In the main, people working in care choose to do because they want to be caring. But sometimes they don’t support people to live the lives they want to lead. Perhaps it’s the surprisingly ordinary, possibly even dull nature of an ordinary life which leads to workers talking up worries. Leading to a reframing of the ordinary act of asking another person for advice or help can be turned around and become a problem to worry about, evidence of a dependency, a vulnerability the person needs protecting from.
A recent Community Care article highlighted the case of a Local Authority which breached a man’s human rights by forcing him to stop his sexual relationship with his wife when they asked for help. Like any other ordinary couple they wanted to start a family. But when they asked for help professionals began to worry. Despite the couple having been married for years, a decision was suddenly taken that the learning disabled husband lacked the capacity to consent to sexual relations with his wife. In attempting to turn around the implications from this hugely intrusive decision, the Local Authority was to arrange access to sexual health education but then somehow failed to provide him with the education he needed.
The couple were kept separated for a truly shocking amount of time because the workers involved failed to understand their role in upholding their rights. They had been married and lived in a mogonomous relationship for years. Just pause for a minute and really let that sink in. Years.
Lucy Series has written a brilliant analysis of the issues – https://thesmallplaces.wordpress.com/2017/08/23/the-price-of-protection/amp/
However, equally brilliant (as always) was Mark Neary’s take on the case –
Mark’s timely reminder that married life is in the main outstandingly ordinary in nature, challenges the values behind the professional decision taken in this case to singularly focus on one aspect of the couples relationship when deciding not to support their request for help with fertility treatment but to instead force them to sleep apart for over a year.
The facts of this case aside, for spcial workers it is another prompt to be careful to avoid the “protection imperative”, that moment when professional worries eclipse clear and objective reasoning. See Justice Baker in the case of CC v KK & STCC
“Professionals and the court must not be unduly influenced by the “protection imperative”; that is, the perceived need to protect the vulnerable adult…. There is a risk that all professionals involved with treating and helping that person – including, of course, a judge in the Court of Protection – may feel drawn towards an outcome that is more protective of the adult and thus, in certain circumstances, fail to carry out an assessment of capacity that is detached and objective.”
If you think the community care report is of an “unusual case” you may be disappointed. A self advocate recently described how he and his partner were subjected to 360 questions by professionals when they decided they wanted to become parents “because we have learning disabilities”.
There are many aspects to being a parent. The right to experience all that goes with being dad or mum is a hugely important part of being human. Perhaps there is more we can do to make accessible information to those who want it beyond that which covers to act of potential conception.
In case you find yourself facing a similar scenario the link below will take you to accessible information and resources on sexual health and other things – http://www.btm.org.uk/resource-category/health/
And here is the RiPfA case law summaries on working with parents with learning disabilities – https://www.ripfa.org.uk/resources/case-law-summaries/?platform=hootsuite
Article 8 ECHR right to a private and family life
Human Rights Act 1998 right to marry and have children; right to respect for a family life
UNCRPD right not to be discriminated against in marriage, family and parenthood
Care Act 2014 the general principle of wellbeing takes into account relationships