This week Ellen had her annual review with Herts County Council. It was conducted over Zoom with a social worker I had never heard of before, and wouldn’t recognise again. Her screen was positioned so that I spent the hour-long conversation only able to see her forehead and the large poppable spot that was centre stage of the screen and very distracting.
The social worker, let’s call her Dinah, had insisted that Ellen was present on the Zoom call, even though a cursory look at the notes would have confirmed that it would be a waste of time because Ellen is mute with strangers and so wouldn’t contribute. ‘I need to ask her a few questions’ Dinah insisted. I kept my sigh as internal as possible.
So there we were, staring at the spot at the allotted time and making our introductions.
‘Hello Molly my name is Dinah’ she began.
‘Ellen’ I interrupted, ‘her name is Ellen’.
‘Oh yes, Ellen, sorry yes, I don’t know where I got Molly from, I don’t even know anyone called Molly. So Ellen, I’m just here to talk to you and your Mum about all the activities you do in the week, is that OK?’
Ellen shook her head and looked at the floor and I could tell she was in imminent danger of bolting.
‘Do you like going to Sees the Day Ellen?’ Dinah persevered.
‘No’ said Ellen, getting up and leaving the room.
I saw a furrowing of Dinah’s forehead as her eyebrows lifted in surprise.
‘She doesn’t mean she doesn’t like going’ I said, ‘she just doesn’t want to take part in this conversation any more’.
‘Oh, well that’s OK, I understand. I can carry on asking you if you like, does Molly enjoy Sunnyside?’
‘It’s Ellen’ I said, ‘her name is Ellen’.
It was becoming a bit of a farce. When someone can’t remember your daughter’s name – after being corrected twice – it’s hard to summon up the feeling that they care.
It turned out the main reason for the phone call – once we’d quickly agreed that there was no need to change any of Ellen’s provision – was that the pandemic had initiated a panic within County that they could suddenly be left caring full-time for a huge number of people with additional needs.
‘In the circumstances that you and your husband are left incapacitated’ Dinah began carefully (for ‘incapacitated’ read ‘dead’) ‘who would we contact regarding Ellen’s care?’ The fear was palpable. I took pity on Dinah and gave her my sister’s details.
At this point of the conversation I decided it was not worth mentioning that someone else from Herts CC had called about this just a couple of weeks before. On that occasion the purported reason for the phone call was to find out how I was coping during lockdown. However, as lockdown was at that point over, and therefore so was any crisis I may have had, the caller quickly moved on to the real reason for the call, to retrieve the vital ’emergency point of contact’ information
Later in the week, the report from Dinah arrived.
Dear Mrs Fermont, (the email began) it was lovely to see you and Lucy…..
Lucy ! FGS – I wish I was making this up!