The perilous cult of charisma

I was interested to read Noelle Blackman and Lynne Tooze’s excellent article on Jean Vanier, the disgraced founder of L’Arche (Accusing saints: when no on listens, summer 2020).

As the Vanier story tells us, we make a cult out of charismatic leaders at our peril. Vanier had all the makings of a saint – apparently humble, deeply religious, devoted to the poor and vulnerable and self-sacrificing. Except beneath all of this lurked a sexual abuser. It was this humble charisma that gave him his cover and his protection.

As one of his victims who courageously gave testimony to the inquiry reported:  “I was like frozen. I realised that Jean Vanier was adored by hundreds of people, like a living saint, that he talked about how he helped victims of sexual abuse. It appeared like a camouflage and I found it difficult to raise the issue.”

Of course, not all charismatic people are abusers. The lesson is that, however much we might feel we admire someone, we should never put a leader above the led, and never raise anyone to a level where criticism of them is seen as a wrong in itself. The adoration of Vanier and his cult-like status silenced his victims until after his death. We are yet to find out how many more silenced victims will come forward, and we will never know how many will always remain silent.

People are more important than ideas, and we must never let beliefs override what we see happening before our eyes. When cults develop in organisations, in societies, in politics or in communities, it generally means only one thing – the victimisation and exploitation of the vulnerable.




Needs pushed aside by budgets

Have we lost social workers who are willing to stand by their assessments and challenge commissioning managers who seem more concerned to cut services and save money?

Too many social workers are in a system where they do not know their service users for the long term. They have to close cases as soon as they have done their assessments, and will not necessarily then be allocated them for the next review. People are then assessed with records that may not show their long-term history. We saw what can result from this in Jane Lloyd’s story about what happened to her sister when the authorities, with the provider, decided she no longer needed sleep-in support (summer 2019; www. cl-initiatives.co.uk/crisis-long-journey-back).

No one is saying some people cannot manage differently. However, this means knowing the person and their past responses to stress, and having a plan to test changes with them, not just apply them. Someone may be managing well because of the support they have. Maybe social work teams in Lancashire have failed to override needs and wishes or have found no good reason to move people from where they are happy, even if their home has vacancies. Vacancies incur costs to the local authority.

Now, the council is to spend just over £1 million a year for two years on a housing team to save more than £2 million annually; this will move people out of homes with vacancies. It proposes “decommissioning” places that have had a vacancy for over a year. However, the council does not have the right to move people from their home as it is not the landlord – people have tenancy rights. People may not understand that housing and care support rights are separate. Advocacy can be sidestepped by encouraging families to act in this role even when they do not understand the laws.

Jane Lloyd’s story may also be repeated if people are moved when there is no awareness of the consequences this may have on their lives and wellbeing.




Commissioners are weak and cowardly

Commissioners don’t take responsibility for their actions and don’t challenge themselves and their teams. They appear to be cowards in the main. There are plenty of people having great lives in the community after escaping institutions but commissioners don’t understand how to commission the right and best support much of the time.

Amanda Katie Louise, via Facebook


Private hospitals see us as cash cows

Our family members are just treated as an “income stream” for so many private hospitals. It’s appalling and must end now.

Gail Rainford, via Facebook


CQC doesn’t listen to us

Odd isn’t it, how reports of the experienced differ so much to Care Quality Commission reports, who just happen to be part-funded by the providers. The CQC business model and how they “regulate” is strikingly similar to big pharma and how the World Health Organization operates.

@whileincare, via Twitter


… unless it suits the providers

If CQC inspectors hear a patient say something “nice”, it is included almost verbatim. If anyone tries to raise a concern, they’re told it is a “complaint” and can’t be handled by the CQC. If you do an FOI for what information it uses for inputs, the CQC can’t tell you.

@Garmisch69, via Twitter