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.

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:

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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.

Day 103: Person centred practice, nursing students, and a legal webchat #107days

Day 103 is our first three-way share of a day. It is shared by Max of the UK Learning Community for Person Centred Practices, Bridget and Sarah from School of Nursing Sciences at UEA, and Steve Broach from Doughty Street Chambers.

When asked why they were supporting #JusticeforLB and #107days the UK Learning Community for Person Centred Practices had this to say:

We wanted to support the #JusticeforLB campaign because it highlighted how far we still have to go in the UK with promoting person centred planning, thinking and approaches. Even though these approaches were right at the heart of the ‘Valuing People’ strategy for people with learning disabilities since 2001, staff at the Assessment and Treatment Unit where Connor Sparrowhawk was confined in the 107 days running up to his avoidable death did not understand what Connor’s family were trying to achieve by holding a Person Centred Review at the ATU, and did not respect this work, saying it “Was not the Care Programme Approach”. It seems clear from the Verita’s report, and from other accounts, that if the ATU had listened properly to Connors’ family when they told them what was important to Connor now and in the future, and the things that would help to keep him healthy and safe (such as a proper approach to his epilepsy), his death could have been avoided.

This is what they decided to do:

Day103PostcardQu

I contacted the campaign on behalf of the UK Learning Community for Person Centred Practices. Our national gathering was coming up on April 30 2014, and I wanted to ensure that everybody there heard about Connor’s story. At the closing of the gathering, Gail Hanrahan, a close friend of Connor’s family spoke to everyone so passionately and movingly about Connor and his life. We shared a #JusticeforLB postcard with every participant (about 50 people) and asked them to make 2 pledges:

  1. Firstly to tell us how they would use their postcard to share Connor’s story, and
  2. Secondly what they would do in their work to ensure that within their sphere of influence, people and their families were listened to.

We’ve followed up those pledges asking people to let us know what they’ve done. Here are some of the responses we’ve received.

Cath Barton said ‘I always read Sara’s blogs and share and have made a pledge for George Julian’s #hairhack fundraiser which is raising money for Justice for LB and Rowcroft Hospice’.

‘My action is to always support people and their families to have a voice and be listened to. I hope my role as Community Circles Connector will help people develop relationships and networks which will support them to be heard and valued’.

Penny Jackson said ‘I am due to deliver Person Centred Thinking training in July to our Independent Futures staff and will be including LB’s story within this’

Max Neill took the big #JusticeforLB poster to share with the Preston Learning Disability Forum. They displayed it at events during Learning Disability Week in Preston.

Every story about how these person centred skills have worked and made a difference increases the impetus for change. If we can succeed in turning these person centred behaviours into everyday habits, at scale across whole services and sectors, then we can create fundamental lasting change in the culture, in the way we include and involve families and in the way we regard people.

Max and TLCPCP have written a fuller write up of their context, their gathering and the actions that have followed. You can read it in full here.

The second group sharing Day 103 are staff with interests in safeguarding and learning disability from the School of Nursing Sciences, UEA, Norwich. When Bridget Penhale and Sarah Richardson were asked why they were supporting the campaign they said:

We didn’t know LB personally but followed his mother’s blog from before he was admitted to Slade House and were very upset at the news of his untimely death. We have followed and supported the development of the campaigns since.

They were keen to ensure that a large number of staff and students at their university heard LB’s story. This is what they have planned:

On Day 103, sessions in the Essential Nursing Practice module for first year undergraduate nursing students are being dedicated to LB. The module covers the role of the Community Learning Disability Nurse and one of the specific topics today is about epilepsy; this is a core condition that our students learn about from the beginning of their programme (but also focus on throughout their course).

The Enquiry Based Learning Package is dedicated to Connor and students taking the module will be introduced to him at the beginning of the day. The Lecture on Introduction to Epilepsy will also be dedicated to Connor.

Information about Connor and the campaign will also be available for everyone working in or visiting our building on that day (through a slide on our plasma screen in the reception area of the building). We will continue to raise awareness about Connor, his life and untimely death throughout the coming year(s) – for as long as it takes.

The final person sharing today is Steve Broach, a barrister at Doughty Street Chambers. Described on twitter yesterday as a miracle, a ‘competent barrister able to put suffering people at ease’, Steve has very generously offered to run a legal webchat, an hour long Q&A session tonight at 7.30pm.

Steve will be holding a free web Q&A on the law in relation to education, health and care services for disabled young people in England. Steve will look at both the current law and the changes coming soon under the Children and Families Act 2014 and the Care Act 2014. He will also cover what the Human Rights Act 1998 should mean for the standard and quality of care disabled young people receive. Steve can only answer questions about the law in England, as the other UK nations have different legal frameworks, although some of the general points he makes will be relevant across the UK.

We are very grateful to Steve for his offer, and know that many of you will wish to make use of this opportunity. To participate you can send your questions in advance using the hashtag #JusticeforLBLaw, or add them on our facebook page, or as a comment to the web-chat blog page, and Steve will answer as many as possible tonight.

Please note Steve can only answer general questions about the law and cannot provide advice on individual cases during this session.

Please share the information about the web-chat far and wide, this is a great opportunity, and one that we hope many people will be able to learn from.

Day 25: taking stock #107days

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Day 25 of #107days. I gingerly took a peek back at Day 25 from a year ago. Phew. A good day. LB was on good form. Noisy and bouncy. Fascinated by news of the break in at Rosie’s student house. Day 25 this year is a ‘taking stock’ day while Deborah and Daniel pound the streets LB loved so much in the London Marathon (thank you both so much).

So, what a start. There has been an astonishing response from people and a range of activities/actions that is remarkable.

Gallus and Mr Effie (and a handy stepladder) drew a bus in the sand on a Fife beach while Katie Peacock drew together two Yorkshire villages in a day of connecting and awareness raising. Sukey Carder created LB inspired hairstyles,  winning the hair competition and Zinnia, a horticultural social enterprise scheme, had a day planting seeds to raise awareness and funds for the campaign. On the same day, Kay shared what happened to LB at the Lincolnshire Annual NAS conference.

There have been a range of blog contributions including reflections from mothers, Rebecca and Shelley Mason, an autobiographical reflection from Damian Milton (coinciding with World Autism Awareness Day), and a discussion around Board responsibilities by Amanda Reynolds.

In keeping with the largely (though not exclusively) positive shape of the campaign, we’ve had examples of good practice from Meraud and Adam, Teresa and her sister Ruth, and Michelle and Al. I’d say these were stories of blinking brilliant practice but that would be because my bar is still set too low. These are examples of how things should be.

Still online, we’ve had two twitter/web chats with BUStogether and WeLDNurses. These generated discussion around expectations, training and epilepsy. There are some online daily actions; Mark Neary’s ‘Stories from an Assessment and Treatment Unit’ and WiseGrannie’s ‘Lessons from dudes and dudettes‘ are unmissable. Over at Twitter, Anne Townsend is flying the Justice for LB flag from Canada with daily photos of an LB bus card from different parts of Vancouver. Complementing Mark’s blog, Sam Sly is tweeting daily about ATUs from Cornwall.

Sports related activities have kicked off big time (sorry). All our athletes have excelled themselves and left us sitting in #107Days hut feeling a bit sloth-like… We are in awe of Ruth for running the Hardmoors Wainstones Trail Marathon for LB and her daughter Hope, Lucy for the Exmoor Marathon and Deborah and Daniel for the London Marathon.

Raising awareness in more professional spaces, Bethy spread word of the campaign to Healthwatch.  Jenna from the Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities talked about Justice for LB at the Cornish Learning Disability Partnership Board.  And LB was the opener for the annual Jim Mansell Memorial Lecture at the Tizard Centre last week.

Finally, there are some ongoing ways you can get involved… Through writing a postcard of awesome, signing the letter for Connor, making a patch for the Justice quilt, drawing a picture of a bus and posting it on our JusticeforLB facebook page, or by buying a ticket to the party night on May 31.

These activities have not only knocked our socks off for their complete brilliance (thank you #107Dayers) they’ve also generated quite a lot of tears. Now strangely, for me, this ain’t a bad thing. The blubbing I do when I read/see or join in these activities are soothing tears. I never knew about soothing tears before. They seem to combine a sense of awe, hopefulness and vague optimism with pure emotion. If a diverse bunch of people can pitch in with such enthusiasm and demonstrate such commitment to LB and the other dudes, well…who knows what’s possible?

I’m going to end by (cheekily in her absence) saying an enormous thanks to George Julian for her legendary, voluntary campaign management of #justiceforLB and #107Days. She’s organising these activities seamlessly, professionally and with (almost) unfailing good humour. This is where I’m happy to say, lessons can be learned.