You in your small corner and I in Mine
When I was around 5 years old, I went to Sunday school. I liked the people, I liked the other kids, but what I remember most is one song that they always sang. I guess I sang it too as I can still remember all the words; maybe you know it too. It starts off with, “Jesus Bids Us Shine” and ends with the line, “you in your small corner and I in Mine.” I hated that line; I still don’t like it now. I don’t think I liked corners and particularly not small ones; I certainly did not want to be in one.
When I was 11 years old I made my first trip, as the Brits say, “overseas”. I went to France with my school for a week. We travelled third class, as you could in those days, on a ferry across the channel to St Malo. Third class meant that you could not go inside the ferry; you had to stay on deck come rain or shine. They did give you a blanket and you could snuggle up to the funnel to keep warm.
Listening to the news coming out of Rochdale I know, as everyone is saying, that this is not the end of the story. For my readers who follow what is happening in the British news, or those that don’t watch the news, there has come to light the fact that some 1,000 plus young people have been abused, prostituted and beaten, giving them lifelong problems. Yet they were under the care of the authorities and had allocated social workers. Police were also aware, but no one did anything in case political correctness was interrupted or their carers where put in jeopardy.
When I look at the regulations governing social work, fostering and the care of young people in the UK so much of it is good. Good regulations, good intentions with an emphasis on good practice. However it’s not so much the regulations that are at fault, rather the culture. A culture that from many social workers is a culture of, I must protect my back at all costs. I must make sure if something goes wrong then I don’t get the blame, and if it does go wrong how I can make sure I do not take any responsibility. I must protect my career and my income my salary my job!
I have some sympathy with the approach, not a lot but some. I know that Social workers are often criticised for doing and criticised for not doing. It’s a no win situation. But there is a huge cost to that culture, and who pays the cost of that, well as we can see in Rochdale it is of course vulnerable young people and children, the very people that the social workers and the system is there to look after and protect.
I wonder if it’s the training that puts this culture into the system. Or is it Mrs Thatcher’s fault with her ‘look after number one’ that was promoted in the 80’s, or is it that we fail to think in terms of good and bad. Even the word evil has become politically incorrect. Often I will say to people when in those difficult situations ‘we need to ask what is right’ not what protects me or defends me, or my interests. It can be that I lose out by doing what is right, it’s still wrong not to do it.
I’m also sympathetic to the ‘whistle blowers’ don’t tell me that they will be fine, legislation assures them that they will be protected, it’s too ‘under the carpet’ for that, I still think they need to blow the whistle, even if being right puts them in the wrong place. I do know what this means, we had a case whereby I encouraged a young person to take a particular authority to court for the wrongs being done to them, the authority used our service, I did think, they won’t use us after this, (I.E. encouraging the young person to take them to court) the young person won the case, rightly so, the local authority did not use our service again, can I prove that it was because of this case, of course not, it’s just one of those things. Would I do it again, unfortunately yes, I say unfortunately because the moral imperative is more important than the consequences that I might suffer.
What do we need to do going forward, well maybe we should make sure that would be social workers foster for a year before being approved to start with, but what is really needed is a change of culture, that is not easy, usually it means a change of heart and many people don’t think that is possible, and certainly don’t know how it can be achieved.
Edited by Gena Areola