No hi-viz jacket required – small institutions

You don’t need to have large buildings to create institutions for people with learning disabilities, just inflexible and de-humanising practices. Here we’re having a think about a few of those.

I read a weird thing on the Gr8 Support Movement FacebookGroup the other day. Someone had been shopping in Bluewater and whilst getting in to their car they spotted a group of people with learning disabilities being supported to get in to their minibus. 

They’ve now started a call to action on this. Find out more about this from Gr8 Support Movement here.

The weird thing was that they were being supported by two people wearing high-vis jackets. And no they weren’t ‘gilets jaunes’ protesters taking a few hours off from protesting about President Macron and doing a spot of shopping.

No on the back of their hi-vis jackets were written the words ‘Carer’. Why on earth is this needed? 

Maybe there’s a good health and safety reason that they have to wear hi-vis but ‘Carer?!’

I imagine the staff concerned thought nothing of it and it got me thinking about all those little things that happen that nobody challenges that all add to creating institutionalised ways of life for people with learning disabilities.

Small institutions

It brought to mind a conversation I had with a man called Nigel once. He lived in a supported living block of flats for people with learning disabilities and he said to me:

“The thing is, they always insist that I do my laundry everyWednesday morning. What I don’t understand is why can’t I just wait until the laundry bin is full.”

In that little exchange I think he helped articulate how there are lots of rules and systems put in place that seemingly make sense to those of us supporting people, but we’ve not stopped to think whether these actually make sense to the person being supported.

Additionally, in the case of the people wearing yellow ‘carer’ jackets, their practice is actually further removing people from their community and ‘othering’ them.

An institution doesn’t need to be an old style 20 ‘bedded’ ‘unit’– it’s also possible to create institutions in one bedroom flats, as Nigel showed.

Does my practice look institutionalised in this?

So the point of this article is to find out what examples you have of things that actually are institutionalised practices.

It could be:

  • Fixed laundry days
  • Locked cupboards in an individual’s flat
  • Rigid rotas and bedtimes
  • Social care style posters and signs on the wall

I’m sure you’ve got lots of examples and we’re planning to use all your suggestions for a little project we’ve dreamed up for next year.

So please leave your signs that you’re working in an institution in the comments below.

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