Friday 24 April 2009

Supported Housing and A Plan to Sign On

First of all, I would like to say that I like young people, certain contributors to this blog have suggested otherwise, simply because I don't subscribe to the wooly, namby-pamby policies they obviously espouse and which have contributed to the problems we have with our youth.

All of them, from the kids in the care homes that verbally and physically abuse me and my colleagues, to the young adults in the Refuge Day Centre that lead the most dissolute lifestyles imaginable, have some kernel of potential to be better and more complete human beings. Rather than solely blaming these young people's backgrounds for their problems and thus giving them an excuse to engage in criminal and anti-social behaviour, would it not be better to tell them that they have some choices in life and that they have a degree of power over their futures? You hear the word empowerment a lot in social care but it is just a buzz word that sounds good on training days and gets lots of boxes ticked on various 'performance indicators'.

Lately, and in the past, Ive been working at a few supported housing projects for young people in the 16-25 year bracket. I do a lot of work through an agency somewhere in the north of England. This work is funded and regulated by the government and costs millions of taxpayer's money every year. I actually agree with giving these young people a form of relatively cheap accomodation as the greed of the last twenty years has made housing almost inaccessible for a large swathe of the population. Many of these young people do actually work or are at least seeking employment or are studying/training and trying to progress in their lives. However, they tend to be the minority in the projects that I work at and constantly have to contend with their anti-social neighbours blighting their lives.

Perhaps you are wondering just what kind of support we provide to the young people that come to live with us at one of these many projects. All of our residents have to have a keyworker. Then, this keyworker will help the young person do an 'action plan', based on 'support needs'.

One of these 'support needs' will, in most cases, involve accessing benefits, both housing benefit and then either jobseeker's allowance or income support or a disability benefit. Therefore an 'action plan' is drawn up for the young person to access these benefits and they are then helped to obtain these benefits by their keyworker.

Why do these young people need a 'plan' to sign on and why are they being provided with a personal assistant at the expense of the taxpayer? None of them have any major impairments that prevent them from sorting out their own benefits without a personal assistant and a written plan. Well, a minority of them are functionally illiterate and that is the fault of the education system (Check out Frank Chalk's blog on my blog roll).

There are other people already employed in Job Centres and in local councils to help people apply for benefits. Why do we need to replicate these jobs? Is it to give people with useless degrees employment and prevent them from turning to radical politics because they can't get jobs in the real economy, even before this recession?

All I know is that there are thousands of keyworkers up and down the country supporting young people to write long winded action plans to sign on. These plans are then filed and very well paid internal managers as well as other bureaucrats from the Department of Communities and Local Government come and audit these 'action plans' or 'support plans', to make sure we are providing adequate support in teaching young people how to sign on and apply for housing benefit.

It is the nanny state at it's most pathetic and it disempowers so many of our young when we don't even have the faith that they can successfully apply for benefits at the Job Centre without the assistance of some Sociology graduate who couldn't find a better job. I obviously fall in to this category. I find there is more integrity in giving an honest appraisal of one's role in society rather than trying to put some spin on what is in effect a largely superfluous job.


crowlord said...

When I look at my little ones and think about the differnces between them and those denied a future by the social care system I find it amazing that nobody is willing to admidt that the "care by neglect" system really does not work.

Childcare isn't just about letting them do what they want, discipline is so important to engender respect and a sense of self. Is it a coincidence that so many of these desperate abandoned kids are also self harmers.

I hope to god that if anything ever happens to me of the wife then my family take the kids because social care really would destroy my angels.

Anonymous said...

Winston, your posts are brilliant.

IMO (and I work in a related area) is that people like you actually do care about the young folk involved because you are trying to make things *better* and improve their life outcomes (hopefully). As you say, they are capable of getting there.

What the complainers are doing, IMO, is pandering to them, which is going to lead them nowhere. Also, IME, the people who complain about the sort of things you write about have absolutely no idea what the 'front line' of youth care is actually like. They live in fairytaleville where all this paper rubbish and 'giving them what they want' works.

It doesn't. Ever.

They need what they won't get from those sorts of people ; a grasp of the reality of the outside world and an expectation that they improve.

Anonymous said...

Rubbish. I am in the 'front line' of youth care and I can tell you Winston's posts are ill-thought-out, opinionated nonsense. Keyworkers are the lifeline between residents and the staff team. Other members of the team have specialised roles and care of the residents is not their primary responsibility. Keyworkers, on the other hand, have care of residents day-to-day needs as their full-time job. Without them supported housing would be no such thing. It would just be housing. Keyworkers have a wide range of responsibilities on top of drawing up action plans and supporting residents in pursuit of them. They help with budgeting; teach lifeskills (cooking, cleaning, etc); advise on safe sex and other life issues; liaise with family, jobcentres, Housing Benefits, college tutors, etc.; monitor residents health, encourage residents to register with doctors and dentists. I haven't even skimmed the surface but the emphasis throughout is on encouraging residents' independence. No wet-nursing or mollycoddling involved, verbal arse-kickings are frequent, warnings (and ultimately, eviction notices) issued for non-compliance. Winston knows all of this but is choosing not to mention it in order to push his mealy-mouthed, self-aggrandising agenda. He also knows that supported housing staff probably pay more in tax than their schemes receive through other means but is conveniently overlooking this too. I could say a lot more... but can't be bothered. Just be aware that you're getting your information here through a quite perversely-distorted lens.

WinstonSmith33 said...

The above post exemplifies the nanny state mentality that many of my colleagues, but not all, swallow whole heartedly. In fact, many people in Supported Housing and other areas of social care, including managers, have said to me that a lot of the 'work' we do, does very little good and helps perpetuate many social problems. Im not some lone wolf just the only blogger I know discussing it.

The state should not have to and I quote you directly:

"help with budgeting; teach lifeskills (cooking, cleaning, etc); advise on safe sex and other life issues; liaise with family, jobcentres, Housing Benefits, college tutors, etc.; monitor residents health, encourage residents to register with doctors and dentists."

Liase with the Job Centre Aand Housing Benefits office? Give me a break. People should sort out their own benefits. If you cant even sign on and get free money without having some one hold your hand then there is really not much hope for you in life. The young people in the Supported Housing project I work at have nothing wrong with them except that people like you think they cant do anything for themselves and this creates dependency.

I didnt choose to ommit all this other 'work' you mention. I was just focusing in on the 'action plans' to sign on as it exemplifies the lunacy in this sector. I equally think all the other areas they get support with are pointless and will be commenting on it in further posts E.G in my project there are free condoms and regular sex advice sesssions where residents are bribed to turn up with fast food. Many of them still have sex without using the free condoms they can access and get pregnant or get a girl pregnant and openly admit to not using contraception.

All this wonderful support that you talk about is not working it is part of the problem. It doesnt work at any of the projects I work at that for sure.

Please enlighten me on how your project's staff pay more tax than the money their project creams from local and central government. In my project about 90% of the rent is paid through Housing Benefit, obtained from the council. We have 60 residents so it is a lot of council tax being used to pay rent for the residents.Then there is a few hundred thousand annually in funding from the Department of Communities and Local Government to pay for Signing On and How to Put on a Condom Support Workers such as you and I. Please enlighten me on how you and the staff generate more money for the government than you receive? How is that possible? The tax you and I pay is simply some one else's tax anyway. Supported Housing for 16-25 year olds doesnt generate money for the treasury and nor do it's staff. It does the opposite. It drains the system. You are being very disingenuous to suggest other wise or are very stupid and would avoid supoorting any one with budgeting skills at your project.

The one I work at and all the others Ive worked at waste millions of pounds of taxpayer's money. I agree with providing Housing and a limited form of Support.

I will elaborate at length on how difficult it is to evict nuisance residents from Supported Housing later. Its not easy, human rights and all that. Im not overlooking anything. All will be revealed. We just have very different outlooks and you obviously espouse the type of policies that create and exacerbate the very dependency you ostensibly work to help people overcome. But then if your approach worked people like you and me would be out of a job so probably in your interests that nothing changes. Who suffers from all this? The young we purport to help.

In my own way I get through to some of them. Ive worked with a lot of inspirational kids.

Mark Griffiths said...

"Rubbish. I am in the 'front line' of youth care and I can tell you Winston's posts are ill-thought-out, opinionated nonsense. Keyworkers are the lifeline between residents and the staff team. Other members of the team have specialised roles and care of the residents is not their primary responsibility."

Here's a suggestion then. Get rid of the "staff team" because they're clearly otiose if they cannot fulfil their raison d'etre. In other words, if care of the residents is not their "primary responsibility", then what is? What are they doing there? The key workers can do the job of the staff team, and sort out the paperwork whilst they're at it. It's called "management".

WinstonSmith33 said...

Personlly Id get rid of almost all staff from these places. Id have one or two youth workers there and Id scrap most of the paperwork it only exists to maintain a massive bureaucracy. Why does there need to be a stored copy of a written plan for some idiot's trip to the dole office to sign on or to learn how to use a condom? Why? It creates lots of jobs, silly jobs that society doesnt need and where the resources could be used more effectively else where. For every idiot that has to keywork and then record the support there are layers of management and external government inspectors of these 'plans'. It's total insanity.

Dick the Prick said...

It's subsidized crapdom.

Mark Griffiths said...

This is the peril created by the untrammelled growth of judicial review; every state official is deemed to have a quasi-judicial function, and thus every decision is open to challenge on the spurious grounds that somehow, somewhere, "natural justice" has been thwarted. Factor in the nonsensical jurisprudence of the ECHR and you've created a goldmine for lawyers and a guaranteed audience for any member of the awkward squad who can persuade an ambulance chaser to listen to his piffling complaint.

It's happening now; the city (worth suing, because they've still got some money) and national and local government (have to abide by the stupid politically correct rules they've set themselves) are the worst losers. This is a virus worse than swine 'flu. It's the corruption of the body politic; any every decision can be second-guessed and common sense turned on its head. God help us.

Anonymous said...

Not that I think you are wrong but I'd be careful of dismissing sociological research out of hand; because there's plenty of support for what you have been talking about in work around social reproduction.

The problem is that the sociology taught at A Level - and often up to degree level - isn't rigourous enough.