The Six D’s

By Victor Schwartzman and Paul Caune
October 17, 2011

Paul’s rules of thumb are: “Don’t assume the public servant is on your side. Always keep notes. Never meet a public servant by yourself. Never agree at the time on anything, say you want to think about it. Only have prearranged meetings. Hope is not a plan. Be a honey badger.”

In these coming election years, Paul Caune has a message for voters with disabilities: “The resources available to help you lead a life of freedom and dignity must be fought for. It comes down to the Six Ds and how to defeat them.”

What are the Six Ds about? As is so often the case, it’s all about Money (a.k.a. resources or funding). What are the tactics used by government officials to stymie advocacy? Paul Caune, Executive Director of Civil Rights Now! (www.civilrightsnow.ca), calls the officials’ tactics the Six Ds, and has experienced them many times.

“You must learn how to fight effectively,” Paul says. “Who you are forced to develop a strategy about are the officials who have control over resources you need. Some of them see themselves not as service providers but as gate keepers. They see their job priority being to give out as little money as possible. Yet you need those resources to live a decent life.

“Any person with a serious disability has learned the Six Ds. Civil Servants often seem to ‘work’ with you. But in the end you get nothing–unless you know the Six Ds. If you know what is really happening when you meet with an official, you know how to win. The standard situation is: you get what you need or you give up. But if you need the resources, you simply cannot afford to give up.”

The Six D’s:

Delay Deny Deflect Discredit Divide Demoralize.

“And the only response to each of the Six Ds,” Paul says, based on his experience, “is to push back!

“Pushing is very hard, of course, because most people with a disability live in fear. Fear of alienating civil servants who will then give them even less services they need to survive. Fear is a routine part of life for voters with disabilities in B.C.”

Paul believes that one must be tough and not give up. The only appropriate response when you are told that there are no funds (when you know there are), for example, is to push back. “Push back politely, because good manners are important even when you are being denied basic services that the civil servant knows you are entitled to receive. But from the civil servant’s point of view you are not a person entitled to the funds. You are an opponent, fighting to get the public’s money.”

In the end, unfortunately, part of a person with a disability’s “job” is to educate the civil servant. “They are all trying to do their job. There is a lot of turnover and part time people. That delays things enormously. You can’t assume the civil servants talking to you actually know what they are talking about. They are new or have been trained in a way that makes them think they know everything. It makes it difficult to get resources or negotiate because they don’t know what the rules actually are.” Paul notes he is referring to people working “in the field”, i.e. directly with people who have disabilities.

“I met yesterday with people from B.C. Housing. We discussed the wait list and the application process. One of the civil servants said that she did not know what a certain program was. The program in question is fundamental to helping voters with disabilities be independent; it is a discretionary fund which entitles you a certain amount of money. But you have to know about it and ask for it. How can someone work in the system for twenty years, as this civil servant said, and not know?

“Public services are broken down into self-referential silos. One problem with that is that the civil servant’s training neglects the need for an intimate knowledge of a person’s history and how much harm BC’s civil service has caused people with disabilities, such as at the Woodlands and Jericho schools.

“You break your leg; you get a cast and go home. Any disability issue more complicated than that simple physical issue, that’s where my advisory applies.

“Poorly trained, ignorant, overworked, part time civil servants when they want to help you sometimes must fight their own managers. Front-line and middle-level managers are not interested in your needs. They are not working for you. The assumption is we are all a team, but they work for the needs of the department, not you. The needs of that department are what they are expected to meet, regardless of the consequences on your quality of life. So if the unspoken word is to avoid providing funds if you can avoid it, that is what happens.

“One result of the bureaucracies’ approach to voters who have a disability is misinformed or disinformed consent. If you get no information or incomplete information your consent to whatever ‘decision’ they force on you is really without your consent. If you really knew what your choices were, you would never agree. So the decision or service may not be the best for you, but it does keep down costs, and that is the need the civil servant must meet.”

A program Paul refers to as one where entitled people are not informaed about or are misinformed about is the CSIL program. CSIL is a special fund to provides care to voters who have disabilities. “I’m not speculating on the motivation. “If you don’t know about CSIL, they probably won’t even bring it up. If they do tell you about the program, maybe they’ll say you can only get five hours of care. However, you can get twenty-four hours of care. They won’t tell you how many times people have successfully advocated for more hours. If you press them, they can try to buy you off by saying we’ll give you eleven hours, but don’t tell anyone.”

Another prime example Paul is concerned about of misinformed consent comes from hospitals whose main thrust is turnover in hospital beds, emptying beds as fast as possible to make room for new patients.

“So someone is in acute care. The crisis is past. The person is told they have no choice; you must go to an institution. They don’t tell you how dangerous institutions are to live in, such as George Pearson Centre,. Or that you have alternatives, including your own apartment. They just want you out of that bed regardless of the consequences to your health, safety, freedom and dignity.”

Much of the Six Ds—the delaying, denying and deflecting–drag out the process until the voter gives up “or is labeled as a wingnut to discredit them.”

Fighting with civil servants uses up a lot of energy to go down the road to nowhere. “The government won’t look at a complaint outside a Health Authority until you first exhaust its complaint process. Then you can take it to the Patient Quality Care Review Board. They can make recommendations but they are just recommendation. They have no real authority to punish negligence or unethical acts.

“If there is a conflict on how resources are allocated, or unethical or even criminal behaviour by some government employees, in theory you have an alternative means of enforcement, and that is the courts. You have to assume you might have to sue the government. There have been successful suits, but they are confidential, to avoid voters with disabilities learning how to defeat the government.”

Paul’s rules of thumb are: “Don’t assume the public servant is on your side. Always keep notes. Never meet a public servant by yourself. Never agree at the time on anything, say you want to think about it. Only have prearranged meetings. Hope is not a plan. Be a honey badger.”

Paul first discovered with the Six Ds “when I was going through them six years ago. Today in B.C., nothing has changed. Since we started Civil Rights Now! I have heard hundreds of stories from throughout the lower mainland of civil servants using the Six Ds. Voters with disabilities need to be faster, better informed, more agile and more strategically and tactically sophisticated than their opponents in the civil service. And never forget you’re fighting for your freedom and dignity.”

And if Paul these days refers to “people” who have disabilities as “voters” who have disabilities, the reason is pretty easy to figure out as elections loom over the next few years.

Next: Consolation Prizes!! Play the “Ds” and win a consolation prize!