Saturday, 14 December 2013

(16 Nov 13) a response to Circles Network letter threatening legal action if I speak out

Firstly, I will continue to speak out about whatever I believe needs to be said, whether it is about CN or anything else.  The threat of "legal redress" will not silence me.  

Secondly, I maintain that I have done nothing to "bring" CN into "disrepute".  If an organisation uses bullying tactics and threatening letters then this demonstrates, in my opinion, disreputable practice.

Thirdly, my offer of volunteering was with the Fife advocacy project which just happens at present to be managed by CN based in Warwickshire, England.  I have no desire to volunteer with CN in England but I do want to help the Fife advocates and to support Fife people who are in psychiatric settings and want to speak out.

Fourthly, there is no conflict of interest in my desire to help with advocacy work in Fife but there is a conflict of interest in a service provider organisation trying to provide independent advocacy, even if from another country. 

Finally, although I don't have a good opinion of CN, based on previous experience of trying to engage with them, I do have a good opinion of the Fife advocates who have been working over the last 4 years in very difficult circumstances.  A high turnover of staff.  Low morale.  Continual system changes implemented by CN in England without consultation.  Issues around pay scales and modes of travel.  Various other pressures.

I am entitled to my opinion.  People can choose whether to believe my version of the story or not. 

I am not forcing my views on to anyone else.  I am not threatening legal action on unpaid carers.  I refuse to be intimidated.

(15 Nov 13) I can't afford a solicitor but if anything ever did come to court I would gladly stand up and speak out

The thing is.  I recovered from mental illness and psychiatric treatment, on my own, so don't now get any benefits and didn't ever claim DLA.  

Which means I can't afford to get a solicitor to take anyone to court.  Unfortunately.

But if anything ever did come to court I would gladly stand up and speak out.  

I have plenty of evidence regarding unprofessional behaviour, human rights abuse, lack of independent advocacy in Fife and many other demonstrations of poor/bad practice.

(15 Nov 13) who'd have thought that offering to volunteer would result in so much disharmony?

You'd think a national organisation that prides itself on being inclusive would be glad of a volunteer with my capabilities and experience joining the advocacy project they manage in my local area.  

Helping get collective advocacy groups going.  
Supporting people to speak out and have a voice, about their psychiatric treatment or mental health services.

The local project manager was keen on the idea and also another experienced advocacy worker who I've known for over 5 years, since they were both in the TODAY Group, user led collective advocacy that lost out at the 2009 advocacy tendering process.  

We had a useful meeting at Stratheden Hospital to discuss this, back in August.  It seemed a straightforward process.  I'd complete the volunteer application form then attend a training course and then be assessed for suitability.  We were happy to go ahead with this but Circles Network in Warwickshire, England, have said "No".

(15 Nov 13) request for information about Circles Network Fife advocacy policies and procedures in Fife - October 2011

I had originally sent an FOI request to Fife Council social work head of adult and older people's services on 21 October 2011 at 14:33.  However on 21 November 2011 at 16:52 I received an Email from the senior social work manager for mental health saying:

"I am sorry Chrys but having consulted our Social Work Contracts section, I must advise that we do not hold the information you request in relation to Circles Fife advocacy project"

I then sent an Email on 30 November 2011 at 09.24, to the local manager of the Circles Network Fife Advocacy Project, copied in to the chief executive and regional manager of Circles Network, also the Fife Council senior social work service manager with the same request as in the FOI:

"I am writing to request information about the work of Circles Fife advocacy project. 

I would like information about the training of advocates in Fife, both paid and volunteer advocates.  I would like a copy of the training programme and outcomes, also how you evaluate that staff have taken on board the training received.  I would like to know how frequently the Fife advocates undertake training.

I would like a copy of all your policies regarding the provision of advocacy.  And I would like to know how Circles Fife actively involves service users in planning and managing the service.

I would like a copy of your evaluation tool, the process by which you qualitatively evaluate your service, and how you actively involve service users in this process.

I have questions about the collective advocacy undertaken by Circles Fife:

  • where the groups are being held and details - days, times, venue?
  • are these groups 'open'?  can anyone attend, if not open how can someone take part?
  • who is facilitating the groups - paid worker, volunteer or both?
  • what is the collective advocacy group agenda, aims, objectives?  are they all the same or have different focus?
  • how are these groups facilitated?  resources used, methods, action plan etc
  • are any of the groups time limited?  eg are they running for say 8wks at a time? 
  • how do they ensure that group members are able to say what they want?  how do they encourage freedom of expression? 
  • what training is available for their staff, volunteers and others linked with Circles Network Fife, in collective advocacy, working with groups, scribing, reporting back (accurately and without bias or influence)? 

I would like a copy of all the forms used by Circles Fife in their advocacy work, including the forms used when meeting clients, support and supervision forms used with staff, complaints forms for users of the service, complaints forms for carers of people who use the service. 

I would like to know about the advocacy support available to people in acute inpatient wards in Fife.  How does Circles Fife make sure that patients and their carers know about their advocacy project, what is available, how they can get in touch etc?  Is Circles Fife proactive in reaching carers of people with a 'mental disorder'?

I requested this information from Fife Council who did not have it and recommended that I contact Circles Fife directly for this.

I look forward to hearing from you."

In response to this request I was invited to a meeting with the Circles Network regional manager, for Scotland and Ireland, and informed in a phone call that I would receive copies of all the information I had asked for.  

When I got to the meeting on 14 December 2011 at 2.00pm in Cupar there was no information available.  I was told by the regional manager that it was their "intellectual property" and I was accused of having a "derogatory manner".  (Copy of my complaint Email I sent that same day in next blog post)

I also found out that the Circles Network regional manager on 22 December 2011 had contacted a colleague of mine in another health board area, misrepresenting what I said and slandering my reputation.  I have a copy of this Email.

(15 Nov 13) the irony of being threatened with legal action by an organisation paid to provide advocacy

It would be funny if it wasn't so serious.  I got a solicitor's letter from them before, after raising a complaint about their regional manager's behaviour towards me, in response to my asking for information about their policies and procedures.

At the time it happened, just before Christmas 2011, my son was becoming unwell.  So I put it on the back burner and got on with trying to support him.  He couldn't access any support for a month, despite having a CPN, and we were left to get on with it.  The solicitor's letter was the least of my concerns.

I then had to advocate for my son when he was a patient in Stratheden Hospital, February and March 2012, after finding out that his basic human rights were being denied.  Locked up in a seclusion room for hours at a time.  In the dark (light switch outside).  No toilet or drinking water.  With a broken hand untreated. 

And so began a series of complaints about my son's treatment in Stratheden Hospital, starting from 1 February 2012 onwards.

(14 Nov 13) letter from Circles Network, Potford Dam Farm, Rugby, Warwickshire


I will do a response in another blog post.


(14 Nov 13) a letter is on the way to me from Circles Network, Potford Dam Farm, Rugby, Warwickshire

I heard today from the HR Officer at Circles Network, Potford Dam Farm, Rugby, Warwickshire, that a letter is on the way to me.  And also an Emailed copy, any time soon.

The HR Officer says that I "won't like" what's written and that "it's a shame it had to come to this".  Not sure what that means but no doubt I shall soon find out.

I'm just wondering.  How did Circles Network get my home address?

(8 Nov 13) excluded by Circles Network (England) from being a volunteer advocate in Fife

[update: letter received in post from Circles Network today, 9 November 2013, saying ... "can only apologise for the confusion" ... "the central office did not know about ..." ... "can only apologise for the obvious mixed messages you received" ... "the outcome from this investigation will be a review of our recruitment policy for volunteers to ensure this confusion will not happen in future"]

About 2 months ago I asked for a volunteer application pack from the Circles Network Fife Advocacy Project.  I'd spoken to the Fife manager about this, a woman I have known well since 2008 when she was on the committee of Peer Support Fife which I was convenor of.  This manager wanted me to volunteer and thought it a good idea, as did other staff members.

[Circles Network is primarily a learning disability service provider that has also ventured into other business enterprises]

However I got an Email back from the Circles Network head office human resources officer, based at Potford Dam Farm, Warwickshire, England, to say that they didn't want me as a volunteer and I wasn't even getting an application form to fill in.  

Excluded without any consideration of my skills, abilities, qualifications and experience.  I've managed advocacy volunteers and was an advocate in Perth, from 2000-02, and have advocated for many family members, and others, in mental health situations.  I have a PG Dip in community education and a PG Cert teaching qualification in further education.

I felt this was discriminatory practice and made a complaint about it to Fife Council social work services.  Who got back to me and said that Circles Network would investigate my complaint.  Which I thought strange as my complaint was about Circles Network head office.  So how could they investigate themselves?  A conflict of interest.  [No surprise there then]

I'm still waiting to hear their explanation as to why I'm not allowed to volunteer for them in Fife, to help people with mental health issues to have a voice.  I suspect they will get away with it as they've got away with other stuff eg promoting winning tendering bids on Facebook, unprofessionally.