Now it is Friday. Only five days later and here today, a perfect example of how families like ours are treated.
We used to have a wonderful social worker named Beverly. She was a force of nature. My housing issue would never have been an issue. She would have handled it on our behalf. That’s how good social work is meant to work.
As an example, Lambeth are meant to pay us “direct payments” towards our care worker twice a month. Over the course of the last two years, Lambeth didn’t pay us. Months later, after much chasing by us and Beverly, they would catch up with their payments, but initially we were not paid. For example: in just the second half of 2014, we were not paid anything in July, August or October of 2014.
It wasn’t just us. Other families across Lambeth also experienced this.
Every time this happened, we were not informed. I only found out because I checked our bank account – a bank account we can only use for these direct payments, so one we only use once a month to pay our care worker.
We’d have to pull money from our own savings – and thank god we had some – to pay our care worker. Because the thing about employees is that they don’t keep working for free. I’m sure many other families like mine across the council lost their care workers over this.
It could take weeks or longer to receive the correct payment. And then, the following month it would happen again. This happened many times – even more than the months I listed above – in 2014 and 2013.
Here is an excerpt from one of many emails I wrote to Lambeth about this:
I have made several requests for a full account of our direct payments for the past year. We were owed money and paid different amounts every month. I still have no idea what we were meant to be paid compared to what we were actually paid. It would be a simple thing to print this out and send it to us, especially given the on-going issues with payments.
This is highly irresponsible. We have a severely disabled child who is not independent in any way. Meanwhile, I have been hospitalised with leukaemia for the past month. These payments are essential for our family to survive. Our care worker will quit if you do not sort this out.
Beverly was our soldier. She made people account for these funding problems. She helped us like no one else did, when many within Lambeth completely ignored us.
Then, she went on long-term sick leave. No one told us. So, all the while these housing and direct payment issues are happening – for several months – I’m calling her and emailing and getting no response. Finally, one day I phone Beverly and someone else in the social service’s team picks up her phone and tells me she is on long-term sick.
That’s the only reason I found out.
From that point on, only duty social workers answered my calls. And none of them did a single thing to help us. When I wrote in my housing post about literally begging for help, it was one of these duty social workers who ignored me.
Then, on February 11, I received a letter from the manager of the team saying that they would be assigning us a new social worker in three weeks without any explanation or addressing any of the concerns I had been ringing about.
After complaining, we were assigned a new social worker (parents in similar situations in Lambeth are still waiting). She was meant to show up today, our first visit by a social worker for at least six months.
She didn’t show. No call. No email.
The excuse the manager gave me today – for being ignored all these months – was recruitment problems. Recruitment problems do not account for a lack of compassion. They do not account for not picking up the phone and taking the 30 seconds it takes to inform a family that no one is showing up.
But, it strikes harder than that. Because every time something like this happens, it chips away at that hope I have that people will look out for me, for my family. We aren’t asking for much. Just a phone call back.