Social work recording: Dealing with a complaint
- Sheena – Social Worker
- Mr. Smith – Husband of, and carer for, Karen, who has progressive physical disabilities
Social work office
Mr Smith calls Shabna weekly, on average, to ask for more support for his wife, Karen. He wants paid carers to cook for her, and help with housework.
SCENE: MR SMITH]
[MR SMITH IS ON THE PHONE.]
Sheena: Hello Mr Smith, how can I help you today?
Mr Smith: Hello? Is this Sheena I’m speaking to?
Sheena: Yes, this is Sheena. What can I do for you?
Mr Smith: (angry) Yet again I have to tell you that our house is a terrible mess. I really do need you to sort this out. You understand? You have to sort this out. It’s getting beyond a joke now, it really is. It really is. I don’t want to raise my voice, but – you know – you say you’re going to offer support, we go to all these meetings, and yet… here we are still without any help. No help at all!
All these meetings, all these personal, prying questions and yet we have no help. No help at all. It’s beyond a joke.
Sheena: Mr Smith…
Mr Smith: (interrupting) As I have said to you time and time again. Karen is just not able to do the things she used to. She does not cook. She does clean the house. We are living like… well, quite frankly, we’re living like animals. It’s not right or dignified to live like this. Now, we’ve had countless assessments. We’ve had assessments all the time… every time you come and see us, I explain the situation. I answer all your questions. Even though I don’t see what business you have really, and still nothing. Nothing! What am I supposed to do? No cooking, no cleaning. Nothing. We are living like… like pigs! And yet you just sit there doing nothing. Nothing at all to help.
Sheena: (patient) Mr Smith, as you’ve acknowledged, we’ve carried out a full and comprehensive assessment of your needs. You are more than able to cook and clean the house. We will not be offering you any support in this respect.
Mr Smith: Does your husband do all the cooking and cleaning in your household? Does he?
Sheena: We are not discussing my family, Mr Smith.
Mr Smith: Does he? I bet he doesn’t! But, of course, I’m forbidden for asking you any questions about your home life. Yet you come to our house and ask – frankly – very personal questions… which we answer because you promise to help. So many promises. All the time. Yet – nothing. Nothing at all to help with our situation at all. What you don’t understand is that I have to do practically everything for Karen. I can’t honestly be expected to do all the cooking and housework as well as look after her. And think about Karen – she used to be so house proud. What of her dignity! She doesn’t want to live like … like an animal in the zoo! Neither do I! Believe me, I have tried to show her… how she can manage the vacuum cleaner … remind her of how she used to look after the house so well. I have bought her simple cookery books. I have done all these things. And, yes, I get frustrated and, yes, sometimes we row. But this is the pressure you are putting us under, all the time. This is what you do when you make promise and don’t keep them.
Sheena: Mr Smith, no one has broken any promises. Karen is eligible for support because of her condition. The things you are complaining about are to do with your needs, not hers and unfortunately you are not eligible for…
Mr Smith: I am not asking for help for me. I am asking for help for Karen. If she is unable to cook and clean, surely that makes her eligible…
Sheena: You are able to do these things, Mr Smith.
Mr Smith: (interrupting, increasingly angry) You’re missing the point. Why don’t you listen to what I’m saying? Every week I call you. Every week. I have told you time and time again. We need help. You say you can give us help. You come to our house. You have seen how we live. Karen… she’s incapable of housework. We live off microwave meals. Takeaways! We cannot afford takeaways – not now I’m retired. Look, I have told you everything. Everything. Why can’t you understand? I am speaking English.
Sheena: Mr Smith…
Mr Smith: Why do I always have to speak to you anyway? I don’t believe you’re even qualified! You sit there in judgement of me. On your high horse, looking down your nose at me! What gives you the right? You’re just a nosy little cow. I see you judging me! You think that I’m lazy or a … a… male chauvinist… I know what you social workers think. Let me tell you, I did a proper job. A job that mattered. 40 years of my life I worked hard… provided for us… and, yes, part of that deal was Karen looked after the home. But that was her choice. You understand me? Do you? Am I getting through your thick skull? I’m not some kind of abuser … or … or common wife beater. I love my wife. I always have done. Love and respect her. Respect her choices. She’s not able to do the things she used to… she needs help. Help which you promise us – but you don’t deliver. We need a cleaner and meals delivered. That’s not too much to ask! I have paid my taxes in full. I know what we’re entitled to. You’re probably not married… I suspect you’re one of those… what is it? A civil partnership is it? And you sit there judging us…
Sheena: We’re not discussing my personal life. Mr Smith.
Mr Smith: Ah! So it is like that, is it? Well that explains everything! Not all men are rapists you know. Not all men beat up their wives. I know that’s what you think. I know that’s why you’re refusing to help us. You’re a bloody bitch.
Sheena: If you swear and call me names I’m afraid that I will have to end this call and call you back later when you are calmer.
Mr Smith: (talking over Sheena) Of course we’ll never discuss your home life. Oh no… you get to know all about my home life, ask your intimate questions… get your kick out of asking them, do you? How many times have you have been to my home? You have seen it. You have seen how dirty my home is. Dirty.
My wife, who I love but who is no longer able, she simply does not have it in her any more to look after the home. What will you do about it? You are a lazy… jumped-up …cow. You just sit there answering the phone, judging other people all day long… judging upstanding citizens like me. Well, I hope your parents are proud of you. I really hope they are. I am sure they would be really proud to know how you use your power to humiliate and abuse…
Sheena: Mr Smith, I will not listen to this much longer. You have previously made comments like this about me and my family and I have explained it is unacceptable. I do understand your frustration, and we can arrange a review of your support plan…
Mr Smith: (interrupting) You mean another meeting! I have told you what we need. Someone to clean, someone to cook. It’s not hard to understand you stupid…. I… I… I simply do not understand why we need yet another meeting! Why!?!
Sheena: It would be a review meeting, including Karen…
Mr Smith: You waste our time AGAIN just so you can deny us the help we need. AGAIN! I suppose it will you judging us AGAIN too…
Sheena: I will be there, yes, but to help Karen to have her views considered, I suggest we ask for an independent advocate to be present.
Mr Smith: For goodness sake! Karen can’t be bothered with all these meetings. You’ve met her – she’s tired and unwell. She doesn’t want strangers in the house pretending to be her friend. This is utterly ridiculous. She does not want to answer more questions. This is the whole point. This is why I am ringing on her behalf. You don’t listen.
Sheena: That’s why I think that an advocate might be a good idea. The advocate would help both Karen and you to get your views across.
Mr Smith: (interrupting) I am not listening to this! This is ridiculous! Ridiculous. I have told you. I have told you, Karen does not understand. You are a stupid, stuck up, nosy good-for-nothing cow. A stupid cow. Your parents should be ashamed. Rot in hell.
[MR. SMITH HANGS UP.]
[END OF SCENARIO.]
How would you record the events?
08.07.17 4:30 – Mr Smith telephoned and asked to speak to me. His conversation was similar in content and tone to the call we had last week.
Mr Smith stated that his wife, Karen, was no longer able to do the housework. He was repeating his request for assistance with housework and shopping.
I restated that Karen had eligible needs but these were not for housework and shopping.
Mr Smith became quite abusive calling me a “nosey cow”. I warned him that I would terminate the call if he persisted in using abusive language and that I would call him back when he was calmer. Mr Smith however became increasingly angry as the call progressed. His voice got lounder and his comments more personal and language abusive. (Accurate, Real)
He said that he and his wife were living “like pigs” and that he had tried to show her how to use the vacuum cleaner and had bought her simple cook books but she was unable to undertake the housework. He was asking again for help with shopping and housework.
I again explained that we were not able to help him with this as he was able to undertake these tasks himself.
I offered a re-assessment of Karen and suggested that she could be supported by an advocate but Mr Smith became even more angry and refused to consider this suggestion saying that his wife had had “several assessments” and she was “tired”. (Accurate)
I let Mr Smith continue as I hoped that by keeping calm and letting Mr Smith vent his anger and frustration he would calm down and we might have a more constructive conversation but after 5 minutes Mr Smith hung up on me.
I am becoming increasingly concerned by the language Mr Smith had used during this conversation as I am worried that he might display this degree of anger towards his wife. (Holistic)
He said that not all men were ‘wife beaters’ or ‘rapists’. As this was coupled with the anger and frustration he expressed during the telephone conversation I would like to visit Mrs Smith and have the opportunity of speaking with her on her own or with an advocate to find out what she wanted to happen. As I cannot be sure about the level of risk I will attempt to make contact with Karen in the next two days. (Evidence based)
I propose the following actions:
- I will ask Karen’s CPN how best to achieve an assessment of Karen’s needs and wishes without her husband being present
- I will also put a flag on Mrs Smith’s file to indicate that if workers visit this should be in pairs.
- I will discuss with my line manager how best to manage Mr Smith’s behaviour.
- I will speak to the G.P. and review the case file notes to check the history of Mr Smith’s behaviour.
- I will offer Mr Smith a carer’s assessment
- Following an independent assessment of Mrs Smith’s needs it might also be worth considering a personal budget so that housework and shopping could be considered in the package as Mr Smith is providing other support for his wife. This may help to alleviate some of Mr Smith’s anger and frustration.