I want to share a story about how, as a disabled person employing my own support staff, things can quickly go drastically wrong if you make the mistake of letting the wrong person into your home to support you when you are at your most vulnerable.
Last week I wrote about my experiences of being an employer and how I was concerned about the apparent lack of support for transition, training, and monitoring for those disabled people who choose to do away with working in the traditional methods, as in with providers, and choose to manage it all ourselves.
There are many EGL participants in the Waikato who made the similar leap into self-managing as I did, and the majority of us could most probably challenge the notion of how simple the messaging surrounding choice and control actually becomes when you are on the ground and doing it.
Any employer will tell you that managing a team of staff is hard work, and nobody here is suggesting that disabled people can’t succeed at doing it, but when it all goes wrong due to a variety of factors, it can leave you in an extremely vulnerable position and become very dangerous quickly.
To compensate for my concerns about all this, allow me to share with you a personal story about what happened to me last week.
Picture me in the shower, an unflattering prospect I know.
My support worker and I are having a discussion about their latest invoice. This particular worker was employed as an independent contractor and bills me for their time at the end of each fortnight.
I have concerns, and proof by the way, that a certain amount of hours they had billed me for weren’t actually worked. Now you could argue that such a discussion shouldn’t have taken place whilst my personal cares were being performed, but you’ve got to understand, when the situation arises it can be very hard to diffuse, especially when you are in such a vulnerable position.
The disagreement continues, and I tell the worker that I will not be paying them for those hours in question, as they did not work them.
The worker then walked out of the shower, leaving me unattended under the water still covered in soap, walked into my bedroom, and stole my wallet. The worker then took my wallet, and the keys to my vehicle, before driving to the nearest ATM and withdrawing $400 out of my bank account and depositing it into theirs.
Following this, the worker returned to my home, tossed the wallet at me, and said “it doesn’t matter now, I’ve got my ******* money mother ******”.
Inside my wallet was an ATM receipt, showing that they had indeed illegally transferred $400 out of my bank account and into theirs. Since then, the worker has threatened me and attempted to contact Enabling Good Lives and accuse me of falsifying invoice amounts unless I give them their job back.
Multiple visits to the police, trespass notices signed, and a whole lot of paranoia later, we reach today which marks just under a week since the incident.
Naturally, there has been a mix of anger and fear as a result of this, and it’s a really interesting feeling because as advocates for disabled people, we often hear of this sort of abuse happening to others in our community, but it isn’t until it happens to you that you realize how frightening and vulnerable the experience can be. I’ve thought a lot about what I could’ve done differently that day, but when you break it all down, I was attempting to have that difficult conversation with an employee, and sadly it went very sour and ended in just about the worst way possible.
Sharing this story wasn’t meant to ignite pity, or to point the finger at anyone for why it happened, I just wanted to reinforce the notion that all is not perfect in this new world of so-called greater choice and control.