The commissioning of Autism Support Services.
I remember feeling really quite elated when I ‘won’ a pooper scooper on a very well know internet auction site. I had carefully read the description that came with it and the reviews it received on how it behaved in action and decided that I wanted it. Not only that, but I finally got it quite a bit cheaper than I was prepared to pay and thought, “Result!” I took possession of the said item and despite it taking some getting used to initially, I have become quite attached to it. I appreciate there will come a point when it will have outlived its usefulness and will be discarded but don’t give it much thought to be honest. We all have an item like that, an inanimate object we have bid on or purchased ‘on the cheap’ and we know we should have invested more and does it really matter if the environment we brought it into didn’t suit the item? It’ll do. Let’s face it, it’s not like it is important or anything, not like say…a person.
But this happens to human beings on a daily basis across the UK via the service commissioning process. Autistic and other disabled peoples’ care or support is auctioned off on dedicated internet portals, with streams of emails with nameless, genderless individuals, reduced to a list of “challenging behaviours” or vague likes or dislikes. E.g. “Person 1 likes reading.” Potential service providers then read these bleak biographical documents and look at how much the Local Authority or Health Commissioner is prepared to pay and a decision is made as to whether to bid or not. Data protection will be cited to protect the identity of the person in question – or the auction item. The official position will be that it is the organisation tendering for the service that is being judged, but it is still a human being who has been reduced to an item, a thing, an object and their life and existence effectively placed ‘up for sale’. The modern equivalent of a livestock auction.
Charity Sector organisations, starved of funding are often placed in the invidious position of wanting to offer support but it not being financially viable so do not apply; money before people. Can, or more importantly, should, any life truly be reduced to such an inhuman and formulaic process? The answer would appear to be yes when it is a disabled or vulnerable person. Life changing decisions are made every day based on financial implications and a commissioning process that frequently looks to the cheapest option rather than the best resolution for the individual. People for whom, constant, secure care and support is the best option for them have been moved from these (arguably) ‘safe spaces’ and dropped into the community without appropriate frameworks being in place. The damage that can be caused by this is immeasurable but would appear to rarely be factored into decisions and one is left to wonder, whatever happened to ‘no voice unheard, no right ignored’?