This is a guest post written by my husband.
The following is written not by a reactionary, or a devoted fan of a former lib dem MP. I think social services is a generally hard working and needed agency in our community to safe guard children and vulnerable adults. How-ever, the following is a true story, and my anger is not for dramatic purpose.
My child was in hospital. She was so small, and so skinny, I could lift her with one hand and barely registered the weight, as she weighed so little. Her breathing was enhanced by machines and her heart rate monitored 24 hours a day. Occasionally her breathing stopped and she went a shade of grey that can only be described as ‘deathly grey’. Every day MoG and I dealt with this reality, and tried to come to terms with the fine edge between life and death our child balanced upon. The Sword of Damocles hung by a fleas wing, its point aimed at her, and us.
In the circumstances however, I felt we did rather well. We were coping, not only with that, but with the 40 minute horror journey every single day to the hospital, and then coming home to a toddler gripped by the terrible two’s with no understanding of what was going on and a lot of frustration to show for it. Believe it or not, we managed. I don’t know how, but we did. That was, until it was decided we were terrible parents, by a midwife that came out one morning to check on MoG’s stitches. Her terrible, narrow-minded views about us having mental health problems led us to Social Services. She referred us, without our knowledge, and we were subsequently investigated. Without our knowledge, at first. Then the following occurred:
We turn up at the hospital to see our daughter, and a staff member pulls us aside and says social services called, and as a matter of fact are on the line right now. So, MoG went in to see our daughter and I spoke to them.
“Mr. MoG, you have been avoiding us for weeks now and we take matters like this very seriously, and any attempt to hide from us may result in us taking legal action against you and you losing custody of your children!”.
I had only said “Hello?”, prior to this.
I tried to explain that I hadn’t heard from them, not ever, before this call. But they wouldn’t have any of it. They accused me of providing them with false details. What this of course means is: someone wrote my number down wrong. Either the midwife who referred us, or one of them, that took the referral call. After this, many things happened: I was branded ‘aggressive’ because I was unhappy – though polite – about them being involved. I was unhappy they refused to visit us in the hospital, by our daughters side, and that they were taking a whole day of time with her away from us, when all I wanted to do was hold her, and comfort her, and give her parental love. The subsequent investigation found nothing – but they continued, always citing “your mental health issues” as the reason for their continued involvement.
And that is the purpose of this – my mental health problems. I have them, yes. Or at least, I admit to having them. That is the sin, ladies and gentlemen, admitting it. And this was again used against us a year on…
Our daughter was in hospital again, complications due to being so premature. A doctor walks in, doing her daily rounds that consist of not knowing my name, not having read her chart, and not generally giving a damn about anything*. She says “yes yes, she is doing fine, but we are referring you to social services because of YOUR mental health.”. I could not believe it. While I was polite and held back before, that went out of the window this time. I demanded she leave my sight, and told her how awful my experiences had been. “It’s to support you”. Oh yes, is it? I don’t want that, I don’t need it, and to top it off – it is NOT support. It is at its very base, an investigation based on being already GUILTY of the crime of having an illness that I cannot control, and it adds stress, takes away time from my job as a parent and husband, and so on. I spoke to the head nurse – she makes the final decision. I told her of the hell of the previous year. I asked her “knowing this, would you willingly put us through this stress and agony again in the name of supporting us?”. The answer, was a resounding “Yes.”. Why? “because people with mental health issues like yourself often benefit from support”. Again I’m guilty by virtue of being honest about my mental health issues. Guilty of what? Everything and anything the doctor or nurse thinks of. It was even suggested that the complications due to prematurity were my and my wife’s fault, that we somehow persuaded a fetus into an early matinee for own amusement or something. Behold, the powers of the mentally ill!
I fought it with all my might and I did not win, I was even lied to, right to my face, by one of the higher-up’s in the local NHS. The deputy something or other swore blind that social services were not being called, and it was not about my mental health. I could carry on fighting but I won’t win, not against people like that. And if I do continue despite the odds, I’m faced with what? The prospect of ANOTHER investigation by social services? That is what we are threatened with, maybe even for simply writing about this.
But I am trying to let go of the anger I have towards them. The NHS and social services failed me, and it was no surprise. I just hope they are not failing others less capable of helping themselves. Thats the rub – I can stand up for myself. Could you?
For full disclosure, my “mental health problems” are anxiety related. I’m not, and have never been violent. I am not wanted, or have never been convicted or even accused of committing a crime. I am not a dangerous man. Why are these measures needed? Baby P is the answer. And its not to help stop another Baby P situation, oh no – for the parents of that poor child were not, like myself, in treatment for mental health problems, if they even admitted to having any – its to protect themselves. “Support” is investigative, and “safeguard” is merely talking about their own jobs. Mental health is something they have latched on to with the claws of a hawk, it is all based upon fear. Fear for their jobs, fear they themselves may have to admit to having issues (no shame there, in my opinion, but try telling that to the bigoted) and out-right bloody fear of anyone different. That’s what it comes down to. I’m different, and I will not hide it.
*This consultant had previous form for coming in to see our daughter without bothering to know the basics of what was wrong with her. For example, our daughter was (and still is) suspected to have a milk allergy, and has been milk free for most of her life. By the time she’d been admitted to hospital she’d been milk free for over 6 months but still vomiting. This consultant came around and said, “well, she’s obviously not able to tolerate milk, so let’s cut that out and the vomiting will stop”. She was quite bemused when I pointed out that we had and it hadn’t stopped at all, and then walked out without discussing it further.