Some months ago I received an e mail from someone I knew telling me that the remit for ‘service user involvement’ in north Wales was going to be handed over to CAIS. CAIS is an addiction charity established and chaired by Dafydd Alun Jones (please see blog posts ‘How No-One Knew About Dr Dafydd Alun Jones’, ‘The Mysterious Silence of MIND’ and ‘A Very Bad PR Man’ for more details on Dafydd Alun Jones). Lucille Hughes sits on the CAIS Board (please see my blog posts ‘Gwynedd Social Services and the North Wales Child Abuse Scandal’ and ‘The Arfon Community Mental Health Team’ for further information on Lucille). Dafydd’s son Dyfrig ap Dafydd also sits on the Board along with a few other notorious people – read what they want you to know about them here (there’s an awful lot missing from their biographies) http://www.cais.co.uk/personel/board/
I was horrified to hear this news about the latest development in ‘service user involvement’ but couldn’t find any information to confirm it. However a few weeks ago I had a meeting with a senior manager from the Betsi who confirmed that this was indeed true. I asked her if she knew that Dafydd Alun Jones and Lucille Hughes were members of the CAIS Board and whether she knew that Jones had described me as ‘attractive and seductive’ and that Lucille Hughes had been named in the Waterhouse Report as knowing about the paedophile ring in children’s homes in north Wales but failing to act. The manager put on that special voice that women who work for the NHS adopt when they are being faced with embarrassing realities and said ‘those are very serious allegations’. I replied that they weren’t allegations they were facts and if she wished I could show her the documentary evidence. I notice that she didn’t take up this offer. However she asked me if I’d like to be involved with CANIAD, the organisation that has been established by CAIS as a vehicle for ‘service user involvement’ and offered to introduce me to the woman appointed to develop CANIAD. I said that although it would certainly be interesting to observe events at CANIAD I very much doubt that I’d be welcome and I have a policy of not being co-opted into anything involving DA Jones. I asked who in the Betsi had been rash enough to give CAIS this contract. The manager replied that it was a decision taken not by the Betsi but by Wrexham Council. So someone at Wrexham Council is doing Dafydd favours. But why was Wrexham Council allowed to make this decision, which affects people right across north Wales, not just in Wrexham? People living in areas like Dwyfor Meirionydd have interests that cannot possibly be represented by Wrexham Council.
A quick flick through back-copies of CAIS newsletters reveal them boasting about landing the contract for CANIAD http://www.cais.co.uk/static/cais/documents/document/cais-newsletter-issue-36-winter-2016.pdf
And now there’s a website for CANIAD http://caniad.org.uk/
I note that as far as CANIAD is concerned, the interests of people with mental health problems have been conflated with the interests of people with addiction problems – yet these are two very different groups of people with very different problems. A friend of mine with mental health problems was ‘referred’ to an organisation called AGRO in Gwynedd by a community psychiatric nurse – this friend has had a lifetime of climbing, fell running and cycling and was sent to AGRO because it claimed to be an organisation ‘assisting recovery through physical activity’. It was a non-starter for him – he discovered that every other client had drug and alcohol problems and that their idea of ‘physical activity’ was rather different to his.
CAIS and CANIAD are dripping with the language of ’empowerment’ – there has been much criticism in academic literature of the way that this term is being used in health and social care. The empowered are not the same as the powerful. Indeed, in current formulations of health and social care policy, ’empowering’ people frequently means responsibilising them and leaving them to cope with retracting welfare services. (The sociologist John Clark was the first person to write about this and did a good job of cutting through the nonsense about ’empowered citizens/service users’. He pointed out that these ’empowered’ people were effectively simply being abandoned by the state.)
I have met clients of CAIS and they didn’t seem particularly empowered to me. I also have had a few conversations with volunteers/peer guides with CAIS. I was told that the volunteers do all the work but are only very, very rarely offered paid positions with CAIS. I was told that whenever CAIS win awards on the basis of the volunteers hard work it is the paid staff and upper echelons of CAIS that receive all the glory and attend all the awards ceremonies and other jollies. And I was told that there is a problem with some volunteers/peer guides dealing in drugs but that has been very carefully kept quiet. (The concept of the ‘peer guide’ is something else that is now being subjected to academic critique. And there has long been discussion regarding whether this sort of citizen action is actually emancipatory or simply a way of denying services to people. I had an interesting discussion with the radical French sociologist Loic Wacquant ages ago about this; Loic seemed to think it was the biggest con-trick ever – ‘yeh, do it yourselves, look after each other, you’ll get no help, no money and no infrastructure’. But at least they’ll be empowered.)
CAIS is expanding and expanding as the statutory services collapse. There is now much talk in the Welsh Gov’t of ‘co-production’ and delivering services in partnership with the third sector. What’s the betting that Dafydd et al have their sights set on all those lucrative contracts that could come their way in the near future?
The other day someone asked me why on earth anyone had allowed Dafydd Alun Jones to take over provision for services for drugs and alcohol. Well I watched it happen back in the 1990s. Dafydd was such an embarrassment that a lot of people were trying to ensure that he retired, although he was desperate not to. At the same time the other psychiatrists in the region were throwing constant hissy fits regarding whom they would or wouldn’t treat. The only people those psychiatrists hated more than patients who made complaint were drug addicts and alcoholics. They were quite happy to let Jones treat them so they didn’t have to. At one point there was talk of a high profile pioneering addiction specialist from Liverpool coming to work at the Hergest Unit, but Gwynedd Health Authority blocked his appointment. They gave the remit to Jones instead – as long as he agreed to ‘retire’. I was also told that part of the deal was that Gwynedd Health Authority would not follow up the numerous complaints that had been made against Jones. So they left the door wide open for him.
So now Jones, Lucille Hughes et al are going to be in a position to not only directly control patient feedback and the design and delivery of services but will also be responsible for ‘training’ others who will also control feedback and service design and delivery. The track record of Jones and Lucille suggest that there will not be a happy outcome from this. I notice that the charity Hafal are a partner with CAIS in this venture, which theoretically could provide a glimmer of hope – Hafal have a record of being rather more honest than the likes of MIND regarding the dreadful state of the mental health services. However I suspect that Hafal will be overwhelmed, outmanoeuvred and duped by CAIS at every turn and by the time that they realise the nature of their ‘partners’, Hafal will have suffered damage.
I see that it is claimed that CANIAD are now up and running and are busy consulting ‘service users’. I’ve seen no trace of them in the area where I live and other ‘service users’ whom I’m in contact with have no idea who CANIAD are. So who exactly are CANIAD busy consulting and training?