Many people in society can be classed as vulnerable. It’s fairly obvious that babies and children are vulnerable, as they cannot take care of themselves (not fully, anyway) and that the elderly can be in a similar position. However, there are countless other adults who are vulnerable and need to be protected and nurtured.
My brother is one of those vulnerable adults. He has severe learning difficulties, autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) and a few physical health issues. He attends a day centre which he enjoys due to the socialising and stimulation it gives him, and also because it’s something that is just ‘his’. He relies on my parents and me so much for everything else that the smallest pieces of independence are really precious to him and his well-being.
As a vulnerable adult, my brother has a social worker. I should correct that by saying he now has a social worker. My parents and brother met his new social worker today. This new social worker situation has come about because his previous social worker retired. No one told us. In fact, we only found out when my mum tried to take his previous social worker a Christmas gift. Bear in mind that it’s now the end of April. That’s a long time without a professional to make sure that his needs as a vulnerable adult are being met. That he’s being cared for. That he has all the support he needs. That my ageing parents have the support they need.
His previous social worker has been with him for over 20 years. To have that person sucked out of your life without you even knowing is stressful for anyone and this is amplified by my brother’s ASD, which means he doesn’t handle change easily.
My parents had to fight and nag to get today’s meeting (and the new social worker) sorted. The meeting was really positive and they are optimistic about who’s going to be looking after my brother. However, how many people are as persistent as my parents, especially my dad who can be like a dog with a bone? It’s worrying that it’s so easy for vulnerable people to be without the support of the professionals from the state, who are supposed to support them and ensure that they are having the best quality of life.
The meeting has opened up some opportunities that sound really great for my brother, including the prospect of respite, which will benefit both him and my parents. It’s frustrating that he could have had these things in place sooner to help him be happy and healthy.
Vulnerability comes in many different forms. It’s important to recognise it in yourself and in others, I think, and consider what you can do in terms of self care or the care of others. We have a duty of care towards the vulnerable; a responsibility. The vulnerable deserve care; they have a right to quality of life.