When faced with my demons I clothe them and feed them…

Archive for April, 2010

It’s Been A While…

Hi Folks. Well as things turned out I didn’t go back to the Uni and I did withdraw from the course. And I haven’t regretted it for a single instant, except for the fees which I am still attempting to recoup from this recalcitrant institution…

I’ve had plenty other fish to fry. A close friend of mine has been attempting to set up a social firm for several years now, together with originally four, now reduced to two colleagues. Both of them have physical disabilities and my friend is the only one with mental health problems.

This enterprise – called ‘Equals Training’ has now assumed a very significant role in my life…sadly for all the wrong reasons. I have had to blow the whistle on them for professional misconduct, incompetence and bullying.

This has naturally created difficulties – to say the least – between my friend and me. I never had an issue keeping boundaries between work and personal life, but she feels differently and I have been persona non grata for a few months now.

I want to post all of the (one-sided) email correspondence I have had with them here on my blog. I will anonymise the names of all people concerned, but my aim is to show how I have attempted to ‘take on’ a bullying organisation and stand up for my rights. I am frankly, proud of how I have coped through what has been an extremely distressing time.

So here is the first email.

Dear N, I doubt that you will be surprised after what has happened, that I wish to resign as a volunteer from Equals. I deeply regret what happened yesterday: to be honest I think you, A and B have made a very fundamental error. You clearly underestimated me, and perhaps still don’t realise what an asset I could have been – not as someone to ‘make up the numbers’ or deliver leaflets to surgeries, but as a respected member of the team with valuable input to contribute.

If nothing else I could have been an ambassador for you to the many mental health service users I know and see regularly. That will not happen now, because I could never wholeheartedly recommend this course to anyone. I’m afraid the three of you may be over-reaching yourselves, because it is clear to me that some very basic matters have been neglected in the rush to secure funds and a profile with the service providers and commissioners.

If you think I am ‘loud’, ‘angry’, ‘hostile’ or ‘aggressive’ these are all accusations I have heard before, but believe me, you have not heard hostile, loud or aggressive! Look to yourselves before you try to pluck out the speck from my eye, as the Bible would have it. There is an awful lot more I could say but there is very little point: it won’t be long before you are forced to wake up to yourselves in any case because that is how life is.

One last point: don’t bother trying to put in a tender to ‘host’ and line manage Haringey User Network. That is never going to happen. Over my, and the Coordinators’ dead bodies. Whatever the failings of PRA, at least it is a well-established, functioning organisation with a proven track record (of running ineffective sheltered workshops). Equals has a hell of a long way to go before it can make a similar claim.

Take care, and believe me I sincerely wish you all the best N.

Dear A, I know that you will not be happy about what transpired yesterday, with me managing to get myself thrown off the course! It puts you in a rotten position, because your loyalties will be divided between me, a close friend of many years standing, and a work project which means an awful lot to you and in which you have invested so much, and the colleagues who have also become friends.

I want to make it easier for you if at all possible, not harder. I am resigning from Equals as a volunteer and I will no longer attempt to comment on anything that you do with Equals either as an individual or a group. As I already told you, our friendship matters WAY more to me than any work project ever can. When we meet up for coffee or whatever you can feel free to talk as much as you want to about Equals: I will listen but I won’t comment unless you ask me to and then I will simply tell you what I think.

PLEASE let us not allow this disagreement to affect our friendship. I still love you very much and I always will. The very last thing I wanted was to upset you or give you grief, but like the grown ups we are I know that we are big enough to agree to differ on this one and put it behind us.

All love, Zoë.

Dear A, Since when are you a qualified psychiatrist? And since when is N in a position to make an informed judgment about my or anyone else’s mental health?

Have you any idea how deeply annoying it is to find that your behaviour is being interpreted as pathological, when in actual fact it is just you, coping as best you can, with the challenges life throws at you? Use your imagination then?

A I’m sorry, but if you think I was ‘high’ the other day, then you don’t know me nearly as well as, to be honest, you should after ten plus years of close friendship!!

Please stop putting these lies about right now. I well understand your desire to discount as invalid my honest opinion of that training course, but allow me to be the best judge of my own state of mind, please! No-one else to my knowledge has noticed this supposed manic episode, including my care coordinator Wayne who I saw this morning. I am sleeping plenty of hours, even if I do have disturbed sleep because of the meds. Where do you get off with these spurious, self-serving ‘diagnoses’?

As for being ‘high’ at the Focus Group, do you even know what manic is? Judge it on the results, an interesting discussion and a lot of good ideas, if you can’t accept that I am perfectly sane! A damn sight better than anything B could manage in amonth of Sundays! A…I know that N and B are congenitally unable, but you at least…get a grip. Zoë

Ange…I have always hesitated a long time before presuming to give you advice. Unsolicited advice from one friend to another is often not welcomed or listened to anyway. However, historically there have been times when with the benefit of hindsight I feel I should or could have offered you advice. Then again, you wouldn’t have thanked me for it, and you got there all by yourself in any case.

I know my last email was quite angry in tone. But we bipolars you know…I don’t feel angry now, but I do feel concerned and I can’t keep quiet any longer. I feel I have all but lost my friend, not to the lovely E as I feared, but to this goddamn work thing! I would like to see you and have a chance to talk but you and all your time seem to be consumed with Equals. When we do see you it’s virtually all you talk about. A you have become unbalanced and I believe, quite deluded.

There. I knew you wouldn’t like it! It looks cold and hard in an email, which is why I wish I could get to talk with you. You seem to be avoiding me anyway.

I keep telling you: I could help you in so many ways, I have complementary skills to yours, I would love to work with you, I believe in you and your talent and ability, blah. You never comment. Instead you unaccountably persist in this folie a trois with B and N. You are not seeing straight A. You are worth a thousand B’s, and N will never make a trainer, whatever her other talents. You are letting ambition and your work hang-ups blind you completely A and this has been going on for years now!!

It is leading you to dishonesty and to blatantly using people. You use R and me, you aren’t respectful to us, you call him a service user without even asking him if he considers himself one (he doesn’t and he isn’t!) The current training project is inherently disrespectful to service users. When did any of you run any kind of focus group or consultation to find out what service users actually want? You just decided, entirely unilaterally, that this is what they needed and proceeded to force feed it to them!

A, be very very clear. You and you alone are responsible for this awful shambles that is the mental health/ disability/jobs/benefits course. You and you alone have any expertise in mental health of the three of you, you and you alone had the welly to get somewhere with the commissioners and providers. You consulted neither me nor any other service users. That is, quite simply, wrong, and you are potentially throwing away a lot of goodwill and your good reputation by taking money for a sub standard product.

So what’s my advice A? Finish this benighted course, obviously. And then pull out of Equals and let B and N go their own way. Have a complete break, focus on yourself and on E, and your good and loyal friends. Go to some meetings, maybe including Workaholics Anonymous (joke!)

When you are fully recovered maybe we could discuss how we can best pool our talents to get the MH SU show on the road in Haringey. Don’t try and be an expert on physical disability A. It makes absolutely no sense at all! Equals is an incoherent mess because of this insistence on pursuing the pan-disability route, and do you think the funders aren’t going to realise this?

Maybe there’s baggage for you with the mental health stuff. I guess there must be. Matrix burned you and you are loath to go there again. But we have all moved on since then. When you process stuff properly and learn from experience there is just no way you can repeat the same mistakes again…you move on and make different ones!

A, you have learned a lot from Equals. It isn’t time wasted, not at all, because all those skills are transferable and bloody useful. But my very strong advice to you would be that this incarnation of a social firm does not and never will have legs, and what is more it is harming you.

Please let me know if and when you would like to meet up. Love you lots. Zoë

Dear A, I am feeling very upset about what has happened. What is making it far worse for me is that you have not been in touch, while I have sent you three emails.

Don’t hide behind the baby. Oh yes, I’ve been too busy to email or text you. Blah. Doesn’t wash. You’re not busy to give presentations here there and everywhere, or run a bloody course.

Have you no idea at all how this might have affected me? Being unceremoniously thrown off a course by an organisation I am supposedly part of for the crime of disagreeing with some of what was said?

A, I need some kind of explanation and some kind of assurance that steps are being taken to ensure this doesn’t happen to anyone else. This is absolutely rotten practice. If one person on a course has a problem with another (oh, like that never happens!) there are a lot of far more creative and acceptable solutions than throwing off one of the people. That’s what happened A.

I make no apology, none whatever, for what I said on the course. I simply had my own ideas and opinions and B couldn’t accept that. She thinks ‘training’ means ‘reprogramming’, and anyone who doesn’t fall into line is a threat. I’m appalled to the very core by the way I’ve been treated.

OK A. What can we do? Well, I think that either you or you and the others should meet with me and discuss it further. This needs to happen soon. Not after all the courses are finished. You have a responsibility toward me, as someone with a mental health disability, who has been summarily ejected from one of your courses, to explain to me why it was handled this way.

A, if this is not done…and soon, because frankly, it IS affecting my mental health, I am going to complain to your funders and to anyone else I can think of in authority who I know you have had dealings with, including Gavin, Diane and Emma Risheq. I will tell them exactly what happened to me. That I was a volunteer. That I helped with recruitment. That I was treated in a bullying and intimidating manner, removed from the course and then ignored completely.

You are keen to have power and authority A. That much is clear. But you need to exercise that with some responsibility and that means facing up to the consequences of your actions, even when it ain’t much fun, because your actions have been frankly, wrong and misguided.

What are you thinking of A? Are you still telling yourself, ah Zoë’s high, she’s mad, she can’t be reasoned with? Your actions are simply beyond the pale, and it certainly is now threatening our friendship because you have ignored my attempts to build bridges so far. How could you treat me like this A? How could you?

Dear N, I am sorry you felt ‘threatened’ by my text. What I said was not meant in way personally. I am not about to come round and smash your windows. I texted you because I have had no reply to my emails whatsoever, no phone calls, nothing and I am becoming impatient and frustrated. I have heard nothing since you threw me off the course last week. That is not acceptable.

This is a big mess, but it is not of my making. My big mistake was ever getting involved in any way with Equals. ‘Not the right course for me’, huh, ‘or the right organisation’.

I am threatening you as an organisation. I am threatening you that if I do not get a satisfactory explanation of the way I was treated last week, I will be contacting your funders, commissioners, and the service providers, to explain to them exactly what happened, and we’ll just see what they say shall we?

No need for you to feel threatened whatsoever N…provided your conscience is clear. Zoë

N I am genuinely sorry you feel threatened. It is not personal. I thought at the time I sent that text you might take it badly. I AM threatening Equals, but only because I have had no word from any of you for a whole week since it happened, and because I despair of getting any response unless I threaten you with exposure.

Once again. I am not threatening you! Please make a distinction between our personal and professional relationship. You should know however, that I am not the sort to slink away into the shadows when I feel I am being bullied, as an individual, by an organisation. That is basic assertiveness…what you are trying to instill into your trainees, so actually you should congratulate me for learning my lessons so well.

N, don’t try and alienate me any further than you’ve already done. It will only backfire. You’re out of order. Accept it, then we can all start to move on. Zoë

Peter, I’m feeling very upset and dispirited about what happened between A’s organisation and me. I felt I was bullied and treated badly, and they do not respond to my emails or texts. Now you seem to be saying I’m wrong about Haringey User Network as well. Aargh. Maybe I’m just wrong about everything. I guess I should just butt out and keep my opinions to myself. I feel utterly exhausted by all this. You have no idea. Exhausted. Maybe I should take Emily up on her offer of a chat, eh! Take care. Zoë

Dear B, I quote verbatim from you: ‘Some people matter, others don’t’. Clearly a motto you live by. Commissioners and other professional twats, and you, matter. Mere participants in your courses don’t…especially if they dare to disagree with the doctrine.

Dear B. Who is your line manager. Who is your supervisor. Who do you go to for guidance. Who can anyone else go to if they have a problem with you? Z

Dear N/B/A, I would like you to tell me where I am to go if I have a complaint about Equals? Who is your line manager, who is B”s line manager or supervisor? How does it work? Are you just a law to yourselves, if so how does anyone get any redress if you misbehave professionally?

Once more (God this is getting tiring!) I urge you to take me seriously. How long does it take you to write an email? It don’t take me long…I dash one off in a coupla minutes and thanks to the wonders of modern technology it will be a simple matter for me to cast serious doubt on what (very small) reputation you have with local commissioners and the mental health hierarchy. I will not just email them, either. I will do whatever else it takes to get my point heard.

You need to believe this. I am in a position to do you a lot of damage. I am very well known and highly respected and trusted on the mental health circuit locally…for good reason. I am a person of integrity with strongly held values and even those who find me a bit hard to take would concede that. I therefore would ask you one more time to show me the respect that you thus far have completely failed to, and respond to my many many overtures.

As I already said to A, I want a win win situation here, not a lose lose and not a win lose. There is no win lose here because I will not lose, and you can’t win, and I can’t win if it means losing my friendship with A.

B and N, you have acted extremely selfishly and foolishly and jeopardised your close colleague’s close friendship. Did you even stop to think for one moment about how this would impact on her?

Then again, A has shown a complete absence of judgment in placing any faith in B as some kind of role model. Do me a bloody favour. And I wonder if, unconsciously, A, you may have set me up. You must have known that I would not gel with the B mindset. You kept me well out of it till the very last minute, and then you went and sabotaged all your good work by putting me on B”s course.

You knew what would happen A. Whatever your other faults, you are not stupid and you are a highly strategic thinker. You couldn’t confront B because you are a chronic people pleaser who can never confront anyone, plus she is a domineering bully who has pissed you off multiple times. So you set me on her, like your pet Rottweiler. Nice one, A.

Ah well I don’t know why I am wasting my time writing this. I know full well all of you are far too busy and important to read anything an insignificant brainless minion might have to say. Lots of love and big hugs…Z

OK as I’ve already intimated to A, I need to give you a deadline. You need to contact me. There are three of you. You have finished the course for this week. You have plenty of time. You need to contact me by the end of this week. I would like to know what you plan to do. When are we to meet to discuss this unpleasant business. How do you propose to resolve this matter.

N said the other day ‘ letter had been sent’. Dig the cagey language. Not ‘I sent a letter’ or ‘A or B sent a letter’. Not even ‘we sent a letter’. ‘A letter was sent’. You see how you give yourselves away by these little things? You are not dealing with a fool here you know, even though I imagine you devoutly wish you were.

You are being silly. The whole thing is silly. It didn’t need to have happened. It is not my fault. I stand by everything I have said every single step of the way. I have not been out of order…not once. I’ve been exemplary. I knew if I was anything less that would give you the moral high ground and I was not about to do that.

A, I know you like to be the star of your own soap opera, but how far are you going to go with this before you wake up to the fact that this is affecting your much-loved friend’s mental health?

OK. If I have not heard from you by Friday I am going to the Clarendon to talk to Lesliann or Gavin or both of them. I will attend the dreaded community meeting if need be. Then I am going to compose letters to Gerry Atkinson, Paul Knight and anyone else I can think of in authority who I know you have had dealings with. For the time being, I’m still waiting and hoping that we can resolve this like adults without blood on the carpet.

Your very affectionate friend, Zoë

Dear Emily, At the beginning of the week I informed Equals Training that if I had not heard from them by the end of the week I would ‘take steps’. Unfortunately they don’t seem to have a line manager or supervisor. There needs to be some way for unhappy clients to get redress. So I am having to talk to or otherwise contact people in authority who I know have had some kind of dealings with them, whether as funders, commissioners or what have you. And managers of services, like Gavin and Diane. A royal pain in the ass…I could so do without it and it gives me no sense of satisfaction whatsoever.

Emily believe me I have tried every other way or I would not think of doing this. I am not expecting special treatment, far from it. Only what one should be able to expect from any organisation that calls itself professional and is necessarily in some kind of position of trust, working with vulnerable people. Seems I am getting special treatment anyway, but not the kind I want. Basically being thrown out and ostracized. And A is my best friend! She was not there at the time I was thrown out, but she also refuses to contact me.

Emily if you could find the time could you email equals training on my behalf, or even call up their number? (You will probably get the ansaphone but they do regularly pick up messages). Better still do both! I have already asked Wayne Garner, my social worker, to do the same, and he agreed (I talked to him at length about the situation the day after it happened).

You could just say you know I have been upset by what happened, that you are in regular contact with me (bear in mind they like to pretend I am ‘high’ or manic. Nice!) and you wonder why they have not been able to respond to my many queries and efforts to contact them.

It would be a great help Emily, as I really need some support. Please email me back you got this and if you’ve been able to help. It’s not my intention to create any bad blood. Not at all. I just want to resolve the matter to everyone’s satisfaction so we can all move on. Thanks.

Have received your letter but not opened it because I already feel vulnerable. I hope for your sake that it’s a good one because I will be showing it to Lesliann and Gavin later on today. You can also expect to hear from Wayne my care coordinator and Emily of Haringey User Network. Z

Dear Wayne, I need your help. Since I got kicked off the course nearly two weeks ago Equals have not contacted me in any way or replied to my many many emails and texts. I think it’s safe to assume from this that there are some ‘issues’.

I would like you to call the Equals number, introduce yourself as my care coordinator and ask them if they are planning on contacting me any time soon, as this is affecting my state of mind.

Please bear in mind that A is my closest friend. This makes their professional misconduct worse for me. I’ve tried the softly softly approach but they persist in seeing me as some kind of monster. I dunno Wayne. What can I say. Weird.

I’ve attached their contact details. If you prefer you could email them for me. Please try to do it today. Thanks. Zoë

Got your letter N but didn’t want to read it because my stomach is already churning with the unpleasant feelings you get when you are being bullied and ostracised, especially by people you considered friends. Whatever you had to say it would only cause me more anger and more upset. So I took it to Gavin and he read it and summarised the contents. N, you have not addressed the content of any of my emails. I’m not even faintly interested in the feedback you got from anyone else but is a 2/10 really what you consider ‘very good’?

It is only I who was a volunteer and who was strong-armed out of the course. That’s what I seek an explanation of. My opinion of the course is another issue altogether. If you weren’t too lily-livered to read my emails properly you would have realised that. By your obdurate refusal to communicate with me as if I were a human being instead of some kind of scary ogre you missed the boat and I am now telling everyone about what happened to me on your course.

You can expect to hear from Gavin next week. He said he would be putting a staff member in your course at Clarendon. Who knows, maybe that will give B pause for thought before she tries to eject anyone else who doesn’t agree with her. I will be in touch with George of Economic Regeneration next week and will also speak to Diane of 684.

Why oh why did you want to put me in this position? Is it a case of ‘bad publicity is better than no publicity?’

A, I am sure we will be friends again but I will never view you in the same way. Your actions are simply incomprehensible to me and then you try to make out I am crowding you. None of you has any empathy for me, that much is obvious. You think I am somehow at fault because I don’t happen to agree with B. I can’t help my views and values, nor can I change my personality to fit in with her!!

A if you had not told me to go on the course none of this would have happened. I can’t escape the feeling that you wanted to hurt me or alienate me. Maybe my face doesn’t fit into your life anymore. Maybe you’re jealous of me because I’m happier than you or because you think I’ve got a better life.

Well you succeeded, so mission accomplished. Consider me hurt, consider me alienated. Nice one…mate.

Hi. I’ve had some time to think over the weekend. I talked to R. I talked to my Mum. It was while I was talking to my Mum on the phone that I began to notice a gentler note creeping into my voice, and more of a tendency to see the other gal’s point of view.

Empathy…as I noted during the training, it is an important part of assertiveness. I feel that you made some bad judgment calls, but that you are just starting out, and you were nervous. What is more I am sure you all have the capacity to learn from your mistakes. If not I suggest training is not the right career for you.

So I’m not pursuing redress any further than this. I told Gavin, I told Haringey User Network, and my care coordinator, but I don’t feel inclined to go chasing after the vague old gentleman Paul Knight or even George Ts whatever his name is. I do not want to ruin things for you. You’re capable of doing that all by yourselves in any case.

I simply cannot be bothered with complaints and grievances procedures. I believe I have made my point. If by anything you do you indicate to me that I have not, then I can change my mind. I will be watching you, and I have warned others to do the same. Be careful. And be grateful that I can find it in myself to forgive me for the hurt you undoubtedly have caused me. Z

Hi Emily! Your email made me chuckle with admiration for your spirit!! An update about the Equals stuff. Well, I’m feeling a bit more equable (hah!) about it all (no thanks to them I’m afraid), after a more peaceful weekend with R and a phone call with my Mum (of all people!). I decided I should give Equals the benefit of the doubt and not pursue this any further. I had a 45 minute chat with Gavin at Clarendon about it and I must say, he was very good. He said he would contact them and also, that he would have a staff member sit in on the course when they run the one at Clarendon. I could have gone on to speak to commissioners and so on as well as various boring complaints and grievance procedures, YAWN! but no…I’m thinking, they are just starting out, they were nervous, they made some bad (terrible) judgment calls.

Plus, it is better for my mental health to let it go, forgive, forget. What does make me sad is the impact this is having on my friendship with A. I am hoping that when some more water has gone under the bridge and they have rolled out all the courses, so can relax, that we will be able to mend fences. We have been close friends for over ten years. If I had known this could happen, I would have run a mile from Equals, but hindsight is a wonderful thing. I’ve already told A several times that my friendship with her is worth FAR more to me than any work project…I can only hope she will come to feel the same, even tho’ she may be mad with me right now.

Big thanks to you and Peter for listening and supporting me, but I don’t want to put you in the position of taking sides. We all need to stay friends if at all humanly possible!

Emily, I’m just grateful to be able to let the hurt and anger go. It was unbearably painful, and the grief over possibly losing A’s friendship. Keep on fighting the good fight, but don’t get battle-scarred in the process! (need to take my own advice there…) Look forward to seeing you on Wed. Luv Zoe

Hi all. The latest: R is well and truly on your side you’ll be glad to know. Despite having witnessed everything that happened and seen me forced out of the course without a proper explanation he is of the opinion (get this) that ‘everyone’ needs to think about how they could have done things differently. Including me. I note that he does not appear to have notified you of this advice so I am doing so now, and look forward to hearing your response.

Trouble is, that while that could be a straightforward matter for you, for me it involves thinking how I can completely change my personality and views in order to please B! I think you will agree…that s a more complex task.

I would appreciate it if you could supply me with any useful suggestions as to how I could have avoided getting myself thrown off the course. R at any rate is convinced that it lies within my power. What do you think?

Clearly you are doing so much better than me. You have funds and are being paid to do training. You get to throw people off your courses, not to be the one thrown off. As such I must consider you my mentors and ask your advice on how I can live better? Thanks. Zoë

I’m sad because I miss you and am happy to say or do whatever is required in order to win you over. Maybe you might tell me what that is? Do you want me to say ‘R you are always right, you have always been right, and I am pretty much always wrong’? Want me to say ‘yes, I am a bully, a most terrible bully, whereas you (and Equals!!) wouldn’t hurt a fly’? Because I will, if that would bring you back to me. Just tell me what to do or say, I will do whatever it takes, because I can’t stand to lose anyone else that I care about. If it’s between my convictions and the people I love…well I guess the convictions just have to go! Or am I wrong about that too? I’m really not sure about anything right now…at least that’s one thing I’ve got right tho’ – self doubt? Luv Z

Dear N, It seems to me that up till now you have not done me the favour of reading my emails. Only that would explain why I have been informed by A that they were ‘aggressive’ and ‘abusive’.

Where is your accountability, as an organisation, for the decisions you take which affect those often vulnerable people who come on your courses, or volunteer for you?

From what I have come to know of B, it is no accident that you basically have none. No accountability. When someone complains about their treatment by you, the policy is to ignore and vilify them until they (hopefully) go away.

N, I have not gone away, I am going nowhere. I am still here, waiting for the right of reply, waiting to establish the dialogue with you that I need in order to be able to fully move on.

A cannot cope, that is abundantly obvious. R isn’t coping either. You are not really coping (sorry N…but it was obvious from day one). B copes very well by being, basically, a sociopath. They never need to not cope as they don’t operate by the same rules as everyone else.

You cannot reap the rewards of business success or build a solid reputation on the back of a bullying organisational culture with a complete lack of accountability. You may get so far, but you will inevitably self-combust at some stage…

The most glaring lack that I perceive in Equals is a total lack of psychological insight into yourselves and grasp of group dynamics, and a belief that only ‘other’ people are ever ‘aggressive’ or ‘abusive’. You will never succeed as a manager of other people until you develop a basic grasp of human behaviour and motivation, founded on self-insight, honesty and integrity. You will only ever succeed as a bully…and that, I’m sure you would agree, is not real success.

This is my analysis. I am entitled to my opinions, which are thought through and which I can back with evidence. I am fully accountable for everything I have said in every single one of my emails and texts. I would be willing to show them to anyone, and have no shame whatever about any aspect of my behaviour throughout. What has happened to me has been a journey of discovery…just what I would have liked the course to be. But that opportunity was taken away from me for reasons I have yet to fully understand.

Zoë

Dear Gavin, Re our meeting 3 weeks ago where I discussed with you a grievance I have regarding my treatment by the Equals Training social firm:

You kindly read and summarised the letter I had received from N K where she apparently referred me to the Complaints and Grievances Procedure. I have not taken this up. I honestly don’t see why the onus should be on me to explain why I have a grievance to some faceless recipient, which will involve me re-living a very painful experience. These kinds of procedures, I would suggest, are not appropriate when someone is clearly and transparently the target of organisational bullying.

What I have requested repeatedly is a dialogue with Equals, whether that be by email or in person. So far I have been (barring that letter) ignored completely, as well as labelled ‘abusive’ and ‘aggressive’, ‘unwell’ and, if you please, ‘suffering from misplaced anger’.

I would not bother you with further correspondence Gavin, if I had not tried repeatedly to obtain an explanation and justification from Equals themselves, regarding their decision to exclude me forcibly from the course.

I would like to request a further meeting with you to discuss whether you or other Clarendon staff can help bring about some kind of resolution to this issue. I would be equally happy if Lesliann dealt with it. What I would like is if you contacted Equals and requested a three way meeting with either you, Lesliann, or possibly even Ruth, where they will be able to explain to me in person, and in a mutually safe setting, what the rationale was for excluding me from the course.

A and I have already had a four way meeting with both our care coordinators present, to discuss mending our friendship. However we had to focus away from the Equals business in order to keep a precarious peace. It was therefore like the elephant in the room. It would not be fair for me in any case to lay all the blame at A’s door, when it wasn’t her decision to exclude me, and when she wasn’t even there when it happened.

So although nominally A and I are friends again, unfortunately this matter will continue to be ‘live’ for me (inevitably affecting how I feel toward her) until I have been allowed some kind of right of reply, or redress. And no, that for me does not consist in following a complaints and grievance procedure. A clear and transparent abuse of power has taken place. It is for them to justify what they did and be held accountable for it, not for me to justify why I am making a complaint.

I attach my most recent email  to N. With kindest regards, and thanks for your help in this matter so far, Zoë Vincent.

Dear Gavin, Please note that this correspondence (I include a few to Haringey User Network, yourself and R) was, unfortunately, completely one-sided, as I received nothing back from them at any stage (except the letter I showed you and a couple of terse, defensive texts). However, in view that they appear to consider my emails ‘abusive’ and ‘aggressive’ I thought I would let you judge for yourself. Please do contact me as soon as you can Gavin, re my proposal of a three-way meeting. Thank you. Zoë

Thanks for that Lesliann. My care coordinator Wayne Garner is also going to help me complete the wretched complaints and grievance procedure (he had to persuade me that this was worthwhile!), and I am also to meet this firm’s ex-colleague, Ken Kowa, next week, to discuss what appears to be our shared experience of their abusive conduct. I have no intention of letting this drop until I get satisfaction because if there is anything I can’t stand it’s bullying and abuse of power by incompetent and inadequate individuals who so easily feel threatened by others’ competence. They need to learn that not all vulnerable people are weak, passive or unassertive by definition, and they need to learn it right now! Zoë

Hi N. Please could you confirm receipt of my completed complaints/grievance form. It was supposed to be delivered by my care coordinator to your office at Selby Centre on Monday. I understood that I should hear something from you within three days?

If you have not received it, then please send me another one, attached to this email address. Thanks. Zoë Vincent

I am in the process of compiling a document of my internet research on friendship. If it is your wish or hope to become my friend I would like you to read it (when it’s ready), or do your own research and let me know what you come up with. Alternatively you could begin by describing to me what you think friendship consists of. This is the only way we will ever progress in any kind of association with each other.

Many times before we have been reconciled largely because of my willingness to assume more than my share of responsibility for the falling-out. This is doing neither of us any favours. It enables you to continue not to see yourself as a fully moral agent, capable of accepting his own responsibility in the situation. Down the line the same old problem rears its head, and will continue to do so indefinitely until the root of it is addressed.

Over and over again I see that you regard only me as having agency in our relationship. This leads you to resent me, and to collect grievances (hence your tendency to raise what has been said or done years ago). Of course you will resent what you see as my superior power: because you have relinquished all yours to me, even though I have not asked you to do so. You then accuse me of trying to control you, bullying you, wanting a ‘tame man’, domineering and so forth. This is frankly insulting and unfair.

Anger is another thorny issue. You cannot admit to being angry. You think it is about how you feel, hence what you said in counselling: ‘I don’t feel angry’. It is not necessarily a feeling, and often people are completely cut off from their unconscious motivations. You may not be in touch with your anger, because you have repressed it, believing it unacceptable perhaps. Believe me R I have seen many, many times over the years of our relationship that your anger is alive and well – it will not be so easily denied.

Your repressed, denied anger explains why you are so ready to attribute anger to me. I must be extremely important in your life, because I can’t think who else (except possibly your mother) with whom you are so psychologically enmeshed and who is so available for the purposes of psychological projection. Even Lynn, though in the past Lynn probably fulfilled this role I would guess.

Hence you refer to my ‘angry emails’. Thus you dismiss the complex nature of my written communication to you, which is actually the product of much thought, feeling and reflection. A has done the same thing. Rather than read, reflect and respond, it is easier to dismiss and condemn.

Even in your last email you demonstrated how you can really only react to what I say, rather than truly respond.

R. Do yourself a big favour. Try reflecting honestly, try researching as I have done if it helps, try studying yourself. It may be hard, uncomfortable or even painful at first, but this is an example of ‘deferred gratification’. You will feel much the better for it. You will feel liberated. You will feel a sense of inner richness. This is what I want for you and for myself.

Don’t think it isn’t hard for me to resist the lure of the familiar. Even when I saw you yesterday I was tempted to give in to the pull of the past, and continue to ignore the call of the (unknown) future. But I aspire to be brave. I aspire to know more and be a spiritually richer human being as a result.

Believe me. I wish you only good. That, and the wish for my own good, is why I will never resume our relationship as was. If you struggle to read or fully comprehend what I am writing here, please bear in mind that it helps at least me to understand, heal from the hurt I have experienced, and move on. You will always have an important place in my heart: the fact of a close eleven year relationship is testament to that.

To be continued.

Q: How much does R hate Zoë? A: More every day, according to the evidence…

Zoë decided to take notes of a very long rant on Sunday 21 Feb 2010

R thinks maybe Z doesn’t want to learn…

R says Zoë very upset…

R says it’s very serious…

R says Z turning it into a game…

R says he is upset, pissed off and disappointed because Zoë is screaming and acting like it’s a game…

R disappointed because he is not getting through…

R says he is bored, disappointed, angry, pissed off…

R not interested in questioning why Z thrown off the course…

R says there were a whole lot of dynamics…

R felt confused and could not understand, and still cannot…

He feels Z had agency because she has a choice about what she says and does…

Z needs to listen…

Z neither listens nor thinks…

R thinks she is either unwilling or unable to listen and that she should stop saying things differently from what he actually said…

OK R. Bear with me. What DID you actually say?

R feels it’s complex.

R feels Z unable to understand completely.

There are certain things Z can’t grasp.

She is unable to grasp what happened.

Z at fault for not expressing the fact that she has stood back and thought about how she could have done things differently…

Look I KNOW it don’t make any sense OK? But this is what you said!

R says Z ‘all over the place’. Hah!

R says he has a clearer idea of where he is than Z.

R says Z think it’s about winning and losing…

R says Z incapable of understanding complexity…Love it!

R calls Z a liar.

R says Z has shown herself up.

R says Z is ‘disappointing’.

R says Z is ‘an arsehole’.

R says Z ‘well out of order’, ‘below the belt’.

R says Z does not know what she is talking about.

Z twists everything R says.

What Z writes bears no resemblance to what R is saying…OK R, now is your chance to set the record straight! What exactly were you trying to say?

R says this is totally ridiculous.

R thinks Z did not have an open mind (on the course).

R feels trapped.

R says Z needs to learn self-control.

R says Z is not endearing.

R says he is trying to help. OK R, can you try ‘not helping’ now please?

R says being thrown off the course is a problem for Z, therefore it’s become a big issue and she has talked about it a lot to him.

R tried to help and has failed.

R thinks Z made it into an issue.

R says Z’s arguments don’t stack up. Brilliant. Maybe you can give me lessons in stacking up your arguments?

R says Z is wilfully misunderstanding everything he says.

R tells Z that if it were a straightforward case of ‘bully-victim’ everyone would have walked out. Oh. Is that right?

R says people would have objected. People did!

R says he could not see what Z had done wrong. Nor could Jim, Mark, Jackie or Steph.

R says everyone was confused.

R thinks ‘stuff happens and it’s up to us to put up with it…’ Hmm. Interesting viewpoint…

R says that being thrown off the course is not bullying.

R says Z not putting herself in a good light. Uh, what?

R says Z is not helping herself.

R says Z is patronising him.

R says Z is unlikeable.

R says Z infers that he is stupid.

R says he has learnt a huge amount today about…What?

R says Z needs to put into practise what he says.

R reserves the right to give Z unhelpful advice.

R says his advice is helpful and needed.

R says Z is free to ignore his advice.

R says Z’s mistakes are very glaring. If they are so glaring why can you not explain them to me??

R says Z wants him to be a cipher.

Giving unwanted advice is his way of not being a cipher…Ah. Now we’re getting warmer…

R feels he needs to make an effort not to be a cipher. Right.

R says taking notes is silly.

R says the notes are not what he said. OK. Tell me what you did say.

R says Z is silly, plays games and may not be genuine.

Z says R’s so-called advice is actually repressed anger.

R says it’s not his job to tell Z what she needs. Um. OK.

R says if Z does something wrong that he should be allowed to do the same.

R says Z is being ridiculous to say that his advice is like a punishment.

R says it’s Z’s problem if she experiences his advice as a violation.

R does not accept that Z is genuine.

R says Z lacks common sense and that is why she needs advice. OK. Can you just run that ‘advice’ by me again? I seem to have missed it…

According to R two wrongs make a right…if she does a wrong thing that means he is allowed to do it.

R says he has been talking bullshit.

R says none of this will get us anywhere.

R tells Z she is going nowhere.

R says Z asks silly questions.

R says this is not abuse.

R says verbal abuse is not important.

It probably isn’t worth you replying to the complaints and grievance form. I have waited too long already. Please send it to your management committee, along with whatever excuses you can come up with. I’m sure you all heartily wish I would either go mad, or shut up, but that ain’t about to happen. I will keep on keeping on until you all become accountable for what you have done. That includes R – and he’s done a fair bit as I’m sure you can imagine, in the course of an eleven year relationship.

I am sick of watching people abuse positions of power which they are inadequate to hold. I’m sick of hypocrisy, bullying, lies and people who cannot take responsibility for their actions. I am making it my personal mission to bring you to account, whatever it takes.

And by the way. If, as A firmly believes, my emails and texts are ‘aggressive’ and ‘abusive’, well. You have plenty of evidence to use against me when it comes to a case of ‘your word against mine’. And I? I have only your deafening silence. However I have no fear. No shame. I will stand by every word I have uttered or written throughout. I have no difficulty being angry and articulate at the same time (B)!

That’s the difference between ‘Equals’ and me. I am accountable. You are not.

Do not imagine I am like you. That I lack courage. That I lack conviction. That I cannot sway people with the force of my arguments. That I make almost zero impact on people I meet.

Whether now or a few weeks down the line I will persuade you that I will not quit until I have attained my goal. To make you break the habit of a lifetime, and admit that you ARE responsible, you ARE accountable, for things that you do. Is it really so much to ask. Apparently so, apparently I must damn nearly martyr myself to get you to admit that very very basic truth.

OK. That’s what you want? You want me to break down rather than admit what you have done?

Dear R, You got your wish ‘to cut your hours with me’. Yes, that is what you said…as if I were a job. You got what you wanted, and I am the one left alone, not you. You are never left alone. Yet somehow, despite this being what YOU wanted and what YOU requested, you will doubtless cherish bitterness and hurt toward me as so many times before. Or can you assure me that this time, that will not be the case? I don’t cherish bitterness and hurt towards you but I don’t wamt you to keep hurting yourself either.You have once more telling me what to do! Who are you…my line manager? to think about yourself and J who needs you. Where do I start with that one? Um. In what way am I hurting myself exactly?

See what you just did? Tried to push the responsibility you bear for having caused me hurt, back on to me. Answer the question, please. In what way am I hurting myself? By calling you to account for your actions? By failing to subside into a stunned silence on being severely bullied by ‘friends’?

Did you or didn’t you use the phrase about cutting your hours? Was that not an incredibly hurtful or at least very insensitive thing to say, especially in light of how upset and vulnerable I was over the A/Equals thing? Answer the question please.

Not only did you use this phrase, you used it with a laugh. You clearly found yourself quite witty.

You only have to look at the disparity between the amount of communication from my end compared to the response from you to see who has most invested in this relationship!

And before you dismiss this as ‘another angry email’ which you can afford to ignore, I would suggest to you that anger is a perfectly normal response to the disappointing end of a relationship in which one invested so much energy and time. I too invested a lot. OK, maybe you have less to invest. You have on several occasions said you wanted to end the relationship, horrors! either because your life was going places and mine wasn’t or because you had lots of other options and you didn’t need me any more. That old chestnut!! Really touched a nerve didn’t it…because it’s about four years ago! Yes at the time and now I felt hurt when you said those things. It seemed as soon as you thought things were going great you would up the ante by threatening interesting choice of words to drop me and the intention was to hurt me.Or maybe ‘to get away from you’. I don’t feel bitter towards you now. Give it time. We seem to have arrived at a mutual decision to do what is best for each of us so it seems perfectly natural. Can you be a little clearer. What is best for each of us? Perhaps you might confine yourself to ‘what is best for you’? If I shrugged it off and carried on as normal – then you would have cause for concern. That’s what you do.

You are accountable for your part in this relationship. That is why I always bring in a third party now, that is why I will not talk to you on the phone, that is why when I saw you we talked only superficially (huh, perhaps you didn’t notice!) It suits you to have no one to account to for your behaviour. Those days are over now. My life is an open book: I wonder if you feel the same?

Btw what is all this copying in A about? Hello? I always bring a third party in now. It suits you to have no one to account to for your behaviour. Plus I am informed A believed I had been abusing you for years.

Anyone reading this thinking ‘ouch’, this is nothing. I could write essays, dissertations on R’s psyche. I am the established expert on it, since he abdicated that position…

Do you know why this time you have driven me over the edge? How the provocation this time has become unbearable and forced me to take extreme action?

Then let me explain. Because you got off on the fact that I was being bullied and demonised by Equals. Because you have many times been frustrated that you could not hurt me enough, could not get back at me enough for the perceived hurt that I had inflicted on you (see your last email). Here was the answer to your prayer! Some other people to share your own hatred of and repressed anger toward, me. Even better: they seemed to have some kind of spurious authority (the sort that you would never think to question).

Yes R. You, supposedly my ‘partner’ God help me. The one who is supposed to be my main support. You were absolutely delighted, gleeful that someone else was pitching in with you to hurt me!

That gave you a real lift, didn’t it R? It made you feel…wonderfully justified. Somewhat saintly. At last! You were no longer alone in hating me, were you R?

And my error? I woefully underestimated just how much you hated me. But not any more.

Like I said, R. You are a misogynist. You can’t stand women. Can’t stand up to them, can’t stand them. You hand all your power to them, even though they have not asked you to do so!! Then you use them as punching-bags and scapegoats for your own shortcomings, accuse them of trying to control you, of being ball-breakers, blaming them for your own total lack of balls! All because your Mum was mean to you or some such. And our Dads didn’t abuse us? Does that mean we have to try and castrate every man who crosses our path?

For God’s sake, have some self-respect, before it is too late. Grow up!

This is serious. You will notice that I have never been so angry. The night I bombarded your home and mobile phone with texts and calls – never had I been so incensed. And now you know why R. And so does A. And so, soon, will anyone else who I think needs to be told.

You still can choose to respond: however it is becoming clear that you do not have it in yourself to do so in any kind of coherent way. Therefore this is only the start R. I will expose you, and the shambolic Equals, because this time you have gone too far.

Dear Lesliann, Gavin and Wayne,

Firstly, I can only apologise to you all for the explosion of emails, mostly cc’d ones. There is no need for you to read them or reply, and I’m sure you all have much better things to do.

I hope, however, that you can see that I have the need to feel supported in some way vis a vis Equals and R (who is ‘an Equal’, as well as my ex-partner). Even if that is just the safety of knowing there is, as it were, a third party or witness involved.

The reason I do this is because I wish to be entirely transparent and open. I happen to know that this may be a problem for the others. I have also found R entirely incapable of discussing these matters one on one in a non-abusive manner. A also appears to have a severe problem accepting responsibility, and a nifty knack of ‘blame-throwing’.

However I do not want to engage in character assassination. I do not NEED to resort to that. What I have requested from the outset was a dialogue. Sadly ‘Equals’ and R preferred to go the tried and tested bullying/ demonisation/ scapegoating route. I am simply attempting to demonstrate to them that creative, mature people can find other ways of resolving conflict.

I am not asking you for anything in particular, except your presence as witnesses. However, this IS a strain on me, I am NOT an island, I have just been betrayed and bullied by two people I loved, I AM a vulnerable person, and therefore any helpful suggestions would be gratefully received. Thank you. Zoë Vincent

Oh dear. I asked you please DON’T answer my complaint to me! I’m not well as it is and have been fighting off mania for weeks now. I cannot read what you have written, any more than I could read N’s last communication. PLEASE LEAVE ME ALONE!

If I was to address what you have said in that document I would be forced to call you barefaced liars, and I am not about to do that. Therefore, as I already requested, please send my complaint, along with the lengthy email correspondence from me which I enclosed with the form, to your management committee! I will be checking with Gavin etc that you have done this! Do not hand-deliver facile excuses to my house, I have been through enough for God’s sake!

Look, it’s abundantly clear to me that you have somewhat lost touch with reality and certainly have no conception whatsoever of the distress and hurt you have caused me over the last two months. The one thing I ask from you now is to send this bunch of **** to your management committee! PLEASE! And just confirm to me and the above cc’d persons that you have done this. Did you honestly think that at this stage ANYTHING you could say to me would make me withdraw my complaint? As I say…you have clearly lost it. Unless this is part of a plan to drive me right to the edge? Mission already accomplished.

Zoë

Dear Lesliann, Thanks, but good karma is probably one thing I don’t particularly need, as it isn’t me who has done anything wrong, nonetheless I have been made to suffer for it anyway! If only all karma was ‘instant’ eh?

I can’t expect you and Gavin to understand, at least without further investigation on your part. There are so many complexities in this situation. I believe service users should be taking their lives into their own hands and fighting for the changes they need in the system. Of course I do, and you must surely know that! I just happen to think that Equals Training is going about it in completely the wrong way.

My expulsion from the course (and effectively, from the organisation) is just one more sign that something is badly wrong. These three (and yes, I mean three because that is what it is whatever A wants to pretend) are not competent to train mental health service users, not confident in doing so, extremely unprofessional, and they have a dodgy history (where another member was kicked out with huge knock-on effects). There is a bullying, closed, exclusive and authoritarian culture within the organisation, and a lot of dissembling, caginess and paranoia as a result.

My friend Jim, who has also been a friend of A’s for some time, and was an eyewitness of my ejection from the course, as were eight others including my partner R, is of the (probably incontrovertible) opinion that commissioners and service providers who encourage these kind of enterprises have their own agenda in doing so. That agenda, motivated primarily by the desire to meet targets and look ’empowering and inclusive’ on paper, combined with the (perhaps understandable) desperation of certain service users to be accepted in the job market where they are (clearly) severely disadvantaged, creates an accident that is waiting to happen.

What is ignored and forgotten about in all this, is what service users want and need. The interests of service users are best judged by themselves: they are individuals, not a homogenous mass. That is why I broadly support the personalisation policy, although that too is (naturally) ripe for mistakes and cock-ups to be made. Then again so is all change, and that is a part of life: it is inherently risky, but necessary and inevitable. The important thing is always to come from the right place, always to prioritise and champion the interests of vulnerable and disenfranchised service users, to LISTEN RESPECTFULLY to them, not tell them what they need!

In a sense, therefore, Equals Training is as much a victim of circumstances as I am, here. However we must all be considered as moral agents, especially if we set ourselves up in positions of power and authority over vulnerable people. I have yet to know how I could have acted differently in order to avoid what transpired: no one yet has been able to tell me. Unfortunately my assertive (non-aggressive) statement of my own views and obvious ability to articulate them clearly and confidently, made N and B feel threatened: they panicked, and did what the organisational culture dictated they should do: excluded the perceived ’cause’ of those uncomfortable feelings: me.

Enough for now, even though I could probably write a book on the subject…Best wishes, Zoë

Dear Equals, As I requested in my last email to you, sent a week ago, please confirm to me when you have sent my complaint, along with your response, to your management committee. If I do not receive this confirmation by the end of this week, I will be forced to pursue my complaint/grievance with the funders and commissioners etc. I never wanted this, and I might remind you that I requested a dialogue with you from the outset. You obviously had other ideas, and therefore you have got what you wanted: for me to have to make it official. Congratulate yourselves on having it your way.

By the way, can I also remind you that you ejected me from the course in front of eight witnesses. A lesson for the future? Do your dirty work in private? Zoë

Dear Equals, As I requested in my last email to you, sent a week ago, please confirm to me when you have sent my complaint, along with your response, to your management committee. If I do not receive this confirmation by the end of this week, I will be forced to pursue my complaint/grievance with the funders and commissioners etc. I never wanted this, and I might remind you that I requested a dialogue with you from the outset. You obviously had other ideas, and therefore you have got what you wanted: for me to have to make it official. Congratulate yourselves on having it your way.

By the way, can I also remind you that you ejected me from the course in front of eight witnesses. A lesson for the future? Do your dirty work in private? Zoë

Thank you Lesliann. I realise your comment was meant well, please excuse my touchiness. Thanks for sharing your experience. It’s good to know you have (hard-won) personal knowledge of how these things can happen. I seem to have almost got into a pattern of whistle-blowing, with several ‘battles’ having occurred recently in quick succession. It almost makes me want to give up on getting involved with anything at all and devoting my life to prayer and contemplation! Surely I wouldn’t have to whistle-blow God!

Thank God I’ve miraculously held on to my sanity through all this, although it was seriously touch and go over the last fortnight. Seems the nature of fighting the stigma and disempowerment of service users inevitably carries with it the risk of burnout. No wonder so many able people who could really help the cause end up walking fast in the opposite direction. I have felt like that many times myself.

Instead I tend to go away, go into hermit mode, lick my wounds and then return, replenished and revived, to the battlefield! If it weren’t for my love of and devotion to my fellow service users, plus the immense strength and encouragement I gain from working as a team with some of them, I certainly would walk away, but inasmuch as I have any kind of vocation in life at all, this is the one carved out for me.

Fighting the good fight is all very well for a while. But I seriously could do with taking a rest. Luckily I still do have that option. Thanks again for reading Lesliann. I really appreciate it. Bw, Zoe

Dear George, You may or may not remember me. I participated in a Social Exclusion meeting at the 684 centre last year where you were present, as well as Gavin, the then HUN Coordinator Oscar, and A, one of the directors of the social firm Equals Training.

It is regarding the latter that I am writing to you. Up until recently I was theoretically a volunteer for this organisation. I helped them deliver leaflets, recruit for their recent course for mental health service users, and I accompanied and supported A (a close friend of mine of many years) to do three presentations. I was encouraged by A to join one of these courses as a participant.

I left midway through the first afternoon, feeling exhausted, and remained absent on the second day of the course, also due to exhaustion and ill health. I have bipolar disorder and need to avoid stress and over-stimulation.

However the following week I was feeling well and rested, and decided to return to the course. I let A know this by text. Later that day I received a call from B, who left a message on my ansaphone telling me not to return to the course. I found this odd and quite annoying, as she gave no reason and I had been led to believe that this course would not exclude people on grounds of their health needs.

I then had a call from A, who also tried to persuade me not to return to the course. I was beginning to smell a major rat by now, and I knew I was not going to be welcomed back on to the course. I also guessed that it might be because I had dared to voice my reservations about the course and B’s training style (bossy, overbearing and authoritarian).

However I felt it was now a matter of principle not to succumb to this intimidation, and to return anyway, as I had a perfect right to do.

After lunch on this, my second day, I was assailed outside the room by a frantic N  (the third ‘director’), who breathlessly told me they had ‘had complaints’. This turned out to be one lady who had decided to go home, possibly because she disliked me. Who knows, as she had said precisely nothing to me and in fact we had had a perfectly amicable conversation and worked together as a pair. N quickly leapt to accuse me of aggression and ‘talking over her’. I was disgusted by this confused and confusing behaviour in a supposed ‘manager’, and moved away from her quickly back to the comparative safety of the training room.

Then B asked me to accompany her to the office. I refused point blank, and told her (in front of everyone) that I felt intimidated. It was then decided we could discuss it as a group. Three people protested openly that I should be allowed to stay. One other expressed total bemusement as to what was happening and why. Several people said nothing, and one complained that he had found me ‘too dominating’. However it quickly became clear that it was not about the group at all, but about B and N : they clearly felt threatened by my assertive and articulate statement of my own views, and wanted me out.

After a few fruitless minutes of ‘discussion’ it became clear that B had no intention of backing down or deferring to any kind of democratic decision. I had to leave, in front of eight witnesses, having clearly stated that I was leaving against my will.

This turned out to be just the beginning of a campaign of exclusion, bullying, abuse, vilification, scapegoating and blaming against myself by Equals Training. Their behaviour towards me as both a participant in the course and an erstwhile member of the firm who had actually helped them recruit, has been absolutely appalling.

I will cut short this email here, because the story is too long to tell in an email, but I would request that you meet with me to discuss what kind of redress I might seek regarding the treatment I have received from Equals Training. I have already followed the Complaints and Grievance Procedure but not been told anything about a management committee or line manager of any kind: all I have had from them two months after the event and many emails later (see the attached document for the totally one-sided correspondence I have had ‘with’ them), is a document which I did not have the stomach to read, so passed immediately to Gavin.

I will follow up this email with a phone call, unless you would do me the favour of replying with a suggestion as to when and where you might make time to meet with me. I can be reasonably flexible regarding times and dates. Thank you. With kind regards, Zoë Vincent.

Dear George, Thank you for your prompt reply, I appreciate you taking the time. Maybe I didn’t mention in the email, that after two months of requesting to know to whom Equals Training are accountable (ie, a management committee, supervisor etc) I have come up with a giant ‘duck’…I have also discussed this matter at length with Gavin. He cannot enlighten me either but merely talks about it being an issue of ‘trust’…a commodity which I ran out of a few weeks into this stand-off.

I accept that you are not the person to deal with it, but I am having a serious problem identifying who that is! Paul Knight possibly? I don’t fancy my chances of getting very far with him if it is…he has too many other fish to fry and probably doesn’t even remember commissioning them!

Is it so much to expect to be told to whom a firm is accountable, after requesting the information many many times?

And failing that I need to be told who is responsible for funding Equals Training so I can deal with them direct. Believe me I wish this weren’t nearly so complicated! Please can you refer me to whoever is more likely to be able to enlighten me? Sincerely, Zoe Vincent.

Sometimes it is necessary to blow the whistle. £30 000 of public funds which could have been used for service users to far better effect, has been consumed by this ‘firm’ to run this course. The trainer is getting paid a lot of money to bully and strong-arm vulnerable people around.

Of course I am passionate about this! Why would I not be! I am a service user and I can imagine a zillion better ways that money could have been spent!

I question your comment that this energy and passion would be more fruitfully occupied elsewhere. Without whistle blowers like myself who have the integrity and moral fibre to stand up to bullies and inadequate people abusing positions of power, can you suggest to me how they can be run to ground and dealt with? Or is it better to shrug our shoulders with a resigned air.

Prayer is all very well and good, and I do believe in a God of my understanding as it happens, but sometimes we are called upon to act. What I have had to do is not fun for me but it is FAR more fruitful than letting this flagrant professional misconduct go unchallenged. Best wishes, Zoe Vincent.

Total word count: 12,375

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