Would you expect a service user to be present on an interview panel for support workers?
Last weekend I sat through a number of interviews for new support staff, I wasn’t alone as my daughter was also present. We had decided to hold them as always away from my home as I am always conscious of the fact it’s my space they invade if we hold them at my house. The difficulties of interviews can be many and varied, direct payments enable me to choose who works with me and yet they don’t cover the cost of things like room hire for interviews; that has to be self funded.
We had a number of candidates to interview and the time it took was quite lengthy, this was hard for me as I found it difficult to concentrate fully for that length of time. My alters were in truth very good they allowed me to be present for the majority of time and I saw each candidate and felt a part of the process. But in the downtime between each candidate it was hard to remain in control of me and I know at times I did switch alters, I found myself more fascinated by the world outside than that in the room. More interested in the biscuits and juice that was available than thinking about the next candidate or the last ones answers.
The thing that struck me most though during the day was a comment many of them made, now this is not a criticism of anyone and I can understand people’s perceptions and views. However the reality is it shows societies mindset of people with care needs and I think that’s worth writing about.
The majority of the people we interviewed seemed shocked or surprised that I was present during the interview. I was introduced at the start of each interview by my daughter as Carol and it wasn’t until later on in the interviews that it became fully apparent to each candidate that if they were successful I was the person they’d be working with. The person who needed the support and the reason why they would be employed as support workers.
This confused me as in most jobs I have ever been interviewed for, the departmental head or person I would be working with as sat in on the interview, they have been part of the interview panel. Why should this not be the case for people who need care and support, after all it’s my home these people will be working in, my daily life they invade.
Now don’t get me wrong I appreciate the fact that in a hospital or care home the service users may not be part of such processes currently, so it may for some seem unusual for me to be there. But just because I have support needs and a mental health diagnosis doesn’t render me unable to be part of this decision process. Direct payments allow and enable service users to be involved in their care and in the recruitment and employment of the people who work with us.
I feel that whilst direct payments are now available, societies views in general haven’t quite caught up yet. We still as a society assume that people who need care; people like me, are not meant to be involved in their care. One of the things I found before I transferred from organised structured social care companies to direct payments was I felt dictated to, with decisions imposed upon me. Direct payments empower me to be involved and yet that still surprises the majority of people, I do wonder if and when attitudes will change.
I am fortunate that I can be part of the interview and selection process for my support, I am fortunate that my daughter enables and empowers me to be a part of this. She knows that I need her guidance and advise, I know I couldn’t as yet be the person who undertakes all the paperwork and other issues that evolve from being an employer. I am grateful my daughter is able to take on that role but we agreed at the outset I would be involved in my care.
My daughter is obviously aware of my limitations and my mental health and she ensures everything is organised so I don’t need to worry. She deals with staffing issues, holidays and sickness leave and she organises the payroll and time sheets. When it comes to recruitment she organises the adverts and the application forms and at interviews she helps me to organise the questions we are going to ask. She takes a clear active role in the whole process and yet the decision regards who we employ is a joint one.
I wonder though about those who don’t have someone to help, how do they manage to organise all these issues. Does their local authority offer the support they need and does it really empower them in the way it should. I once attended a meeting about direct payments organised by my local council and it became apparent that most people there were not receiving support because of their mental health. The fact is very few people who need support as a result of a mental illness are encouraged to use direct payments, I believe that’s wrong. Unless that changes, then how can societies attitudes change about service users being present at interviews. Unless hospitals and care homes include service users on selection panels how can it become the norm to be inclusive and not exclude.
I did sit through all the interviews and I feel it went well, we are having a really tough time making the right decision over who to employ. We were blessed with some really great candidates and now my daughter and I are trying to evaluate those individuals to determine who is best for the job. I know I couldn’t do this without her support and her guidance to keep me on track, I doubt she realises how much it means to be allowed to be involved in my care. But it means so much to have a choice, to be able to make decisions and not to feel dictated too.
I know that I couldn’t make any choice if I wasn’t present at interviews and given these people will work with me in my home, it is right that I get to be involved in choosing who my support workers are.
Copyright DID Dispatches 2014
Please note this blog is not a criticism of any of the people who I interviewed last weekend, neither will anyone’s surprise at my participation in the interview process play any part in the decision we finally make.