“As soon as Mary is in the close, she knows something’s wrong. She drops the shopping and runs upstairs and in the door. Kyle’s lying on the floor, reddened face turned awkwardly away from her. His pants are wet and he’s shouting at her. “Cunt… cunt… stinking cunt, your stinking black cunt, rat cunt, cunt.” – She calls to him, gently, not to frighten him because he doesn’t know she’s there.
She goes over and lays her hand on his side. He doesn’t stop shouting, but his shaking slows down and he takes tight hold of her other arm. After a few minutes he’s ready to stand up, so using his knee as a lever she turns him onto his back. Mary’s getting older now, so once she’s sat him up she guides his hand to the door handle. Even with this it takes both of them to stand him – Kyle is sixteen stone and weak from being so long housebound. His shouting subsides as she gets him upright, slipped into panting with his tongue out as if concentrating.”
“Mick was one of those men people expect to walk out, but he’d never been very good at getting anywhere on his own. Dolores had once been someone in the background at his brother’s place, never spoken about. Mick spent most of his teens at that place, smoking huge amounts of weed and listening to all the other people in the schemes. There was a coked-up man on the eleventh floor who used to have women round all the time, and Mick liked to stand outside the door pulling himself off, the weed plastering a silly grin all over his face. Dolores was somebody’s friend who seemed to have forgotten to leave, and had no memory herself of her own background.
Mick’s brother Nathan used to make everyone laugh by doing impressions of her and making her do menial jobs. The week the police raided, everyone split up: Nathan in jail for life, Mick in young offenders’ for three months, the others God knows where. Coming back was a strange moment for Mick, almost amazed to find the place still there, door open. Dolores was asleep or unconscious on the sofa, her mouth dirty and pants soiled. It was a shock for Mick, however squalid the place had been, to see needles around the place and trackmarks in her arm. ”
“The 1990 Community Care Act was legislation that effectively ended what had been a totalitarian system of mental health care, and replaced it with next to nothing at all. Before the Act, people rightly feared the interior of mental health institutions: malnutrition, beatings and archaic restraining devices, and spoke darkly of institutionalised sexual assault.
But what Griffiths and Thatcher had engineered was an absolute divestment of responsibility to people with mental health problems. The state was to cease being a ‘provider’ of care, and become just an ‘enabler’ of care.
Nobody ever has to help Mary care for Kyle. Nor does anybody have to help Dolores. Certainly, Mick can get locked up, and it would be very easy – far too easy – to have Kyle arrested too, although this would carry in both cases a significant risk of killing them. But even without this, is this really helping Mary or Dolores? Their safety, security and hopes resist conventional attempts to understand them and require at the least a significant acceptance and inquiry of culpability and ethics.”