The other day I was at a meeting in Cupar, the final stage of a complaints process which I had raised against the CEO of a national mental health carer organisation because of letters written by her, about me, sent to my home address. I contend an invasion of privacy and a data protection issue.
My complaint therefore was twofold: I did not give permission for the CEO to use my home address for sending letters and secondly the tone of language and words used towards me in the letters I contend was patronising, belittling and derogatory, inappropriate for someone heading up a national carer organisation.
I had to negotiate a meeting in my local area because at first they wanted me to travel down to Edinburgh, 40 plus miles, to be heard. But I wasn’t having it. I was the one who raised the complaint, an unpaid carer. It was their responsibility to accommodate me.
A couple of days prior to the meeting I was told that only one person from the Board would be attending with a note taker. I took a digital recorder so as to have my own record of what was said. I know from past experience that notes taken at meetings can read like a work of fiction.
I went to the meeting expecting the Board Chair to be there but it was a stranger. He welcomed me with a crushing handshake which I drew attention to and he apologised. The minute taker was a woman, a staff member. The man later said he had only been a Board member for 24 hours. Although he’d been on the Board in the past.
And so began our dialogue which I later described to a friend as “thrust and parry” and my friend responded using the term “boxing ring”. An apt description. For I was up against it. My resistance fighting skills came into play.
I had to continually defend my corner and challenge the attack. The Board man said he didn’t approve of Twitter and tried to get me to justify my tweets. I thought to myself, what a load of nonsense. I later found out he was linked to Healthcare Improvement Scotland. (see blog post about HIS code of conduct and social media guidance)
The Board man was a psychiatric nurse to trade. I wasn’t surprised. He had also been involved with the Mental Welfare Commission and we touched on this topic and many others during our adversarial conversations. Thrust and parry.
The Daily Express we had in common (we were also born in the same year), having fathers who worked there, my dad Willie Patterson a writer, of Jeff Hawke, sci-fi comic strip, 1957-69, based in Fleet St, London. The Board man had read my son’s story in the Sunday Express, 5 October 2014, and thought it authentic (that’s OK then).
At the finish of our combat/meeting the Board man said he had enjoyed the engagement. I replied, saying something like “unfortunately I can’t say the same”. I got the feeling that my opinion didn’t matter much, to him or to the organisation he was on the Board of. But it matters to me.
Here is a paragraph from the formal complaint letter Email I wrote on 6 September 2014:
“……. is an organisation that professes to “support and empower all those affected by mental illness”. If ….. is not doing what it says on the tin then it will be liable for critical feedback. Bloggers are people who often write critically about various topics. It’s a free and democratic country and we are entitled to have our say. Blogs and social networking have become media in their own right. It has given power to the people. As an organisation ….. cannot just do what it likes and give carers a telling off. That is patriarchal and nonsensical. It wouldn’t exist without carers and it can’t just have carers who agree with everything they say.“
The Board man eventually asked me what I wanted from the complaint meeting and I said an apology from the CEO. I didn’t want a justification for the bullying behaviour or any attempt to lay the blame on me. I just wanted her to say sorry.