18+ Preparing for Assessment Emotionally, Mentally and Practically
My daughter is due to be assessed this week by her first adult social worker, in preparation for turning 18 early next year. The social worker has an appointment to visit us, as parents, to begin gathering information about the type of support my daughter needs, and will also look at the package we currently receive from Children’s services.
I find myself trying to prepare for this meeting on many levels, and to look at my daughter and her support needs objectively. I‘m having to change and challenge my mind set as my daughter will no longer be a ‘child’ and I am no longer the ‘parent’ with control, whether that’s actual control or my perception is a debate for another time.
I am asking myself questions with regard to how my role as a parent is seen, and what expectations there are on me in the amount of ‘care’ I give my daughter on a daily basis. As a parent in children’s services, I was expected to fulfil many tasks as my daughter was a child, will adult services still use that approach? Or will their expectations be higher or lower? This realm of the unknown has caused me great anxiety and the odd sleepless night. I want to give a true picture of my daughter, her needs, the support we give her, the benefits of having Direct Payments and overnight respite to us and my daughter, but I also want to capture who she is, her personality, likes and dislikes, but sadly I know deep down the social worker may not be that interested in her as an individual, just her as list of needs, problems, solutions and outcomes. Maybe I’m just being cynical and jaded.
So what’s keeping me up at night? Oh the usual, will she meet the eligibility criteria for services, what happens if our Direct Payments or respite are reduced? In a time of no money and none on the horizon, only more cuts to services and support, I find myself breaking out in a cold fearful sweat. This isn’t just about me, as a parent and a family carer, this is about what the future will look like for my daughter, especially moving forward when she is longer in secondary Post 16 education. She wants to go to residential specialist college, will that be funded? And in the longer term, she wants to live independent of us, but not in a residential home with 10 others.
I’m finding myself mentally preparing to argue for her, to look at the possible suggestions and plan what my response might be in order to achieve the best outcome for my daughter. I am her advocate, she trusts me and believes that I can make it all happen, just as she wants it to, and there is a big part of me that wants to shout out “why shouldn’t she achieve and have what she wants, why does it have to be about assessments, money and measurable outcomes” This is her life after all.
So apart from trying to be objective and think about the support that my daughter receives from us as a family, her PA and overnight respite, and trying to keep my emotions in check, I’m also being practical. I’m doing a little bit of research into eligibility criteria for my LA, I’m thinking about the kind of questions the social worker will be asking and preparing some answers. I know why our current package works, and I’m pretty sure I can predict what will happen if they are reduced. There is a tiny part of me that dreams of what an increase would look like, and how our lives would be improved if more PA hours were available. Surely we’re allowed to daydream.
I find myself wondering if social workers know the kind of stress and anxiety an assessment brings to many of us. Do they understand how it feels to discuss the most private and intimate things with a stranger? who will record it all, write a report, potentially writing inaccuracies, that could have a massive impact on a panel decision, and be left waiting for an outcome, and then try to make the package offered work for you as best you can to lead the life you want to.