The Four-Letter ‘C’ Word

By Laurence Clark

Community Care 31.10.07

As a disabled person, I find that our relationships are often misunderstood. Take two of mine:

My personal assistant is a bloke who helps me dress, shave and get around. My wife is the woman who gives me love, support and regular hot sex! Now I don’t want these two relationships to get mixed up. Yet the same bloody word, “care”, is always used to describe them both.

But don’t get me wrong – my objection to this word has nothing to do with political correctness, since the concept of care pretty much underpins the whole social work profession. However I feel it feeds into and perpetuates the myth that we disabled people need looking after, supervising and protecting. In essence what’s being implied is that we’re not in control of our own lives. After all, the other large section of our society whom we “care” for are children.

A social service which had the aim of enabling disabled people to fulfil their potential would focus on independent living, not the paternalistic notion of community care. With this in mind, nowadays I like to play a little game whenever I have to go through a community care assessment. In the past, all I’d get from my social worker was something along the lines of: “Blah, blah, blah, care, blah, blah, care plan, blah, blah, blah, blah, carer.”

It was as if someone had bet them that they couldn’t mention “care” at least twice in every sentence. I’ve even had a go at this myself and it’s no mean feat, although I suppose it takes three years of rigorous social work training to become really good at it.

So to really bamboozle them, I tell my social worker at the start of our meeting that they are not to use the four-letter “c” word in my assessment as I find it offensive.

What happens next is brilliant entertainment. All of a sudden they become completely robbed of the power to communicate, cautiously having to think about each and every word. The upshot of all this is they’ll readily agree to whatever I want in order to get the meeting over and done with as quickly as possible. (Published with a different title!)

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