Isaac has a TAC this week, a Team Around the Child meeting to look at reviewing his CAF. Already, we’re into acronyms, it’s only going to get worse ; he’s going to be part of the new SEND pilot for an EHC.
Previous TAC’s have been interesting, for want of a better way of putting it. A meeting of professionals that tries to include the family, is how it has felt rather than a meeting with the family at the centre, or more specifically, with Isaac at the centre. Last week two of the consultants with whom Isaac’s care sits said that they wouldn’t be attending ; the message being relayed to us via his Lead Professional. When I asked if they would be submitting reports I was told ‘no, because they never send reports when they don’t come and the meeting was to centre really on Isaac’s transition to the EHC process and not really about his medical situation’. What this conveys is that it is important enough to invite the consultants, but not to chase their input when they can’t attend. It also feels like ‘don’t you know that there’s an agenda that us professionals have agreed? Don’t go thinking there’s things you can ask on the day…..’
It’s not all about particular people here, it’s about systems I think, or expectations in role. I believe that the person being discussed should be the chair of a meeting about their care if they wish to be so, or where they are not able to the chair role should be with the parents if they so wish. The role of the Lead Pro, for me, is to support that by bringing together the relevant professionals, being tenacious about ensuring that the parties needed are there, and to ensure that the meeting is recorded and written up in such a way that the actions can be tracked.
However, what exists is a bit of a ‘we’ll do it for you’ approach which is fine(ish) if you’ve agreed that and that the people involved do their bit well. It’s basically a system that in our experiences disempowers. I’m not one of these parents who assumes that all professionals don’t know my child, or that there’s nothing to be gained from these meetings, or that pitches up to meetings ready for a battle – far from it, I recognise that it’s a great opportunity to review, evaluate and plan. However, coming together where only half the invited people can attend, and their input is missing is not a good use of anyone’s time.
Another thing that makes me question the process is that when you get a bunch of professionals in a room for a meeting about Isaac is that it’s sometime the first time some of them have spoken since the last TAC. This ‘ooooh, not seen you in months’ feeling really doesn’t instil our confidence. I KNOW how difficult inter agency communication can be, but please, at least talk to each other between meetings sometimes.
Other times there’s the ‘why am I here?’ professional in the room. We had this with a social worker very early on. If you read my blogs you’ll know my feelings about social workers, nothing worse. I have to look at one in the mirror every morning. Anyhow, this SW came and had, by own admission, no idea why she had been sent to the TAC. I had to seriously stop myself breaking into incredulous laughter when I said ‘so what would be your role?’ and the answer ‘well, we don’t really get involved until he’s about 5’ came back.
There’s also the ‘nothing’s changed’ people where you sort of wonder well, could you not have submitted a written input?
The process as a whole is necessary, that’s how it feels. If I had to give feedback id say it’s helpful for the professionals that come. As a family we sit there, tell everyone the same things that we’ve told each professional individually, listen to professionals make plans about how they’ll do things between themselves (‘oh, we can do a joint visit’ ‘right, i’ll send you a referral’) then get sent a plan to sign a week or two later. I resist the urge to reach for the red pen and write ‘not SMART!’ on the plan where you see targets confused with objectives, no measurable outcomes and slippery timescales because, well, i’m there as dad not as a professional for goodness sake and we need to keep everyone happy rather than thinking that we’re the parents that rock the boat.
There’s no point having a bit of a rant without some useful bit so here’s my TAC TIPS for HCPs and SCP’s;
1. Give the family the option to chair or support them to do so.
2. Help us get Isaac’s input. I know it may seem like ‘what’s the point, he’s three’ but i’ll give an example. Isaac’s recently got a lycra vest (i’m after one too, very slimming) to give postural feedback and I know the question at the TAC will be ‘Is isaac’s vest helping?’ not ‘What does Isaac think about his vest?’.
3. Chairing skills matter if you’re doing it, both BEFORE and IN the meeting – hold to account, focus on process and input, but always , always turn it back to the core issues of how does this relate to Isaac.
4. If you don’t know why you’re there, maybe don’t come. We don’t know either!
5. P.P.P.P.P.P. – it matters!
6. Keep care, compassion, communication central to the tone of the meeting.
7. Dare you ask about how Isaac’s siblings feel about things? Is this for the TAC? Why not? It impacts on his care.
I’m genuinely sorry if it’s a bit like ‘Rick’s on his soap box’. I hope it’s not because it’s a mixture of knowing how it could be better and a bit of frustration about how we can make it so. I feel it’s difficult, if not impossible, for me to go to the TAC and say ‘listen, i’ve got a stack of ideas as to how this can be better in future’ because er, it’s not on the agenda…it’s about time after all to be serious, it’d take 20 minutes to slog this lot out at least and that’s time we don’t have. If however, 20 minutes of the 1st TAC had been spent laying this groundwork down then this would have been a very empty blog…..!