For maximum impact we ask you to only use the picture for the day, we very much hope you’ll join us.

More information on what next for the #JusticeforLB campaign will follow in a couple of weeks. You can follow this blog, or follow us on twitter, or facebook. We will seek your input before we make any decisions, but before we ‘move on’, we’d like to honour LB today.

Thank you all, for your support throughout #107days and today especially.

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Day 106: Talking and remembering #107days

Today, our penultimate day, is shared between Laurie and Sara’s colleagues, Jo, Adam and Luis, at Healthtalkonline.

Laurie is a 53 year-old person with Asperger’s syndrome. Connor’s death had a profound impact on her life because she is, herself, the parent of children on the autism spectrum.

Laurie wasn’t diagnosed until January 2006, but she had this to say, “it [being diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome] has changed my life. I immediately started educating myself on autism and the Asperger’s side of it and getting involved with autism research. It’s how I met Sara”.

Laurie was interviewed by Sara, in September 2007, for the Healthtalkonline series of interviews, she recalls:

She let me give her a lift back to the train station, I’d been involved with care services since I was 9 and wasn’t used to being treated like a human being. Just because we’re on the receiving end of ‘help’ doesn’t mean we cannot, at the same time, give something in return.

Out of curiosity, I asked Sara what made her so interested in autism and it was in that short car journey Sara told her about her son, who was autistic, LB.

Laurie volunteered to write a blogpost for Day 106, that she’ll publish on her own blog too and she is asking for donations for LB’s Fighting Fund for her birthday.

It’s my birthday today; or, at least, should be. Providing this story gets published on the right day after being completed and submitted in a timely manner, it ought to be July 3rd. If it is, then well done all of us for coordinating everything to such sweet perfection. If not, well, there’s always another year. At least we like to think so. Birthdays have always been rather more significant than Christmas, for me, never having been a lover of the melee surrounding such a communal festival. While we may share our special day with several million other people around the world, we do not know most of them and, unless we are one of a multiple birth, will probably be the only person in the family celebrating their personal ageing process that day.

Do others tie global dates and events to things we can pin to our personal experiences? Like remembering what we were doing when JFK was shot. Bit before my time but you get the point. Where were you when you heard about Elvis? And how did you first hear the news of Princess Diana’s terrible car accident or the Twin Towers ‘tragedy’? What is it that makes me remember November 14, 1972 as the day Princess Anne married Captain Mark Philips? Heaven’s sake. That their wedding day fell on Prince Charles’ birthday? Why would anyone outside the immediate family remember that in the first place? Maybe my brother had a point when he said I was always good at remembering dates, which was astonishing news. How could I possibly be good at something I forgot most of?

Days and dates and measurables are important, very often, to people on the autistic spectrum and I am pretty typical in that aspect. This year, on the day before the first anniversary of Connor’s death will no doubt see it adding a lot of reflection on life, death and the passing of time. I will be thinking back to how I spent the day on July 3 last year. What were you doing? I cannot remember. Some birthdays are more memorable than others.

There is a Biblical proverb which says: For to him that is joined to all the living there is hope; for a living dog is better than a dead lion. (Ecclesiastes 9:4, JPS 1917 ed). None of us wishes to be old, although many have longed for the wisdom acquired by years to have been more evident in our youth.

As the 107 days has passed and we have, together, counted them, a personal image has grown in my head, brought back from a dusty recess of a childhood memory and a visit to old Mrs Abbot. It was almost forty years ago and shortly after Christmas. Let me take you there.

There’s a clock standing in a dark wood panelled hall; a grandfather clock, standing to the left, set there by Old Father Tyme himself, surely. A dusty Persian runner stretches from one end of the polished floor to the other. Behind each door lurks a terrifying secret; maybe a monster ready to leap out and interrupt the sound of the languid tick (breathe) tick (breathe) tick (breathe) as its pendulum ambles from one side of the clock’s glass door to the other, hypnotising the dark Victorian house into submissive torpor. Maybe the door to the right will slowly creak open to allow a bent old hag to shuffle through on her slowly unwinding mortal coil? Perhaps the incumbent ghost is about to roll in from underneath the cellar door, like a sticky fog to rise up to the ceiling before stealing the souls of the petrified child shivering with fear in the gloom?  Words from Shakespeare grow like creeping ivy across the memory.

Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow creeps in this petty pace from day to day, 

the clock ticks and breathes. Old Father Tyme stands at the door.

To the last syllable of recorded time;

and all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death.

Out, out brief candle!

Life’s but a walking shadow, (Macbeth, 5:5:19-25)

Terrified, the frozen child stands like alabaster, hypnotised by the minute hand defying gravity to reach the top of the hour and chime.

This year, I will spend much of my birthday thinking about a remarkable young man I was never privileged to meet and whose family, no doubt, be thinking back one year to the last time life had some kind of ‘normal’ attached to it. To his family, I extend a Jewish traditional greeting on the death of a loved one and wish you all ‘long life’. May the memory of Connor, your lion, your Laughing Boy, remain in your hearts forever with the certainty the shadow of his life never leaves you.

Laurie was being interviewed by Sara for Healthtalkonline. Today is also shared by her team of colleagues and this is why:

As friends and colleagues of Sara, the Healthtalkonline team have all participated in the #107days campaign individually with contributions including music, sewing skills and a guided tour of London. But we wanted to contribute as a charity too.

For those who don’t know, Healthtalkonline is a charity website that provides health information in the form of people’s experiences. We do this by interviewing people on film about their experiences of health issues and making the videos available on the website. The interviews are carried out (and the data analysed) by researchers from Sara’s research group, The Health Experiences Research Group (HERG) at Oxford.

Sara has worked with HERG and the charity since 2006 and is responsible for our Autism and Learning disability health sections. In fact we share today with Laurie who contributed her story to Sara’s Autism experiences project. Although separate, the two organisations have been closely intertwined from the time we were founded over 13 years ago and have shared an office for almost a decade.

The charity and research team were all together in the office on the day Connor died, in shock and in tears for our dear colleague’s beloved son. The day before this, in a sad twist of …something (for which we cannot find a word), Sara agreed to be interviewed about Connor so that a member of the team, Sophie, could practise her interview skills for another Healthtalkonline project. This interview was never meant to be made publicly available but in the days following Connor’s death, it became a valuable memento for his family.

We could think of no more fitting way for us to take part than by adopting day 106, exactly 1 year after it took place, to share this interview (with Sara’s permission) on Healthtalkonline. We’ve divided the film into 4 parts:

Sara talking about Connor and what a dude he was

Sara and Connor’s journey to diagnosis

What Sara had to say about accessing decent support for Connor, something that proved difficult throughout his life, long before he went into the unit

Sara talking about her blog, which has become a bit of a phenomenon, and the value of social media

In editing these videos it occurred to us that this will be the first time many followers of the JusticeforLB campaign have heard Sara speak or even seen what she looks like. Many people may not know what life was like for Sara’s family before Connor went into the unit.

By putting a face and voice to the name, we hope these videos will add a new dimension to the story and a chance to say again what made Connor great and how loved he was.

Day105

Day 105: Textile art, provider challenge and a headshave #107days

Day 105 forms our hat-trick of three way adoptions for the week, it is shared by Briony, Mark and myself, George.

First up is Briony, who had this to say about supporting #JusticeforLB:

I wanted to be a part of #107days and the #JusticeforLB campaign after reading Sara’s blog. It was heartbreaking to read and difficult to walk away from. It also hit me hard because my youngest daughter has autism and at nine years old I am aware of the realities of trying to access the support that she needs. It almost always becomes another battle with the system. You get tough, your priorities change and the little things don’t matter anymore. In fact, she is probably the reason that I am finally doing what I’ve always wanted to do.

Briony made the most beautiful wall hanging for #107days, read on for more:

Day105Stitching

The textile piece that I have made for #107days is centred around a quote from one of Connor’s favourite songs, ‘National Express’ by Divine Comedy and includes a London bus representing his love of buses and the Twitter bird representing the positive impact that social media has had in gaining support for the campaign. I chose this particular quote from the song because I felt it best captured the spirit of #107days and the positive actions people have taken to try and secure a better future whilst fighting for justice for LB.

Day105

As it developed into quite a big piece I realised that I could do more than just share photographs of it through social media. I contacted Louise who runs a creative social enterprise called Scrap in Sunnybank Mills, Leeds and she was happy to display it for me in their cafe during 107 days next to Connor’s story. Many different people pass through Scrap so it seemed like the ideal place to reach a new audience and spread awareness of Connor’s story and the campaign.

Whilst making it my youngest came up to me and said, “You’re always making LB stuff!” I started to prepare for what was coming next thinking, Oh here we go! Just because it’s not about you! But then she went on to say, “You should start an LB sewing support group and make buses and signs with his name on…and cushions.”

This insight, together with her unique sense of justice (be it in the form of Dog the Bounty Hunter!) leads me to think that she could definitely teach Southern Health a thing or two.

Next up today is Mark Lever, the Chief Executive of the National Autistic Society (NAS). Mark wanted to adopt a day to write something to challenge himself, and other social care providers. Here’s what he had to say:

Social care providers and the regulators are coming under the spotlight more than ever – and why shouldn’t they?

When a family makes the decision to place someone they love in the care of a ‘third party’ they are vesting more trust in that decision than any other. Local authorities making a placement are rightly concerned that they are spending significant public money on a good service. Everyone has an interest in ensuring the person being supported is well cared for and achieves the best outcomes possible.

If we’re all striving for the best outcomes, why is there not a more open discussion of the lessons learnt when things go wrong?

I am not talking here about the systemic institutionalised failures we witnessed at Winterbourne View. Rather, the incidents that occur even within services run by respected and reputable organisations working to do the best they possibly can for the people they support. As someone running one of those organisations, I can confirm that, of course, they do happen.

Working in social care is very challenging – and simply isn’t the right job for everyone. The people who choose to make it a career are dedicated and passionate about their work. They are certainly not doing it for the money where, for many, the pay is barely more than the minimum wage. To do the job well, they need an incredibly strong temperament and values base.

My concern is that, as services come under increasing pressure, including financial pressure, people being supported risk being seen as commodities and ‘good’ support can mean ticking the right boxes. The values base is in danger of being lost and forgotten as organisations strive to be seen to be doing the right thing and maintain contracts.

As more pressure is placed on providers, we should feel confident that we can share our occasional failures openly so that we, and other providers, can learn and constantly improve.

Instead, we’re currently too often on the defensive. This can lead to us being the opposite of open and get in the way of making changes for the better. We’re necessarily and properly held to account, given we care for often very vulnerable people at public expense. We also have to acknowledge that we’re in a competitive environment, where one organisation’s failure may be another’s opportunity. But this should not lead to a blaming culture, shut in on itself.

I’m not arguing for a ‘stuff happens’ attitude. Rather, greater openness and honesty should reinforce the values base and build on a wider commitment to challenge all service failures with energy and rigour. We owe this to parents, carers and the people we support if we are to live up to the trust they have placed in us.

Here’s what Mark has pledged to do, in addition to offering this blog post:

My commitment to action to support the #107days campaign is to convene a roundtable of 8 to 10 service providers to explore how we as a sector can share more openly the lessons learned from failures in service delivery. The aim will be to learn more and, as a consequence, to support and inform the work to reduce the risk of similar events occurring again.

Finally today, it’s over to me, George. Here’s why I wanted to support #JusticeforLB and #107days:

I’d like to suggest that I considered my involvement in #JusticeforLB, that it was something I deliberated about and mused over, that I was reconnecting with my early career in Special Ed, that I was giving something back, but the reality was it was nothing of the sort. I’m supporting #JusticeforLB because I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t, it wasn’t so much a choice, as a compulsion. I was one of Sara’s many legions of fans who regularly read her blog about life, and I felt sick to the pit of my stomach on July 4th last year when I read this.

It was 361 days since my grandfather had died, and 231 since my Dad had died and I felt like I’d had enough death to last a while. But for LB to die, this wasn’t right, he was a fit young man, spending time in a specialist unit, with experts, to help make some life choices and changes. He couldn’t die. For the last year I’ve oscillated between disbelief and anger, and my internal pendulum has yet to stop swinging and come to rest. What Sara, Rich and family have had to face, is like the yin to our family’s yang. We had the knowledge that Dad was terminally ill, and the truly amazing support of our local hospice’s Hospice at Home service, that allowed him to die a peaceful and dignified death; LB was fit and well, his death was preventable, and those responsible have done their best to shirk all responsibility ever since. If you wanted to compare and contrast a bad death experience, and a good death experience, Sara and I would be a good place to start.

In February, before the independent report into Connor’s death was published, I was appalled to read Sara’s account of how they were being treated by Southern Health. I ended a blog post ‘They [LB's family and friends] need to be able to grieve and let go of the pain, not be constantly poked and prodded and let down. Someone please make it stop. Now’.

A month later, nothing had improved. Worse still I’d been a key instigator in creating a social media storm around the publication of the Verita report, and I suddenly felt like if we couldn’t make progress and turn this into something good, then I’d have just added to Sara and Rich’s angst and pain. Rather than waiting for someone else to step forward to make it stop, I felt compelled to act, to climb into Sara’s virtual cave, and share her pain. This was only sealed for me when I had the chance to meet Sara and Rich for the first time in March.

As for #107days, if no-one with a remit to sort this stuff out was going to make things easier for LB’s family (and to be fair CQC were making efforts early on, but social care and providers were deafeningly silent), then I’d do my best to connect with Sara and try to make some sort of sense out of this madness. Even before the Minister publicly stated that the Winterbourne JIP (established to improve learning disability provision after Winterbourne View) was an ‘abject failure’, there was a growing consensus of such. So what could we do? We could try to improve things, get stuck in and do what those paid to do it evidently didn’t (don’t) consider their remit…so #107days was born. It emerged out of a desire to mark and witness LB’s life and death, to improve things for other dudes, to raise awareness and get people talking and sharing and collectively responding, and most importantly acting.

So what am I doing?

I’m shaving my head!

To raise awareness and funds for the local hospice, Rowcroft, that supported our family, and for #JusticeforLB. You can see more of what I’ll be losing in the video that follows:

So far I’ve raised £5,270 but I’d love to raise a little more, so please do donate if you can afford to. You can pledge any amount, and if your organisation would like to know more about how to use social media campaigning you can even pledge for a half day workshop with Sara and myself. Plug over.

I just wanted to finish by saying what a truly inspiring campaign #107days is. Each and every person who has adopted a day, or pledged an action, or shared their experience, has made it what it is. It has been an absolute honour to be involved and I’m left in awe at what you can achieve when you set your mind to it and don’t worry about who gets the credit, or the blame. I feel confident that the power of our collective, will continue to improve things for all dudes, in LB’s name. Thank you all for your support with that.